Former paralympian Chantal Petitclerc was one of the seven new independent senators appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on March 18, 2016. The Globe and Mail has called her the world’s fastest woman on three wheels, but her new job in the Red Chamber doesn’t mean she’s slowing down. In addition to helping fine-tune legislation, Petitclerc will also be Canada’s chef de mission at the summer 2016 Brazil Olympics. Here she tells P&I about lobster risotto, her favourite book, and the best advice she’s received.
Where were you when you got the call to be a senator?
I was home, around 5:30 p.m., making dinner for my two-and-a-half-year-old son… He [Trudeau] announced that I was appointed and we talked casually for a while, and at some point my son got impatient and wanted the phone, so I said: “Elliot, you want to say something to the prime minister?” Mr. Trudeau said: “I like the name,” and laughed, then he talked with Elliot for a bit.
What were you known for in high school?
For being the only person in a wheelchair in the school! But also for swimming. I would swim every day or so.
Coffee or tea?
Espresso. Too much!
What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken?
I have travelled so much… I do love Tokyo, Japan.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I did some scuba diving, skydiving. But that’s fun, not crazy. Trying to win five gold [medals] in one game was pretty crazy.
Cats or dogs?
I have two cats that are 14-years-old: Miso and Pu-yi. Miso is named after the soup. Pu-yi is named after the last Emperor of China. I use him as a culture test for my guests.
What is your favourite book?
Germinal by Émile Zola.
What did you eat for dinner last night?
I had lobster risotto with a glass of red wine. Perhaps not the best pairing, but both were good!
Early bird or night owl?
Early… I like to wake around 6 a.m. and I work best in the morning.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
“Every time you get an offer, ask yourself three questions: Does it pay well? Is it fun? Does it fit your professional plan? If you don’t answer yes to at least two out of three, don’t do it.”
What’s the best thing about your job?
Feeling like you can make a difference in the lives of Canadians.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
Becoming paraplegic at the age of 12…You know right away that your life will never be the same again.
You’re hosting a dinner party with three wise people. Who do you invite living or dead?
Simone de Beauvoir, no one else. I always find my best conversations are one on one.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Winning 14 gold medals for Canada. The adrenaline, the work it takes – I don’t know what compares to this, but it’s a powerful feeling.
If you could get the answer to any question, what would that question be?
Do we ever stop stressing about the small things?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Right here, in the Senate, playing my part… and getting good at it!
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