An art historian, a lawyer and human rights activist, and an internationally recognized expert in palliative care are Manitoba's new appointees to the Canadian Senate.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a total of nine new, non-partisan appointees to the upper house on Thursday. The three new Manitobans named to the Senate -- Winnipeggers Patricia Bovey, Marilou McPhedran and Harvey Max Chochinov -- give the province a full complement of six members again for the first time since March 2013.
The nine named from across Canada Thursday are the first senators to be chosen under an arm's-length process that saw more than 2,700 Canadians apply to fill 21 vacancies in the Red Chamber.
Manitoba's other senators are Conservative Don Plett, appointed in 2009, and independents Murray Sinclair and Raymonde Gagne, both appointed earlier this year.
Manitoba Deputy Premier Heather Stefanson welcomed the new senators: "It's great to have more ambassadors for Manitoba," she told reporters.
Stefanson said she has not met any of the three during her long political career, and has no idea if any has partisan ties.
Asked about the process for appointing senators, Stefanson said, "I'll defer to the federal government on that."
Meanwhile, in a prepared statement, the provincial NDP said: "Congratulations to newly appointed senators Patricia Bovey, Harvey Chochinov and Marilou McPhedran. While we believe that Canada should ultimately dissolve the senate, we recognize their continued contribution and willingness to serve Manitoba."
McPhedran was heading home to the Exchange District on the #18 Main bus around 5 p.m. Tuesday when her cell phone rang.
"Hello, Marilou --- this is the prime minister speaking."
Trudeau wanted her in Ottawa as soon as possible, but McPhedran was firm that she'll first finish the human rights course she's currently teaching at Global College. "I said, 'I will not let my students down, sir,'," she told Trudeau.
Her students gave her an ovation Thursday when she arrived for class, and McPhedran cried. "It's going to be very difficult to give up students," said McPhedran, who already has checked with the Senate ethics commissioner and says she's been told she can teach a human rights course in Winnipeg each summer, without pay.
McPhedran is a human rights lawyer and professor, currently the director of the Institute for International Women's Rights at Global College of the University of Winnipeg, where she was a founding director and has taught for eight years.
In 2012 she was seconded to the Geneva office of the United Nations Population Fund as senior human rights specialist, and has taught in the masters program at the UN-affiliated University for Peace in Costa Rica. Advocating for women's rights in the Constitution, McPhedran in 1985 was the youngest lawyer ever named to the Order of Canada.
Last year, McPhedran spent almost the entire year co-chairing an Ontario government inquiry into the sexual abuse of patients, flying four or five times a week while still carrying a full teaching load at the U of W.
McPhedran said that the Liberals, New Democrats, Tories and Greens have all asked her to run for office over the years, and she's at times taken out memberships for several parties while supporting a friend's candidacy. She's held a Liberal Party card for two years and donates to the LIberals and NDP.
"I've annoyed so many people over the years" and has a "very assertive nature," laughed McPhedran, so she figured she'd never hold office. "I come out of a fairly combative legal tradition."
Her family persuaded her to apply to be a senator, said McPhedran, who's 65. "They were very strong in believing this is something I should do.
"Of course, I want to be on the human rights committee. I have a very strong interest in foreign affairs," and in implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Senator Murray Sinclair will accompany McPhedran when she's sworn in as a senator.
"The time of reconciliation that is upon us absolutely requires the full-scale commitment of all of us," she declared.
The courses she's taught at the University of Winnipeg for the past eight years all involved working in a collaborative style, she explained. "Dialogue is a very specific skill we teach."
Harvey Max Chochinov
Chochinov, 58, a psychiatrist, is recognized internationally as a scholar, researcher and proponent of palliative care.
He chaired a national committee that consulted with Canadians and recommended legislative options to the Trudeau administration on the thorny issue of medical assistance in dying. He was appointed to that position by the former Harper government.
Born in Winnipeg, the longtime University of Manitoba professor of psychiatry, grew up in the North End and Garden City. He received most of his medical training at University of Manitoba and also studied in New York.
In an interview Thursday, he said he was "profoundly humbled and honoured" by the appointment.
Chochinov said he has no ties to the Liberal party, but he acknowledged a great admiration for retired Liberal Senator Sharon Carstairs, who worked tirelessly to promote improved palliative care in Canada.
"I think that the service that she provided to Canadians and certainly her role in palliative care in this country has been extraordinary," he said.
Chochinov said that in a telephone conversation with Trudeau on Wednesday, the prime minister underscored that he would be serving in an independent, non-partisan fashion.
"Certainly he mentioned that there may be particular issues because of my affiliations with palliative care and issues pertaining to end-of-life care that would be of interest. And he hoped that I would be able to participate in that very important dialogue."
Chochinov said his training as an academic and his "ability to look at detailed information and provide a balanced view" likely contributed to his selection.
A biographical note supplied by the federal government said Chochinov's work has "transformed his field and improved the care and compassion provided to dying patients in Canada and around the world."
He has been a guest lecturer at universities across Canada, the United States and abroad. Between 1987 and 2010, he also served as an itinerant, fly-in psychiatric consultant to The Pas.
Chochinov, who is married with two grown daughters, is a recipient of the Order of Canada.
On Thursday, he said his long career in palliative care has taught him important lessons about humility, the importance of compassion, kindness and human vulnerability.
"I think all of those insights and wisdom that I hopefully gathered along the way will serve me well in the role as senator," he said.
Bovey, 68, is a longtime art historian, curator and former director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. She's taught at the university level and served on such boards as the National Gallery of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts.
"I feel very humbled. I feel very excited – and looking forward to doing all I can to work on the issues we face as Canadians," she said in an interview.
Bovey said she believes her extensive arts background was key to her appointment, although she's also held several administrative positions and, until recently, served as chair of the board of governors at the University of Manitoba.
She got the call from Prime Minister Trudeau late Wednesday afternoon.
"We had a conversation about the changes he’s making in the Senate, and he was very clear that he expects us to make significant contributions to the overall work of the Senate and help work on the challenges and opportunities that face the country," she said.
"...We spoke about the role and importance of arts and culture. He also very much underlined the fact that I will be there sitting as an independent, absolutely non-partisan."
Asked if she had ties to the Liberal party, Bovey said: "No, I’m absolutely apolitical. And over the years I’ve had appointments by parties of all political stripes."
Bovey grew up in Crescentwood and went to university in Toronto. She worked at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in the 1970s as curator of traditional art, spent 20 years working in British Columbia and returned to the WAG as director from 1999 to 2004. While in B.C.,she served as board chair of Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
In her career, she has also served as a consultant for small arts organizations across the country.
"She clearly articulates the importance of art and culture to social and economic wellbeing, and has increased access to the arts through her leadership and innovative work," according to the biographical note that accompanied her appointment.
"She has facilitated the health of community arts organizations through governance stability and audience engagement, and given voice to artists' work, including Indigenous creators, through research, publications, ground-breaking exhibitions and new public programs."
Bovey has participated in federal and provincial cultural policy reviews as well as in the drafting of ethical guidelines for Canadian museums.
She has two grown daughters.