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Former MP Neville named Manitoba’s next lieutenant-governor Prime minister appoints province’s first Jewish vice-regal to succeed Filmon as Queen’s representative

A former Member of Parliament known for her ability to bridge partisan divides and her commitment to the community has been appointed Manitoba’s next lieutenant-governor after a months-long search.

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A former Member of Parliament known for her ability to bridge partisan divides and her commitment to the community has been appointed Manitoba’s next lieutenant-governor after a months-long search.

JESSICA LEE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Anita Neville will succeed current Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon.

Anita Neville, 80, will succeed current Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon, who has held the vice-regal position for more than seven years, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday.

“It’s an opportunity that doesn’t come to many people in their lifetime and that certainly weighed on me,” Neville said by phone Monday afternoon from her Osborne Village home.

The grandmother of six and former Winnipeg South Centre Liberal MP said the decision to return to public life was not made lightly; she spent months pondering the prospect after being asked to consider the role.

The new LG

  • Maiden name: Anita Ruth-Schwartz
  • Age: 80
  • Children: three daughters, Jessica, Elissa and Sarah
  • Political roles: Liberal MP for Winnipeg South Centre, 2000-2011; Winnipeg School Division trustee, 1986 to 2000, and chair for five years

  • Maiden name: Anita Ruth-Schwartz
  • Age: 80
  • Children: three daughters, Jessica, Elissa and Sarah
  • Political roles: Liberal MP for Winnipeg South Centre, 2000-2011; Winnipeg School Division trustee, 1986 to 2000, and chair for five years
  • Past jobs: economic development consultant
  • Education: Kelvin High School graduate, University of Manitoba bachelor degree in political science
  • Advocate for: women, Indigenous rights, Israel, anti-poverty, monitoring of elections abroad
  • Volunteer roles: Law Society of Manitoba lay bencher (public representative), member of International Women’s Rights-Manitoba, former board member of Rossbrook House drop-in centre, and director of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada

 

Neville acknowledged she had some reservations about allowing her name to stand in the nomination process — primarily over the ability to balance family life with the responsibility of being the Queen’s representative in Manitoba — but ultimately agreed to take on the role and build on her record of public service.

“One of my grandsons couldn’t conceive that I wouldn’t do it,” said Neville, who held elected office for 25 years, including 14 years as a trustee in the Winnipeg School Division (1986-2000) and 11 years on Parliament Hill (2000-2011).

“It was really the opportunity and the fact that they came to me as a woman, as a member of the Jewish community, that I thought that this was another extension of what I’ve done in public life,” she said.

When she assumes the office, Neville will be the province’s 26th lieutenant-governor and the first Jewish person to hold the office, which she described as a profound feeling.

“It’s not very often a member of the Jewish community is afforded this kind of opportunity, and I just feel very proud that it’s me, but it’s not only me,” she said. “It’s a recognition of my heritage, my parents, my grandparents (and their) struggle to make a life in this country after they left oppression in Russia.

“It’s a proud moment.”

During her time in Ottawa, Neville was known for advocating for women’s issues, Indigenous rights and Israel. She served as an opposition critic for women’s issues and in government as the parliamentary secretary for the minister of the status of women. In the House, she also advocated for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women as one of the first parliamentarians to raise the issue in 2009.

Manitoba Sen. Marilou McPhedran was elated over the new appointment, saying Neville is someone who reaches outside partisan bubbles to help broker solutions and is a strong role model for women and girls in the province.

“This is someone who truly understands Manitoba, who is so well-respected nationally and internationally, and just has the biggest heart,” said the senator.

In her advocacy and teaching work, McPhedran said she reached out to Neville for help on how to get parliamentarians’ attention and received “calm, gracious, very practical advice” and a courteous reception.

She noted Neville’s new role goes beyond ceremonial events and receptions. Lieutenant-governors have a constitutional duty to step in when good governance is not happening, a responsibility McPhedran argued is important in an era of political instability.

“They are essentially our backup for saving our democracy in times of crisis,” she said.

Plenty of support

“I think back to that time not so long ago, when there were many doors that were not open to Jewish people, never mind Jewish women.… It really shows that despite the very real problems that exist today, such as the growing antisemitism, we do live in a world that is in many ways better. And the fact that this position has been given to a Jewish woman, I think shows a real step forward in how Canada views all of its minorities.”

— Belle Jarniewski, executive director of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada

“I congratulate the Hon. Anita Neville on her new position as lieutenant-governor of Manitoba…. Her commitment to public service has positioned her well to be an important part of our democracy in Manitoba. I offer my thanks to the Hon. Janice Filmon for her years of service to Manitobans and wish her well in retirement.”

— Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew

“I think back to that time not so long ago, when there were many doors that were not open to Jewish people, never mind Jewish women.… It really shows that despite the very real problems that exist today, such as the growing antisemitism, we do live in a world that is in many ways better. And the fact that this position has been given to a Jewish woman, I think shows a real step forward in how Canada views all of its minorities.”

— Belle Jarniewski, executive director of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada

“I congratulate the Hon. Anita Neville on her new position as lieutenant-governor of Manitoba…. Her commitment to public service has positioned her well to be an important part of our democracy in Manitoba. I offer my thanks to the Hon. Janice Filmon for her years of service to Manitobans and wish her well in retirement.”

— Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew
“Manitoba Liberals are delighted to offer our congratulations to Anita Neville on becoming Manitoba’s new lieutenant-governor, and Manitoba’s first Jewish lieutenant-governor. This is an important recognition of Ms. Neville’s own personal contributions to Manitoba and Canada, as well as an important milestone for the Jewish community, in the province we all love and share.”

— Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont

“She has a real spot in her heart for people who have been victimized or who are vulnerable, and I think we can use that kind of leadership in the province.”

— Lloyd Axworthy, former federal minister of foreign affairs and Winnipeg South Centre MP

“Anita and I are members of the Arab-Jewish Dialogue of Winnipeg where I see her share her community leadership skills. I am pleased to know she will continue her work in service to the public as a lieutenant-governor.”

— Winnipeg South Centre MP Jim Carr

Neville has also been active on various boards and community groups in recent years, including the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, Congregation Shaarey Zedek and the Yazidi refugee resettlement project Operation Ezra.

Neville played a major role co-ordinating with government to bring Yazidi refugees fleeing ISIS terror to Winnipeg and later spearheaded English-language classes and settlement programs for the newcomers, said Michel Aziza, one of Operation Ezra’s founding volunteer members.

“I think she is an exceptional person and a very caring human being,” Aziza said. “She is a great supporter of the city and a great supporter of the province and she’s somebody who cares about people greatly.

“I know she’ll do a fabulous job.”

The long-anticipated announcement of a new lieutenant-governor comes after a protracted search to relieve Filmon, 79, of her responsibilities. She was appointed on June 19, 2015 and is one of the province’s longest-serving lieutenant-governors in recent history.

Filmon said she was happy to learn Neville was chosen as her successor, adding the former parliamentarian will do a wonderful job in the role. However, the lieutenant-governor said the appointment, signalling the end of her term, also stirred mixed feelings.

“It’s not just about the job. It’s about the things I’ve learned, the opportunities — it’s been remarkable. I’ve loved this,” she said.

Filmon said she and her husband, former premier Gary Filmon, will stay in Manitoba after they move out of Government House on the grounds of the Manitoba legislature.

A date to swear in Neville as lieutenant-governor has not been set, but Filmon noted she will have a chance to bid farewell to her colleagues while attending the vice-regal conference in Newfoundland and Labrador in September.

“We’ve been here for our lives. Our children are here, our grandchildren, and so we’re pretty entrenched in Manitoba soil,” Filmon said, adding she will take some time to reflect on and distil the events of the past seven years. “And with that, we’ll have a little flexibility and do a bit of travel and let life unfold as it will.”

Premier Heather Stefanson welcomed Neville to the role and expressed her thanks to Filmon and her husband for “for their years of dedication and exemplary service to the people of Manitoba.”

“On behalf of all Manitobans, I thank her for her service, kindness and unique ability to bring people together to learn and inspire the next generation,” Stefanson said in a release.

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

History

Updated on Monday, August 15, 2022 1:36 PM CDT: Stefanson statement

Updated on Tuesday, August 16, 2022 8:39 AM CDT: Adds fact box

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