Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard: Thank you, Minister LeBlanc, for being here today. My question is going to follow up on questions that Senator Cormier and Senator Cordy voiced about vacancies in this chamber, specifically from Atlantic Canada. I thank you for your very promising response; however, I want to ask something more specific.
Although I have witnessed and welcomed a number of senators from more diverse communities during the last six years since I’ve been here, I see a glaring gap in the Senate when it comes to two historically under-represented groups: First, there are no representatives in the Senate from the Acadian-Nova Scotian community. This is a gap. Secondly, for the first time in Canadian history, we actually have six African-Canadian senators here in this chamber, but there are no African-Canadian men.
Mr. Minister, what is the selection committee doing to ensure the applications of historically under-represented groups are considered, especially from the Atlantic provinces?
Hon. Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., M.P., Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities: Senator Bernard, thank you for a very thoughtful question, the premise of which I share entirely.
Our process has, I hope, encouraged a wide variety of Canadians to think that they can serve honourably in this chamber, including those that represent historically under-represented communities in this very place. And that’s part of a larger societal effort across the country to be more inclusive and to recognize that institutions evolve and have not always accommodated the kinds of people that we would seek to serve in our country.
Your service is an example, and it should only be the beginning of a greater effort. I totally share the premise of your question. I am confident, as an Acadian myself, that I understand the importance the Acadian community in Nova Scotia having representation in this place. Senator Comeau, whom I liked very much, served honourably and did a great job for the people of Nova Scotia and francophones when he served here. I’m hoping that is the kind of good news that may be coming to this chamber soon.
I also take your comments around other areas where we can encourage a greater representation. I will certainly share those with the Prime Minister. You will understand that we don’t direct the independent advisory groups, other than to set the broad parameters, exactly as you articulated so well, senator.