UCP MLA Kaycee Madu, a former lawyer who grew up in Nigeria, became Canada’s first Black justice minister when Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shuffled his cabinet.
On Tuesday, Madu was moved from the Municipal Affairs portfolio to Justice and Solicitor General.
Kenney said one of Madu’s biggest responsibilities will be to oversee the completion of the statutory review of the Police Act “at a time when we are all rightfully more sensitive to the reality of racial prejudice.”
Just hours into his new job, Madu wrote: “I am determined to make sure our justice system represents all Albertans in a way that is fair and accountable.
“In particular, I believe modernizing the Police Act will be a necessary step towards ensuring equality for marginalized people before the law, and I look forward to that important work ahead.”
In a post on Facebook, Madu wrote: “As a foreign-trained lawyer, I cherish the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which says, ‘Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.’ I want to ensure that these words flourish in the lives of Albertans, and inspire confidence, not uncertainty.”
Kenney praised Madu for overcoming “enormous odds” to gain his law degree and come to Canada in 2005.
“I think it’s a powerful statement that Alberta will have the first-ever Canadian justice minister of African origin, first Black Canadian justice minister, attorney general or solicitor general, who is a man who has experienced racial prejudice firsthand and can bring that sensitivity to this important role.”
Those in the community believe seeing the first Black justice minister in all of Canada sworn in will bring a much-needed perspective.
“When we have somebody that looks like us in there, certain issues can be addressed from that perspective,” Alex Eskandarkhah said.
“Regardless of political stance, it comes down to people who look like us being in positions of power.”
Eskandarkhah said he’s happy for Madu and hopes this appointment is another step in a positive trend.
The Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association said Madu’s experience with legal aid will help bring attention to the courts and funding.
“To help better foster our legal aid program and also court services to ensure that those on the fringes or those that require an extra look at their file… that they get that,” said Jordan Stuffco.
“He has experience with doing… real meat-and-potatoes law, the legal aid law as well. So that is a sign of hope that Mr. Madu really is connected with the basics of how courts function,” he added.
Stuffco said Madu’s multicultural background is also an asset.
“I would expect that would be a very excellent perspective he can bring to justice and the justice portfolio, one that we don’t often see.”
Moving out of Justice and Solicitor General, Doug Schweitzer was sworn into a newly named ministry: Jobs, Economy and Innovation.
Taking the place of Madu at the helm of Municipal Affairs is Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard.