OTTAWA — Independent senators now outnumber their colleagues affiliated with a political party after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau filled six vacancies in Quebec on Wednesday.
The new senators include a doctor, an environmental scientist and a mayor.
Newly appointed Sen. Eric Forest, currently mayor of Rimouski, Que., said Trudeau promised he and his colleagues would have “independence of thought.”
“Looking to the challenge of renewing the upper chamber, he said he was counting on me, that he was expecting an important contribution from me due to my experience at the municipal level and with the (outlying) regions,” Forest said.
The other senators include Rosa Galvez, a professor at Laval University originally from Peru, who has focused much of her research on pollution.
Marie-Francoise Megie is a longtime family physician and professor at Université de Montreal.
Renee Dupuis is an influential human rights and indigenous issues lawyer who won the Governor General’s Award in 2001 for her non-fiction book, Justice for Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples.
Also nominated is Marc Gold, a prominent member of the Jewish community and former professor, along with Raymonde Saint-Germain, Quebec’s current ombudswoman.
Trudeau’s announcement followed his appointment last week of six new senators from Ontario who, like their colleagues from Quebec, are also not affiliated with political parties.
The appointees were selected through a process that involved more than 2,700 applicants who were screened by an advisory board that came up with a short list for each seat.
There are now 44 Independent senators, 40 Conservatives and 21 others who still consider themselves Liberals despite being kicked out of the party’s caucus by Trudeau.
A group of independent senators have already asked for the same resources given to their party-affiliated colleagues, including reserved spaces on committees studying legislation.
Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan didn’t appear to be too warm to that idea.
“Normally, it’s the tradition to come up with (composition of committees) during the throne speech,” he said.
“It has always been like that. We agree there’s going to be a large number of independent senators who are coming in, so we will see how to make sure they fulfil their duties and they assure us they will also be present.”
Another Conservative senator, Bob Runciman, said the new independent senators are “really in-the-closet Liberals.”