TORONTO – Fourteen years after first coming to Canada as a refugee, Canadian Muslim MP Ahmed Hussen was elected on Tuesday, January 10, as the country’s first cabinet minister born in Somalia.
“I am extremely proud of our country’s history as a place of asylum, a place that opens its doors and hearts to new immigrants and refugees, and I’m especially proud today to be the minister in charge of that file,” Hussen told reporters outside the House of Commons on Tuesday, The Star reported.
“The story of Canada is the story of immigration, and I’m especially proud and humbled that the prime minister would task me with this important role.”
Hussen, who arrived alone to Canada from Somalia at 16 in 1993, had already made history as the first Somali-Canadian MP when elected in the riding of York South-Weston in the 2015 election.
Since coming to Ottawa as Canada’s first Somali-born MP, he has served on the Justice and Human Rights Committee as well as the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association.
Prior to his election, Hussen worked as a lawyer, practicing criminal defence, immigration and refugee law.
He also served on the board of the Global Enrichment Foundation, which helps women in East Africa go to university and colleges in the region, as well as the board for the Toronto-based Journalists for Human Rights.
Hussen takes over the immigration department that was previously headed by veteran Markham MP John McCallum, who shepherded nearly 40,000 refugees from Syria into Canada during his 14 months on the job.
McCallum is leaving his post to be Canada’s ambassador to China and told reporters Tuesday that he feels the department is in “good hands” with Hussen.
Hussen will take over a ministry that plans to accept 300,000 new permanent residents to Canada in 2017.