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Trudeau holds to Senate reform pledge; no bagmen, backroomers in appointment recommendations

By Tim Naumetz      

Women make up the majority of the nine new Senators, who are well-known volunteers, advocates, and community leaders within various fields.

Diane Griffin, a PEI leader of advocacy for conservation of natural areas, was one of nine new Senators nominated today. Photograph courtesy of Nature Conservancy of Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held to his promise of reforming Canada’s unelected Senate Thursday, with a second round of nominees for appointment who have distinguished themselves in public and community service, with no apparent partisan links or the political operatives that have been part of the Senate reward system since Confederation.

As with his first round of appointments under the independent advisory board created by Mr. Trudeau as part of sweeping reforms earlier this year, a majority of the nine nominees to fill Senate vacancies are women, and all of the nominees are decorated with honours and community recognition for leadership in a range of social and cultural fields.

The nominees, whom Mr. Trudeau recommends for appointment by Governor General David Johnston under constitutional requirements, include achievers in the arts, and advocates for single parents and low-income households, indigenous rights, environmental protection, and Canada’s relations with Asia.

From the west coast to the Atlantic, the nominees are:

Yuen Pau Woo, nominated for a Senate seat representing British Columbia, arrived in Canada as a 16-year-old student on scholarship and later immigrated, to eventually become president of the Asia Pacific Foundation in Vancouver and accumulate a 28-year history of work on public policy issues “from coast to coast” with an emphasis on Asia relations, says Mr. Woo’s resumé. Mr. Woo is a senior fellow in public policy at the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia, and also has a fellowship at Simon Fraser University.

Manitoba Art historian Patricia Bovey, nominated for a Senate seat for Manitoba, is so accomplished in her work promoting the development of arts and its links to community, including indigenous works, that she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts in the United Kingdom and has served on the boards of the University of Manitoba, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Harvey Max Chochinov, also nominated to fill a Manitoba Senate vacancy, is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Manitoba and director of the Manitoba Palliative Care Research Unit, named to chair a recent federal advisory panel as Mr. Trudeau’s government was considering legislation to respond to a Supreme Court of Canada ruling on assistance in dying. He holds the only Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care, is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, and performed community work for 23 years as a fly-in psychiatric consultant to the remote community of The Pas, in central Manitoba.

The third nominee for a Manitoba Senate set, Professor Marilou McPhedran, is a lawyer who has worked to promote human rights through law reforms in Canada and internationally and in 1985 became the youngest lawyer named to the Order of Canada for leadership in an Ad Hoc Committee of Canadian Women on the Constitution, promoting equality rights as Canada’s new Charter of Rights and Freedoms was beginning to shape new legal principles at the Supreme Court of Canada.

René Cormier, an advocate of francophone rights among Atlantic Canadian Acadian communities, was nominated to fill one of two vacant Senate seats for New Brunswick. Mr. Cormier has served as president for Acadian and French-Canadian culture and arts organizations. He is also the artistic director of Zones Téâtrales at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and is president of the Société Nationale de L’Acadie. Mr. Cormier’s honours include the Ordre des francophones d’Amerique, and membership as a Knight of Arts and Letters of France.

Nancy Hartling, described as one of New Brunswick’s most dedicated advocates on issues affecting women, was nominated for the other vacant seat in the province. Ms. Hartling raised two children as a divorced mother, and has also completed two university degrees and founded the non-profit organization Support to Single Parents Inc., which she directed for 34 years. Her resumé notes she also founded an affordable housing complex for single parents and co-chaired a provincial government advisory group on violence against women, won a Governor General’s Award for her advocacy, as well as provincial awards including the Order of New Brunswick.

Wanda Thomas Bernard, a Halifax social worker and educator who is described as a community activist and advocate for social change, was nominated for appointment to one of two Nova Scotia Senate vacancies. A long-time Dalhousie University social work professor and founding member of the Association of Black Social Workers who was the first African Nova Scotian to be promoted to full professor at Dalhousie, and has been awarded the Order of Nova Scotia and the Order of Canada for her community work and advocacy.

Daniel Christmas, a resident of the Mi’kmaw First Nation’s community of Membertou, was nominated for appointment to the second vacant Senate seat in Nova Scotia. He has been a lifelong advocate of indigenous rights, and served as director of advisory services for the Union of Nova Scotia Indians, co-ordination of litigation strategy on Aboriginal and treaty rights, and championed the Mi’kmaw response to the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the wrongful prosecution of Donald Marshall. His advocacy and work for indigenous communities was recognized by an honorary doctor of law from Dalhousie University.

Diane Griffin, a leader of advocacy for conservation of natural areas, was nominated for appointment to the only Senate vacancy in Prince Edward Island. A former deputy minister of environmental resources in the province, Ms. Griffin was awarded the Governor General’s Conservation Award, an honorary degree from the University of Prince Edward Island, and the Order of PEI for volunteerism and work on conservation and environmental issues on the island. She has been involved with the Nature Conservancy of Canada since 1999 and serves as a volunteer member of the Atlantic branch’s Board of Directors.

The appointments will bring the total of Mr. Trudeau’s non-affiliated appointments to 16, including Senator Peter Harder, a former senior public servant Mr. Trudeau appointed as the government’s representative in the Senate, a required post to fulfill duties that are required under Senate rules as government legislation goes through Parliament.

With the addition of these new appointments, the number of unaffiliated senators will soon total 32, compared to 40 remaining senators in the Conservative Senate caucus and the 21 Independent Liberal senators.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said six remaining Senate vacancies for Québec and six for Ontario will be filled “in the near future.”

The PMO said more than 2,700 Canadians applied through Mr. Trudeau’s Independent Advisory Board for appointment to the nine vacancies Mr. Trudeau, in effect, filled on Thursday. Although the constitution requires a Prime Minister to recommend nominees for appointment to the Governor General, convention dictates the Governor General follows the recommendations.

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