Former Somalian refugee Hussen takes over immigration in Canada

'I’m especially proud and humbled that the prime minister would task me with this important role'

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When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his reshuffled Liberal Cabinet on Tuesday, one of the surprises was the rookie MP for York-South Weston, Ahmed Hussen, who was named Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

Hussen has been a lawyer, human rights advocate and community activist, but back in 1993 when setting foot in Canada, he was a 16-year-old refugee from war-torn 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.

Story of immigration

“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.”

After being elected in 2015 and coming to Ottawa, the capital, as Canada’s first Somali-born MP, Hussen has served on the Justice and Human Rights Committee as well as the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association.

Hussen while speaking to The Star, after his election in 2015, had described his condition when he came to Canada as a solitary teenager. He went to high school in Hamilton. After graduation, he moved in with one of his brothers, in Toronto’s Regent Park neighborhood. Hussen commuted nearly two hours to pump gas in Mississauga, topay for his education at York University.

It was while living in Regent Park that he was drawn into politics. Hussen co-founded the neighbourhood association and worked on housing issues, and eventually became influential as president of the Canadian Somali Congress. His meeting in 1999 with newly elected George Smitherman — who became a provincial cabinet minister and Toronto mayoral candidate eventually helped Husen land a posting in former premier Dalton McGuinty’s office.

Hussen takes over the immigration department from veteran Markham MP John McCallum, who will take over as Canada’s ambassador to China.

McCallum told reporters that he feels the department is in “good hands” with Hussen.