Anita Anand, a Canadian politician of Indian origin, was on Tuesday appointed as the defence minister in Justin Trudeau’s Cabinet following a reshuffle, reported PTI.
Anand has replaced long-time serving Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who had faced criticism for his handling of a sexual misconduct crisis in the military. Sajjan has been appointed as minister of international development, the Global News reported.
The Canadian military has faced public and political pressure to create better systems for preventing and handling sexual misconduct allegations. One of the changes demanded is an independent reporting system to ensure allegations of sexual misconduct are handled outside of the chain of command.
Anand was considered as a strong contender for the post by defence industry experts, who had said that her taking the role would send a signal to the victims of sexual misconduct that the government was serious about implementing major reforms in the military, according to Global News.
Anand is the second woman to serve as Canada’s defence minister, reported The Guardian. She previously held the portfolio of the procurement minister.
“One of the things people will be learning about Anita Anand over the next months is [that] she is a world class expert in governance, that she will bring to bear to make sure the Canadian Armed Forces, the leadership thereof, are worthy of the extraordinary men and women who chose to serve,” Trudeau said.
Following the appointment, Anand thanked Trudeau for trusting her with the portfolio.
The new Cabinet continues to maintain gender balance and has now 38 members. Women make up half of the Cabinet as they have done since 2015 when Trudeau’s government was first elected to power.
As part of the reshuffle, Melanie Joly, who served as the minister of economic development, has been made the foreign minister. Chrystia Freeland continued to remain the deputy prime minister.
Activist Steven Guilbeault has been given the environment portfolio. Guilbeault has worked for several environmental groups for over 20 years, including Greenpeace.
Trudeau also created a new ministry of mental health and addictions. Carolyn Bennett, who earlier served as the minister of crown-indigenous relations, will take up the role of the new minister of mental health and addictions.
Trudeau won his third term in September. The Cabinet shuffle was needed after three of his earlier ministers lost the elections and another quit.
His Liberal Party had won only 159 seats of the 170 needed for a parliamentary majority. His government now needs the support of the Opposition to pass laws.