US & Canada

Justin Trudeau recommends seven 'independent' senators

Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill Image copyright Reuters

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named seven new senators to the country's scandal-hit upper chamber.

The Liberal prime minister wants the unelected Senate to be a non-partisan body for vetting legislation.

A Paralympics champion and the head of the commission on reconciliation with indigenous communities are among the nominees.

They are the first appointments since an expenses scandal engulfed the Senate in 2013.

The Liberals announced a board in January to advise Mr Trudeau on possible senators, with the objective to bring people on based on their individual merit rather than party affiliation, the CBC reports.

"The Government is today taking further concrete steps to follow through on its commitment to reform the Senate, restore public trust, and bring an end to partisanship in the appointments process," said Mr Trudeau in a statement.

"The Senate appointments I have announced today will help advance the important objective to transform the Senate into a less partisan and more independent institution that can perform its fundamental roles in the legislative process more effectively-including the representation of regional and minority interests-by removing the element of partisanship, and ensuring that the interests of Canadians are placed before political allegiances."

The full list of nominees:

  • Raymonde Gagné: Former president of Université Saint-Boniface
  • Justice Murray Sinclair: First Aboriginal judge in Manitoba and Chief Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • V Peter Harder: Former Deputy Minister who led Mr Trudeau's transition team
  • Frances Lankin: Former CEO of United Way Toronto and former provincial minister for Ontario
  • Ratna Omidvar: From Iran, current chair of refugee programme Lifeline Syria
  • Chantal Petitclerc: Paralympics champion, speaker on disabled persons and inclusivity
  • André Pratte: Longtime journalist for La Presse newspaper

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Senate has been embroiled in scandal in the past

Claude Carignan, the opposition Leader in the Senate, told the CBC that Mr Trudeau's appointment process is "substantially no different than in the past."

"I note that this process yielded the same type of appointments as it has previously — former judges, provincial ministers, journalists, Olympians — have all been appointed to the Senate before," he said in a statement. "Mr. Trudeau's appointments also show that he understands that previous involvement in the partisan political process cannot be discounted and those appointments do have merit."

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper had not appointed anyone to the Senate in three years, when there was a scandal over four senators filing improper expenses.

Mr Harper's government wanted to reform or abolish the Canadian Senate, seeking for it to be an elected body and to establish term limits, but was rejected by the Canadian Supreme Court.

One senator embroiled in the scandal, Mike Duffy, is currently on trial, awaiting a verdict.

The appointees will fill vacancies in Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. They are chosen by the prime minister but must now be formally approved by the Governor General.

The Governor General, David Johnston, is the representative of the Queen in Canada.

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