With 12 vacant Senate seats and the possibility of upcoming vacancies in the upper chamber, Senators like Percy Downe are taking it upon themselves to draw attention to the need for greater diversity.
Specifically, Downe has pointed out that there are currently no veterans, farmers or fishers in the Senate.
Because there are 12 Senate vacancies from nine provinces and territories across Canada, and five more scheduled for this year, the Senator from Charlottetown, PEI has written a letter to Dr. Huguette Labelle, Chair of the Advisory Board for Senate Appointments, to encourage him to diversify the Senate with individuals of these backgrounds.
“These upcoming appointments provide an opportunity for the Senate to better reflect the diversity of Canada, and to fill existing gaps in representation, such as the absence of farmers, fishers, and veterans in the Senate of Canada,” stated a press release from Downe’s office.
In regards to veterans, the Liberal Senator points out that Veterans are best suited to speak on issues and benefits that relate to former members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Taking this one step further, in his letter to Dr. Labelle, Downe mentions the need to appoint Veterans who served in the junior ranks specifically.
“In the case of veterans, I have noticed in my study of veterans’ issues that the majority of concerns about treatment, assistance, and benefits come from veterans below the rank of Colonel. An appointment from this group of enlisted men and women could help address the many problems and complaints surrounding veterans’ services that we have all read about in the media,” wrote Downe, who has served as a member of the Senate since June 26, 2003.
The need to call attention to this discrepancy is still necessary despite recent changes made to the Senate appointment process.
The Minister of Democratic Institutions, Karina Gould, announced in late February a series of changes including keeping records open year-round so that Canadians may apply at any time; retaining submitted applications for two years, so that individuals can be considered for appointment to the Senate throughout the two years following the submission of their application; and, adding the ability for organizations or individuals to nominate potential candidates.
“The strength of our democracy depends on Canadians from all backgrounds actively participating in our democratic institutions. I am pleased that the Government of Canada is improving the Senate application process in order to ensure that we can reach the highest calibre candidates for appointment. I encourage all qualified and interested Canadians to take advantage of this opportunity by applying for a Senate seat themselves or by nominating a potential candidate,” said Gould at the time.
Under the Constitution, Senate members are appointed by the Governor General. Traditionally, however, Senators have been appointed by the prime minister.
Since 2016, however, the selection process for Senators was changed to allow all Canadians to apply. Candidate submissions are reviewed by the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments, which provides the Prime Minister with recommendations. The Prime Minister selects the individuals he wishes to recommend to the Governor General for appointment to the Senate.
Since the establishment of this new process, 32 independent senators have been appointed.
Appointments and nominations for these 12 vacant Senate seats are open until April 3. The Board will retain applications received after this date for consideration for future opportunities.
For more information regarding applying click here.