Karina Gould’s new role comes with her new status as the only Jewish minister in Canada’s new federal cabinet

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and MP Karina Gould at cabinet swearing-in ceremony, Oct. 26, 2021. (Credit: CPAC)

Jewish MPs were all but shut out of the new cabinet announced on Oct. 26 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The sole Jewish appointment was of Karina Gould as Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

The CBC speculated that Jim Carr, the Jewish MP from Winnipeg, was not appointed to cabinet because of health concerns. Carr, a former international trade minister, guided the modernization of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement in 2019, and is undergoing treatment for cancer.

Marco Mendicino, the MP for Eglinton—Lawrence, was moved to the ministry of public safety after serving as Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship. Mendicino will now play a greater role in the Security and Infrastructure Program, which helps communal buildings and houses of worship defray security costs.

Moving to the ministry of foreign affairs is Melanie Joly, who has previously served as Minister of Economic Development, Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie, and Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Carolyn Bennett, a doctor who was first elected in 1997 in Toronto—St. Paul’s and re-elected in eight consecutive elections, becomes Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health.

Gould, the member for Burlington, was first elected in 2015. She has previously served as Minister of International Development and Minister of Democratic Institutions.

Jewish on her father’s side, Gould told The CJN in 2015 that while she’s not “an active practitioner of Judaism,” she maintains her heritage through celebrating Chanukah, Purim, and Yom Kippur.

Her paternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors from Czechoslovakia. Her grandfather was deported to Theresienstadt, then to Dachau and Auschwitz. Separated during the war, her paternal grandparents were reunited afterward.

Her father met her mother, who is from Germany, while both were in Israel volunteering on Kibbutz Naot, where the sandals are made.

Gould visited Israel on a Birthright trip and stayed longer for a personal visit. “Israel is a beautiful country,” she said. “It’s unique in the world. It has difficult challenges.”

She said she believes her family heritage plays a big role in shaping her political values.

“My family was accepted and welcomed into Canada after a difficult experience,” she said. “Canadian values of tolerance and diversity were not just important for my family, but for others. Canada provided the opportunity to grow and to thrive.”

Gould was front and centre during the 2019 visit to Canada of then Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

She noted to Rivlin that since the free trade agreement between Canada and Israel was signed in 1997, the value of two-way trade had tripled, to $1.9 billion.

And under the Canada-Israel Industrial R&D Foundation, the two countries have funded close to 60 projects over the last dozen years, she added.

Ties between Canada and Israel “are long, deep and mutually beneficial,” she said.

As Minister of International Development, Gould also oversaw funding to the controversial United Nations agency that oversees the plight of Palestinians, UNRWA.

The Liberals reinstated funding to the agency after Stephen Harper’s Conservatives cut aid amid reports of corruption and UNRWA’s close ties to Hamas.

In January, Gould announced Canada would investigate teaching materials used in UNRWA-run schools, following a report by an Israeli watchdog that found textbooks and other classroom materials contained incitement to violence and demonization of Israel and Jews.