Senator Fairbairn to retire

by Aaron Wherry

Senator Joyce Fairbairn, whose health was the subject of controversy this past August, will retire on January 18, 2013. Bob Rae has released the following statement.

“Joyce Fairbairn served her country, and especially her province of Alberta, with dignity, pride and devotion in the more than 40 years of her public life. She broke ground throughout her distinguished career as one of the first women journalists in the Parliamentary Press Gallery, senior advisor to Prime Minister Trudeau, and then as the first woman Leader of the Government in the Senate. She worked tirelessly to help Canadians, especially those facing challenges, particularly through her work on literacy and the Paralympics. And, as she now faces health challenges of her own, she continues to inspire all of us.

“Arlene and I have enjoyed Joyce’s friendship for a long time, and we look forward to that continuing for years to come.”




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Senator Fairbairn to retire

  1. Yes, another travesty presented to you by the LPC. This party is damned classy inasmuch as they took advantage of the Canadian taxpayers and thought absolutely very little if nothing about Ms. Fairbairn’s regressive affliction.

    Bob Rae ought to be proud (sarc) of this latest interpretation of Liberal ethics, since Ms. Fairbairn’s infirmity was diagnosed some months ago. What specifically were her duties, functions, and apprehension capabilities? What or which personage counselled her with plebiscite guidelines within the confines of the party?

    The optics are godawful and take advantage of an inauspicious circumstance.

    Who in addition in the Senate, may be plagued with this indifferentiated dilemma, that would be aided and abetted by any party? Shameful and heinous, not to mention that this libretto never should have transpired.

    What can we anticipate next from the LPC lacklustre vaporizing party?

    Not much I’m afraid, as it can only proliferate as a repugnant afterthought.

    • None of us, least of all you apparently, really knows what cognitve deficits Ms. Fairburn was presenting, nor when they became impediments to carrying out her duties. Nor do we have any right to such confidential health information just because she’s a public figure. While there are general patterns of decline, every case is unique and the progress and prognosis in each case is somewhat idiosyncratic and unpredictable.

      So, unless you know specifically what effect the illness had on her performance during the period in question, perhaps you should refrain from making ill-informed, self-righteous judgments about how she or her caregivers have managed it.

      • She had been declared *legally incompetent*.

        So the question is: is it acceptable for a legally incompetent parliamentarian to continue to hold onto his or her seat?

        I would argue that it is no more acceptable than having a pilot, doctor, teacher, or lawyer who had been declared legally incompetent continuing in his or her profession.

        • “Legally incompetent” doesn’t reveal anything about her cognitive abilities relevant to the performance of her duties in the Senate. For example, the skills and ability required to manage one’s bank account in the moment recruit a different part of the brain than the ability to recall previous events or even to grasp complex issues (at least in the early stages of the disease, and for some persons).

          My point is that, in this case, we simply don’t know and have no right to know. To exploit the Liberals’ handling of this situation in order to score opportunistic partisan points (as E Mac appears to be doing above) is, IMO, just as repugnant as any Liberal effort to hide her illness would have been.

          And I’m not a Liberal apologist. I would feel the same way if the Senator in question had been a Con.

          • So you do think it is appropriate for a legally incompetent parliamentarian to hold onto his or her seat?

            How about a legally incompetent pilot, doctor, teacher, or lawyer? Is it also appropriate for them to continue in their professions?

          • The comparison with pilots (or perhaps even doctors) isn’t quite appropriate since the senator’s incapacity certainly posed no threat to the health and safety of others.

            Having said that, perhaps a debate about fitness for public office is one that needs to occur. Similar issues have come up about parliamentarians continuing to try to perform their duties as cancer (or other progressive disease) prevented them from regularly attending sessions and committee work. We’ve heard tales of MPs dragging themselves off sickbeds to attend a crucial vote. At what point are they no longer capable of serving effectively and who makes that determination?

          • You have brought up an interesting point. What exactly does it mean to be deemed “incompetent” by an examining psychiatrist. What it means is that due to some reason, be it the fact that you have cognitive deficits or you are unable to tell the difference between fantasy and reality, you are no longer able to make even basic decisions about your own medical care. Once you have been deemed incompetent, a psychiatrist can then pursue a treatment order to force you to talk injected medications if he/she deems these in your best interest. Chances are that this incompetency declaration will also enable someone in your family to take over making decisions for your day to day living. They will chose where you live and with who and make all financial decisions for you. As getting deemed incompetent is a “big deal”, it is usually required that those closest to the patient are on board with the process. A geriatric psychiatrist does not go around deeming every old person with a faulty memory and a few problems “managing their bank account” incompetent. There are some pretty strict rules and the person can appeal the process. Often times the psychiatrist will appeal the process on the patient’s behalf.

          • Part of the problem here may be semantic or conceptual confusion between the terms “legally incompetent” and “mentally incompetent”. To me, the term “legally incompetent” means someone is deemed incapable of managing one’s own affairs (paying bills, managing income, etc.) and, therefore, requires the intervention of a legally-empowered trustee. That person may, however, continue to be competent in other spheres of his/her life, particularly in areas where they have a history of proficiency, knowledge, skill, or expertise. “Mentally incompetent”, to me, denotes lack of rational capacity or judgment across an array of domains of human functioning.

            The best example of the distinction would be the stereotypical absent-minded professor who can’t be trusted to remember where his keys are or to dress himself appropriately but is brilliant within his academic discipline.

            Another analogy would be the person who is deemed legally incompetent to drive (as a relative of mine once was for six months after a serious heart ailment) but remains completely capable in every other sphere of activity.

            My point about Fairbairn’s status is that we really don’t know how or when she became mentally incompetent to function in areas where she’d long been expert (e.g., public policy). And it’s simply not plausible to believe partisan allegations that the Liberal brain trust was somehow propping her up like conniving, behind-the-scene Rasputins. They had nothing to gain from such behaviour and, ethically, I can’t see them doing that to a respected and beloved colleague.

            But here I sound partisan and, I assure you, I am not. I would have the same questions if the Senator in question had been Conservative.

  2. She will always stand as one who elicited from her partisan opponents a level of cruelty and heartlessness toward a colleague and a fellow human that seems unprecedented.

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