Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shuffled his cabinet Monday, replacing his justice minister for the first time, as the government gears up for a federal election later this year.
Jody Wilson-Raybould, who had been Trudeau’s justice minister since 2015, will become minister for veterans affairs, replacing Seamus O'Regan. Wilson-Raybould also becomes associate minister of national defence.
The cabinet shuffle was announced at a ceremony at the Governor General's residence at Rideau Hall on Jan. 14.
Wilson-Raybould, who worked as a prosecutor in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and then as regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations for British Columbia, comes from the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk and Laich-Kwil-Tach of northern Vancouver Island, who are part of the Kwakwaka’wakw.
She has stickhandled several tricky files for Trudeau, including successful cannabis legalization in Canada and changes to the criminal justice system, but also took some heat, for example for a controversial reaction to the Colten Boushie verdict.
"The work done by Jody on major issues was exceptional, and we really need someone now, who is very strong and can deliver for our veterans," said Trudeau on Monday, explaining his decision. "I am fully confident that she will do an exceptional job as minister for veterans affairs."
Justice is considered a high-profile federal ministry, along with foreign affairs, defence and finance. Wilson-Raybould rejected suggestions she was being demoted. "I can think of no world in which I would consider working for our veterans in Canada as a demotion," she said.
The minister said she was very proud to introduce 13 pieces of legislation during her time as attorney general, on a wide range of complex issues like medical assistance in dying and impaired driving.
She also said she was confident in releasing principles related to Indigenous litigation, and that this "opened up the role of the attorney general, and provided a window into how attorneys general make decisions."
Montreal MP David Lametti, who was a law professor at McGill University, was elevated to cabinet to replace Wilson-Raybould and become Trudeau’s new attorney general.
The shuffle was spurred by the announcement on Jan. 10 by Scott Brison that he has decided not to seek re-election this fall, and was stepping down from his post as president of the Treasury Board.
Jane Philpott, who has been Trudeau’s Indigenous services minister, takes over from Brison, while O'Regan takes over Philpott’s post. Philpott also gets the title of minister of digital government.
South Shore - St. Margaret's MP Bernadette Jordan will become minister for rural economic development, a new position. Trudeau's office described her role as overseeing the creation of a "rural development strategy," and bringing high-speed internet to more rural households.
She will also replace Brison as the lone federal minister from Nova Scotia.
Other key ministers, including Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen, remained in their portfolios.