Canada’s Trudeau to shuffle cabinet, foreign minister set for big new role

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may move Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, left, into a new job in the cabinet reshuffle. (Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2019

Canada’s Trudeau to shuffle cabinet, foreign minister set for big new role

  • Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland will move into a new job and asked to prevent a national unity crisis
  • Three Liberal sources say Trudeau’s team is seriously considering whether to make her minister of intergovernmental affairs

OTTAWA: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will shuffle his cabinet on Wednesday and insiders say he may well move Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland into a new job and ask her to prevent a national unity crisis.
Trudeau’s Liberals lost their majority in an October election and now have no legislators in the western energy-producing provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, which oppose tougher environmental laws that critics say could cripple the oil industry. Polls show separatist sentiment is growing.
Freeland, an undisputed cabinet heavyweight, successfully led Canada through 15 months of tough talks to renegotiate a new continental trade treaty.
Public broadcaster Radio-Canada said on Tuesday that Freeland would be replaced by Infrastructure Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, indicating she will move.
Freeland was born in Alberta and grew up there. Three Liberal sources say Trudeau’s team is seriously considering whether to make her minister of intergovernmental affairs, the government’s point person to deal with the provinces.
“There are still some big foreign affairs files but does she need to handle them? No,” said one senior Liberal, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation.
“You have to take the people with star power and deploy them to address your biggest concerns.”
National unity tensions are a particularly painful issue in Canada, where the province of Quebec held a 1995 referendum on independence that only just failed.
Alberta premier Jason Kenney regularly castigates Ottawa for treating his province badly and the Liberal government’s challenge grew ever larger on Tuesday when workers at Canadian National Railway went on strike, hitting western exports such as grain and oil.
The Liberal sources said nothing had been decided finally, adding last-minute changes were still possible. Trudeau is to due unveil his cabinet at 1.30 p.m. Eastern Time (1830 GMT) and hold a news conference at 3.30 pm.
The offices of Trudeau and Freeland declined to comment.
A potential drawback is that the minister of intergovernmental affairs is a second tier role and would on paper represent a demotion for Freeland.
One solution could be to also give her the job of deputy prime minister, which is a largely ceremonial post and much less significant than the role of US vice president.
Giving Freeland the formal title though could help strengthen her credentials as one of the leading candidates to one day replace Trudeau. Trudeau did not name a deputy prime minister after taking power in 2015.


Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

Updated 11 December 2019

Indians demonstrate against ‘divisive’ citizenship bill

  • The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims

NEW DELHI: Protests erupted across various parts of India on Tuesday, a day after the lower house of Parliament passed the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) which makes religion the basis for granting Indian citizenship to minorities from neighboring countries. 

The bill, which goes to the upper house on Wednesday, would ensure citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, but exclude Muslims.

“After the CAB, we are going to bring in the National Register of Citizens (NRC),” Home Minister Amit Shah said after the passage of the bill. 

The fear among a large section of Indians is that by bringing in the CAB and the NRC — a process to identify illegal immigrants — the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is trying to target Muslim minorities. 

They insist that the new bill protects all other communities except Muslims, who constitute around 14 percent of India’s total population.

The opposition Congress Party said that the bill was a move to “destroy the foundation” of India.

“The CAB is an attack on the Indian constitution. Anyone who supports it is attacking and attempting to destroy the foundation of our nation,” party leader Rahul Gandhi posted in a tweet.

Priyanka Gandhi, Rahul’s sister and a prominent opposition leader, called the bill “India’s tryst with bigotry.”

However, BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma said: “The opposition is communalizing the bill. 

The CAB saves minorities who owe their origin to India from being prosecuted on grounds of religious status. The same is not the case with Muslims since they have not been prosecuted because of their religion.”

Eight northeastern states observed a day-long strike against the CAB. 

“Once the bill is implemented, the native tribal people will become permanent minorities in their own state,” Animesh Debbarma, a tribal leader who organized the strike in the state of Tripura said.

“The bill is against our fundamental rights and it is an attack on our constitution and secularism,” he told Arab News.

In Assam, some places saw violence with a vehicle belonging to the BJP state president vandalized.

In New Delhi, different civil society groups and individuals gathered close to the Indian Parliament and expressed their outrage at the “open and blatant attack” on what they called the “idea” of India.

“The CAB is not only against Muslim minorities but against all the minorities — be it Tamils or Nepali Gurkhas — and is a blatant attempt to polarize the society in the name of religion and turn India into a majoritarian Hindu state,” Nadeem Khan, head of United Against Hate, a campaign to connect people from different faiths, said.

Rallies and protests were also organized in Pune, Ahmadabad, Allahabad, Patna and Lucknow.

On Tuesday, more than 600 academics, activists, lawyers and writers called the bill “divisive, discriminatory, unconstitutional” in an open letter, and urged the government to withdraw the proposed law.

They said that the CAB, along with the NRC, “will bring untold suffering to people across the country. It will damage fundamentally and irreparably, the nature of the Indian republic.”

Delhi-based activist and a prominent human rights campaigner, Harsh Mander, said: “I feel the CAB is the most dangerous bill that has ever been brought by the Indian Parliament. We need a mass civil disobedience movement to oppose this legislation.”

Meanwhile, the international community is also watching the domestic debate on the CAB. 

Describing the initiative as a “dangerous turn in the wrong direction,”  a federal US commission on international religious freedom has sought US sanctions against Shah and other Indian leaders if the bill with the “religious criterion” is passed.

EU ambassador to India, Ugo Astuto, in a press conference in New Delhi on Monday said that he hopes: “The spirit of equality enshrined in the Indian constitution will be upheld by the Parliament.”