Stephen Dion, who was scheduled to arrive on Thursday for a four day visit – his first working visit as Canada’s foreign minister – won’t be coming after all.
The reason: he is no longer Canada’s foreign minister, having been replaced on Tuesday night by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a cabinet reshuffle. Dion’s replacement is Chrystia Freeland, a former journalist and Liberal MP who has served Trudeau as his international trade minister.
Canadian diplomatic officials said the hope is that the new foreign minister’s visit to Israel can be re-scheduled for sometime in the spring.
It is doubtful Jerusalem is mourning Dion being moved from his position. Upon taking over as foreign minister in November 2015, Dion said that Canada needed to return to its traditional “honest broker” status in the Mideast.
Under Trudeau’s predecessor, Stephen Harper, Canada was unstinting in its steadfast support of Israel.
Dion, upon taking office, said that his party will stop making Israel a “partisan” issue.
“Israel is a friend, it is an ally, but for us to be an effective ally, we need also to strengthen our relationship with the other legitimate partners in the region,” he said at the time.
“For example, we need to strengthen our relationship with Lebanon, and this will help Lebanon but also Israel. To be helpful, you need to strengthen your relationship with the other legitimate partners, and that is what we will do.”
Trudeau, according to the Toronto Star, suggested that Freeland – who is fluent in Russian – “is the best placed as the government navigates the unfolding US-Russian dynamic.” Freeland, according to the paper, has in-depth knowledge of both countries and speaks Ukrainian, Russian, French and Italian.
It is also apparently Freeland’s trade expertise at a time when US President-elect Donald Trump takes office in Washington that helped catapult her into the position as Canada’s top diplomat.
“One of the things that we’ve seen from president-elect Trump is that he very much takes a trade and job lens to his engagements with the world in international diplomacy,” Trudeau was quoted in the Star as saying.
“It makes sense for the person who is responsible for foreign relations with the United States to also have the ability and the responsibility to engage with issues such as NAFTA and the broad range of trade issues that we’ll be facing.”