Who will be represented in Justin Trudeau’s first Cabinet?

Newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to announce the appointment of the Liberal government’s first Cabinet on November 4th. Trudeau has announced that his Cabinet will be smaller, and will be gender-balanced in its appointments.

This election signaled a significant shift in indigenous representation in the House of Commons. A record 10 indigenous members of parliament were elected, and a record 54 indigenous candidates ran for election. This is an opportunity for Prime Minister Trudeau to take the lead in improving the representation of indigenous people in government leadership too.

Increasing the representation of both women and indigenous people in cabinet is welcome because representativeness matters. It makes institutions more legitimate and improves the quality of their decisions. Lynn Smith, a former BC Supreme Court justice, talked about why it is important to have indigenous people represented in the legal profession in an address to the Aboriginal Lawyers Forum in 2014. She identified four reasons representation matters:

  1. it’s only fair;
  2. it makes a difference who is in the room when decisions are made;
  3. enhancing diversity enhances the credibility of an institution; and
  4. diversity is likely to lead to more accurate and appropriate outcomes.

In that talk too, Justice Smith noted that the we have also not met the goal of increasing representation of indigenous people among the judiciary or the appointment committee for judges.

Justice Smith’s points should resonate with Prime Minister Trudeau. Appointing a cabinet that includes the fine indigenous candidates elected to the Liberal majority government would lead to all of the important outcomes of meaningful representation: fairness, informed decisions, credibility, and quality of outcomes.