Canada’s Trudeau to shuffle cabinet, foreign minister set for big new role

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may move Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, left, into a new job in the cabinet reshuffle. (Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2019

Canada’s Trudeau to shuffle cabinet, foreign minister set for big new role

  • Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland will move into a new job and asked to prevent a national unity crisis
  • Three Liberal sources say Trudeau’s team is seriously considering whether to make her minister of intergovernmental affairs

OTTAWA: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will shuffle his cabinet on Wednesday and insiders say he may well move Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland into a new job and ask her to prevent a national unity crisis.
Trudeau’s Liberals lost their majority in an October election and now have no legislators in the western energy-producing provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, which oppose tougher environmental laws that critics say could cripple the oil industry. Polls show separatist sentiment is growing.
Freeland, an undisputed cabinet heavyweight, successfully led Canada through 15 months of tough talks to renegotiate a new continental trade treaty.
Public broadcaster Radio-Canada said on Tuesday that Freeland would be replaced by Infrastructure Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, indicating she will move.
Freeland was born in Alberta and grew up there. Three Liberal sources say Trudeau’s team is seriously considering whether to make her minister of intergovernmental affairs, the government’s point person to deal with the provinces.
“There are still some big foreign affairs files but does she need to handle them? No,” said one senior Liberal, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the situation.
“You have to take the people with star power and deploy them to address your biggest concerns.”
National unity tensions are a particularly painful issue in Canada, where the province of Quebec held a 1995 referendum on independence that only just failed.
Alberta premier Jason Kenney regularly castigates Ottawa for treating his province badly and the Liberal government’s challenge grew ever larger on Tuesday when workers at Canadian National Railway went on strike, hitting western exports such as grain and oil.
The Liberal sources said nothing had been decided finally, adding last-minute changes were still possible. Trudeau is to due unveil his cabinet at 1.30 p.m. Eastern Time (1830 GMT) and hold a news conference at 3.30 pm.
The offices of Trudeau and Freeland declined to comment.
A potential drawback is that the minister of intergovernmental affairs is a second tier role and would on paper represent a demotion for Freeland.
One solution could be to also give her the job of deputy prime minister, which is a largely ceremonial post and much less significant than the role of US vice president.
Giving Freeland the formal title though could help strengthen her credentials as one of the leading candidates to one day replace Trudeau. Trudeau did not name a deputy prime minister after taking power in 2015.


US says foreign students whose classes move online cannot stay

Updated 33 min 49 sec ago

US says foreign students whose classes move online cannot stay

  • “Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures," the State Department said

WASHINGTON: The United States said Monday it would not allow foreign students to remain in the country if all of their classes are moved online in the fall because of the coronavirus crisis.
“Nonimmigrant F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full online course load and remain in the United States,” US Immigration and Custom Enforcement said in a statement.
“Active students currently in the United States enrolled in such programs must depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction to remain in lawful status,” ICE said.
“If not, they may face immigration consequences including, but not limited to, the initiation of removal proceedings.”
ICE said the State Department “will not issue visas to students enrolled in schools and/or programs that are fully online for the fall semester nor will US Customs and Border Protection permit these students to enter the United States.”
F-1 students pursue academic coursework and M-1 students pursue “vocational coursework,” according to ICE.
Universities with a hybrid system of in-person and online classes will have to show that foreign students are taking as many in-person classes as possible, to maintain their status.
Critics quickly hit back at the decision.
“The cruelty of this White House knows no bounds,” tweeted Senator Bernie Sanders.
“Foreign students are being threatened with a choice: risk your life going to class-in person or get deported,” he said.
For Gonzalo Fernandez, a 32-year-old Spaniard doing his doctorate in economics at George Washington University in the US capital, “the worst thing is the uncertainty.”
“We don’t know if we will have classes next semester, if we should go home, if they are going to throw us out.”
Most US colleges and universities have not yet announced their plans for the fall semester.
A number of schools are looking at a hybrid model of in-person and online instruction but some, including Harvard University, have said all classes will be conducted online.
Harvard said 40 percent of undergraduates would be allowed to return to campus — but their instruction would be conducted remotely.
There were more than one million international students in the United States for the 2018-19 academic year, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE).
That accounted for 5.5 percent of the total US higher education population, the IIE said, and international students contributed $44.7 billion to the US economy in 2018.
The largest number of international students came from China, followed by India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada.
According to Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, who works as the policy counsel at the Washington-based think tank American Immigration Council, the new rule is “almost certainly going to be challenged in court.”
He explained on Twitter that foreign students will likely struggle to continue their studies while abroad, due to time differences or a lack of access to technology or academic resources.
President Donald Trump, who is campaigning for reelection in November, has taken a bullish approach to reopening the country even as virus infections continue to spike in parts of the country, particularly the south and west.
“SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” he tweeted Monday.
With more than 130,000 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus, the United States is the hardest-hit country in the global pandemic.
While cracking down on immigration is one of his key issues, Trump has taken a particularly hard stance on foreigners since the health crisis began.
In June, he froze until 2021 the issuing of green cards — which offer permanent US resident status — and some work visas, particularly those used in the technology sector, with the stated goal of reserving jobs for Americans.