Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named the most diverse government in his country’s history on Wednesday, the first to feature an equal number of men and women, saying he wanted to “present to Canada a cabinet that looks like Canada.”
The new cabinet was unveiled publicly as Trudeau and his ministers gathered at Rideau Hall in Ottawa for their formal swearing-in. Among its 30 ministers are two aboriginal politicians, two persons with disabilities, and three Sikhs. The cabinet is smaller than its 39-member predecessor and younger overall than past Canadian governments.
Leading the Canadian defense ministry is Harjit Sajjan, a first-time member of parliament representing South Vancouver. A Sikh whose family emigrated from India to Canada when he was five years old, Sajjan worked as a detective in the Vancouver Police Department before joining the Canadian military. There he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and served a tour in Bosnia and three tours in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Sajjan’s appointment would be significant under normal circumstances, but it seemed especially symbolic after an election campaign that challenged Canada’s multicultural identity. Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other Conservatives wielded the use of the niqab during Canadian citizenship ceremonies and the Syrian refugee crisis as wedge issues as he sought a fourth term. But he was defeated in a Liberal landslide that resulted in Canada’s most diverse parliament yet.