Newest Manitoba senator eager to step into ‘very big shoes’
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/09/2022 (245 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Dr. Gigi Osler said her mother cried Monday, when she learned her daughter has been appointed to the Senate.
Flor Sharma came to Canada as a nurse from the Philippines in 1965. She later married Dr. Raj Sharma, who died nine years ago.
“I think part of what got my mother so emotional last night was because she recalls how proud he was when I got into medical school. And so she was thinking how proud he would be at this moment,” Osler said Tuesday, during a short break at her office near St. Boniface Hospital.
The ear, nose and throat doctor hopes to keep some of her practice and patients while filling the Manitoba seat vacated by former Justice Murray Sinclair, who retired from the Red Chamber in January 2021.
“I feel like I have very big shoes to fill and I want to honour his shoes and work hard on behalf of all Manitobans. I love this province. Nothing makes me happier than to be able to represent Manitoba,” said Osler, who graduated from medical school at the University of Manitoba, and then became an assistant professor at the Winnipeg-based school.
“What I’m trying to find out from my discussions with the Senate is how I can balance my obligations and duties to the Senate — because that comes first and foremost — and am I able to run a practice?”
Osler said she’s heard there are physicians in the Senate who’ve managed to do both.
“I’m still trying to figure out those details and trying to ensure that my patients continue to get the care that they need either from their family doctor or from another (ear, nose and throat doctor).”
Osler was the first female surgeon and the first racialized woman elected president of the Canadian Medical Association, where she led the development of the CMA’s first policy on equity and diversity. She’s no longer doing surgeries and has someone who can take on her academic responsibilities, Osler said.
The Winnipeg-born doctor has mentored Filipino medical students and Filipino Canadians in a variety of sectors to increase their representation in leadership roles.
Osler said she wants to take her experiences on the front lines of health care to the halls of power and amplify the voices of the Manitobans who are not being heard.
“I have come, over the course of my career, to understand the importance of advocacy and policy and speaking out for the things that are important for our health, for our well-being, for representation and inclusion, and to speak up for those who aren’t always heard,” she said.
“I’ve seen how important it is to be at the table, to be part of the discussion, to add your voice to those decision making processes.”
She said COVID-19 split the cracks in Canada’s health-care system wide open.
“I think the pandemic showed us how important our health is and how many other things affect your health: your financial well-being, the food you eat, the water you drink, the housing you have, the climate. I would like to bring my voice to the Senate, to those discussions.”
Osler said she never aspired to hold leadership roles as a doctor or to one day be a senator. She says she’s an “ordinary” child of immigrants who believed anything is possible with an education — something she and her mother talked about Monday, when the appointment was announced.
“She’s been absolutely overwhelmed and just in tears at all of this. She never could have imagined this for her kids. She came to Canada because she wanted a better life and she always told us — my two brothers and me — how lucky we were to live in Canada. And she always emphasized, ‘Get an education. Both my parents did,” Osler said.
”So, I really feel like just an ordinary person lucky to live not only in this country but in this province.”
She hopes her appointment can inspire others.
“I’d like to tell everyone to have big dreams. It can happen. It happened to me and I just feel so absolutely humbled, fortunate and ready to get to work.”
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.