Ahmed Hussen will replace John McCallum as Canada’s Immigration Minister after Justin Trudeau moved to reshuffle his cabinet.
Among a number of changes, the Canadian Prime Minister has put the Somalia-Canadian lawyer in charge of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, with McCallum moving to take a post as Canada’s ambassador to China.
Hussen, who came to Canada as a refugee in 1993, was elected as member for York South-Weston in October 2015, when the Liberals came to power. He is the first person of Somali descent to be elected.
He is the National President of the Canadian Somali Congress and has a political career dating back to 2001. Hussen’s specialities as a lawyer include criminal, immigration, refugee and human rights law.
McCallum has been in charge of the IRCC during a busy period for Canada’s immigration department.
His initial major task was facilitating the entry of a targeted 25,000 Syrian refugees into the country, a process which thrust Canada into the global spotlight after achieving the aim by the extended February 2016 deadline. As of January 2, 2017, some 39,671 Syrians have been welcomed here.
At the same time as dealing with the administrative mountain of refugee applications, McCallum also set about conducting a full review of the immigration system, travelling around Canada holding meetings with stakeholders on exactly what changes needed to be made.
He accused the previous Conservative government of leaving the system in a mess of lengthy processing times and not-fit-for-purpose programs.
Despite hearing Canadian businesses and provincial representatives wanted increased immigration, McCallum was unable to gather the cross-party support he needed for a significant increase in numbers.
However, he was able to set 300,000 immigrants as a new benchmark annual number for Canada, a significant increase on the years previous to 2016.
McCallum was also instrumental in the move to makes changes to how Comprehensive Ranking System points are awarded under the Express Entry System, reducing points for qualified job offers and adding points for a Canadian education.
He has been outspoken during his time in the job about how international graduates are blue-chip new permanent residents for Canada, as they are young, know the culture, have Canadian qualifications and knowledge of the official languages.
The development of a Global Skills Visa also began under McCallum’s tenure, with an ambitious two-week processing time for the best and brightest foreign workers. This is expected to be finalized in early 2017.
Under McCallum, there was also a separate review of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, and he moved to end the cumulative duration rule at the end of 2016, with more changes expected early in 2017.
Further changes were also made to family reunification under McCallum, as a benchmark processing time of 12 months was established for this immigration class.
His last move in office came late in 2016, when he changed the application process for sponsorship of parents and grandparents from first-come, first-served to a lottery format. While many could see the sense behind the change, it came too late in the day for some who had already prepared applications for the old process.
McCallum visited China in his role as immigration minister in August 2016, as part of an aim to get more Chinese students in Canadian universities, more technology talent in Canadian firms and more investment in the economy.
He will now work on that goal in his role as Canada’s ambassador in the Asian country.