For the first time in more than two decades, Canada has a woman foreign affairs minister.

Chrystia Freeland, formerly minister of international trade, was appointed to the prestigious position on Tuesday, in a brief but powerful swearing-in ceremony at Ottawa's historic Rideau Hall. She takes over for veteran Liberal MP Stéphane Dion, who will retire from politics following the cabinet shuffle.

Freeland is the first female foreign affairs minister in 24 years, the last being Progressive Conservative MP Barbara McDougall, who served as Secretary of State for External Affairs under Brian Mulroney from 1991 to 1993. Prior to McDougall, PC MP Flora MacDonald — the first woman ever to be a foreign minister — held the position between 1979 and 1980.

In a quick tweet after the ceremony, Freeland said she was "humbled" by her appointment and vowed to represent Canada well.

Freeland, an economics writer, worked as a global editor-at-large and managing director for Reuters before running for political office in 2013. She has lived in the U.S., U.K. and Russia, and is credited with stickhandling through some last−minute hurdles that recently jeopardized the Canada−European Union free trade agreement, experience that could be invaluable in dealing with the incoming Donald Trump administration.

She gave a quick nod to Gov. Gen. David Johnston and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before taking her oath in English and French in front of the Rideau Hall ballroom's signature gold curtains.

New roles for Monsef, Hadju

Freeland was followed in the swearing-in by Ontario MP Maryam Monsef, who switched from minister of democratic institutions to minister of status of women. Monsef was criticized for her handling of an all-party special committee on electoral reform after implying that members of the team were not working hard enough, and producing a national survey on electoral reform that some derided as manipulative and simplistic.

Other shuffles in the 29th Canadian ministry include Patricia Hadju, who took over as minister of employment, workforce development and labour after serving as minister of status of women. Newcomers to the cabinet are François-Philippe Champagne, who will replace Freeland as trade minister, Karina Gould, who becomes minister of democratic institutions, and Ahmed Hussen, who becomes minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.

Maryam Monsef, House of Commons, electoral reform, Minister of Democratic Institutions
Maryam Monsef, once minister of democratic institutions, smiles as she signs onto her new role as minister of status of women at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Tues. Jan. 10, 2017. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Veteran ministers shuffled out

John McCallum, the former minister for immigration, has been recommended by Trudeau to become Canada's new ambassador to China. McCallum has an extensive portfolio of federal experience, having brought more than 39,000 Syrian refugees into Canada since last year, and having served as a defence minister under Jean Chrétien and veteran affairs minister in Paul Martin's cabinet.

In a press release, Trudeau expressed his thanks both to McCallum and Dion for their hard work. He did not however, mention a future role for Dion:

"The Honourable Stéphane Dion has served his country in many different roles over the last 21 years with integrity and a fierce love of Canada," he said. "I, and all Canadians, owe him a deep debt of gratitude for his service. I know I will be able to continue to count on his wisdom and his tireless service, and look forward to the next chapter of Mr. Dion's contributions to our country."

He also thanked MaryAnn Mihychuk, who will continue to serve as MP for the Manitoba riding of Kildonan-St. Paul after stepping out of her position as minister of employment.

Meet Trudeau's new ministers

Francois-Philippe Champagne, International Trade

  • The Liberal MP representing the Quebec riding of Saint-Maurice-Champlain had made no secret of his desire to be in cabinet one day. "It's for Mr. Trudeau to decide, but I know the people on his economic team," Champagne said soon after his election victory in 2015. That did not happen right away, but Champagne built up a profile as the parliamentary secretary to Finance Minister Bill Morneau.
  • Champagne has a background as a lawyer, businessman and international trade specialist, and has held senior positions at several companies, including AMEC, a global engineering and project management firm. The World Economic Forum named him a "Young Global Leader" in 2009.

Karina Gould, Democratic Institutions

  • The Liberal MP for Burlington gets a promotion after serving as parliamentary secretary to International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. She worked as a trade and investment specialist with the Mexican Trade Commission before entering politics, but also has a background in international development.
  • She spent a year volunteering at an orphanage in Mexico and also organized a fundraising campaign for the victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti when she was an undergraduate student at McGill University. Gould also worked as a consultant with the migration and development program at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., before heading to do a graduate degree in international relations at the University of Oxford.

Ahmed Hussen, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

  • Ahmed Hussen came to Canada as a refugee from Mogadishu, Somalia, when he was a teenager. A lawyer and community activist, he became the first Somali-Canadian to be elected to the House of Commons in 2015. He won his seat in the Toronto riding of York South-Weston by defeating NDP rival Mike Sullivan.
  • Hussen served as national president of the Canadian Somali Congress, where he worked on integration and boosting the civic engagement of that community. While studying at York University in the 1990s, Hussen co-founded the Regent Park Community Council and served as its president. The group advocated for the residents of the oft-troubled Toronto neighbourhood he lived in as it went through a $500-million revitalization project.
  • He worked as a special assistant for intergovernmental affairs to then-Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty and sat on the board of directors of Journalists for Human Rights.
Ahmed Hussen, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship, Rideau Hall, minister
Liberal MP Ahmed Hussen smiles with Governor General David Johnston and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after being sworn-in as minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Tues. Jan. 10, 2017. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Shuffle greeted by applause and criticism

While some welcomed the changes to Trudeau's cabinet, Candice Bergen, Official Opposition House Leader, expressed doubt that the shuffle would result in any good for Canadians. She said "changing the faces" of the cabinet could not reverse the prime minister's "fundamentally flawed" direction, citing prestigious cash-for-access dinners, tropical holidays, and out-of-control spending as examples.

“While Prime Minister Trudeau has had a lot of fun in his first year in office, the Prime Minister and his ministers, regardless of who they are, must make securing Canadian jobs and lowering Canadian taxes a top priority," said Bergen. "With the incoming U.S. administration comes the potential for increased U.S. protectionism and lower taxes south of the border... Instead of rubbing elbows with billionaires and raking in cash for the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister needs to get down to real work because his plan for Canadians simply isn’t working. A new cabinet won’t change that."

Green Party leader Elizabeth May, on the other hand, congratulated the ministers on their new appointments particularly Karina Gould who takes over for Monsef as minister of democratic institutions. May is a member of the special committee on electoral reform, and said Gould must deliver on the Liberal promise to make 2015 the last election held under the first-past-the-post system.

“I am encouraged by Minister Gould’s past statements in favour of updating our electoral system, and in her belief that First Past the Post poorly reflects the democratic will of Canadians," said May in a statement. "I look forward to working with the Minister, and believe she will act swiftly to select a system of proportional representation that ensures every vote counts. We have precious little time to act if we want to ensure 2015 was the last election held under First Past the Post."

The House of Commons will resume operations at the end of January.

— with files from Canadian Press, Riley Sparks

Editor's Note: This story has been updated since 2:30 p.m. to reflect new information from the prime minister's office and include quotes from politicians.

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Comments

Many years ago this kind of "shuffle" never occured. Cabinet Ministers took their lumps from the public and continued to persevere. Not now. Anytime one of them has the least bit of trouble with their portfolio the PM gets rid of them. Sometimes that's not a bad idea. But, these frequent changes also makes it difficult for the public to know who is who and who did what, and a tendency to forget the crime they committed.

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