News / Toronto

Ahmed Hussen is an inspiration to local Somali community

Advocates applaud Hussen's appointment to Trudeau's cabinet, saying Canada needs to be seen as a multicultural society and a role model for the rest of the world.

Much to the delight of the large Somali Canadian community, Ahmed Hussen was appointed Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

Torstar News Service file.

Much to the delight of the large Somali Canadian community, Ahmed Hussen was appointed Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

Even before he starts having an impact on the complex immigration portfolio, Ahmed Hussen’s selection is already sending powerful waves of influence in the local Somali community.

“His appointment breaks a barrier,” said Osman Ali, director of the Somali Canadian Association of Etobicoke.

“No one will look at him first as Somali, African, immigrant, Muslim. That’s huge. For him to be in that position is very important for a community that has been marginalized for a long time.”

It’s especially true for young Somali Canadians – either born here or who came as immigrants – who often get caught up in “bad behaviours and criminal activities,” he said.

“They’ll always look up and say: ‘If Ahmed can do it, I can do it too. I can also succeed,’” he said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Hussen as the new minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, a cabinet position that’s been under the spotlight with recent flow of Syrian refugees.

The move has been hailed as the right one, given Hussen’s personal experience. He came to Toronto as alone as a refugee teenager from Mogadishu, worked hard through life and education to become an immigration lawyer, before winning the parliamentary seat in recent federal election, representing the York South-Weston riding.

Having worked as a community organizer before entering politics should give Hussen ample capacity to be a “great minister,” said Ali.

“No one will need to go to Ottawa to explain to him what they’re going through. He already knows,” he said.

Sidebar:

The appointment of Ahmed Hussen in the new federal cabinet is “a step in the right direction” for Canada’s diversity, said Joseph Osuji, a Toronto barrister and founder of Just Society Group.

The group wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after his first cabinet appointment, complaining about the lack of diversity on Parliament Hill.

Osuji said Canada needs to continue to be seen as a multicultural society and a role model to the rest of the world.

“Now everybody is uncertain about what’s going to happen in the U.S. with the new president,” he said. “Trudeau is showing we don’t just talk about diversity. We act like it. That’s the true face of Canada.”

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