Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle on Jan. 12 means Canada has a new foreign minister – and he’s no stranger to Middle East politics.
The shuffle also sees the return to cabinet of Jim Carr, the Jewish MP from Winnipeg, who had stepped away from politics to receive cancer treatment. Carr, a former international trade minister who stickhandled the modernization of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement in 2019, becomes Special Representative for the Prairies in the new cabinet.
Former astronaut Marc Garneau becomes Minister of Foreign Affairs, taking over from François-Philippe Champagne. Garneau served previously as Minister of Transport. He was foreign affairs critic for a time under the previous Conservative government.
In a tweet, Brian Herman, government relations director at B’nai Brith Canada, said his organization welcomes and looks forward to working with Garneau. Herman thanked Champagne “for his work in advancing the issues so important to the grassroots Jewish community.”
Israel’s foreign affairs ministry also offered its congratulations, thanking Garneau for his work in strengthening ties between Canada’s and Israel’s transportation sectors. “We look forward to reinforcing the fruitful Canadian-Israeli relationship,” a statement from the ministry said.
As transport minister, Garneau visited Israel in 2018 and met with his Israeli counterpart, Yisrael Katz, to sign an expanded air transport agreement that boosted the number of passenger and cargo flights between the two countries.
“By making the movement of goods and people faster and easier, this expanded agreement will continue to facilitate trade and investment between Canada and Israel and help our businesses grow and succeed,” Garneau stated at the time.
In 2014, at a rally for Israel at Toronto’s Beth Tzedec Congregation held during military operations in Gaza, Garneau told a large crowd that Canada’s support for Israel is based on principle. “When citizens of a country are threatened by terror, other countries must speak up.”
He said Israel had a right and duty to protect its citizens by attempting to cut off Hamas’s rocket supply.
“To argue that [Israel] can’t target Hamas for fear of hurting innocent people is equivalent to saying it isn’t allowed to defend itself,” he emphasized.
Israeli victims of terror “would be alive today if Hamas didn’t fire rockets.”
Garneau reiterated that the Liberals condemned Hamas’s rejection of a proposed ceasefire and praised Israel for agreeing to it.
Carr, who served in the first Trudeau cabinet after the Liberals’ win in 2015, recounted to The CJN at the time that he is the grandson of immigrants who fled Russian pogroms in 1906.
He grew up in a middle-class household in the River Heights neighbourhood of Winnipeg and had his bar mitzvah in 1964 at Congregation Shaarey Zedek.
“I’ve been part of the community all my life,” he said.
He returned to the same shul in 2018 for a rally of solidarity with the Jews of Pittsburgh following the massacre at a synagogue in that city.
“The community came to say, ‘We are with you. When they attack you, they attack us all,’” Carr said.
“This is the reality of being a Jew. This is the reality of being a Canadian. I am proud to be both.”
Ontario MP Karina Gould becomes Minister of International Development in the new cabinet. Four years ago, she was appointed Minister of Democratic Institutions, becoming the youngest female cabinet minister in Canadian history.
Gould’s paternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors from Czechoslovakia and her parents met on a kibbutz in Israel. Gould visited Israel on a Birthright trip.
During Israeli president Reuven Rivlin’s visit to Canada in 2019, Gould said ties between Israel and Canada “are long, deep and mutually beneficial.”