Question Period: Senate Appointments

By: The Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard

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East and West block of Parliament, Ottawa

Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. Senator Gold, I’ve been closely following Senate appointments, and warmly welcome all of our new colleagues. I’m especially pleased that we now have the voice of a Mi’kmaw from Nova Scotia and an Acadian from Nova Scotia, but I’m concerned that we have not seen a single Black man appointed to the Senate since 2010. Black men in Canada are subject to harmful stereotypes, such as being aggressive, dangerous and/or untrustworthy. Research has documented this well.

I believe this negative stereotyping is impacting the appointment process. What is the government doing, Senator Gold, to make sure there is Black male representation in this chamber?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): First of all, senator, thank you for your important question, for underlining the importance of diversity in this chamber and for your advocacy in that regard.

Applications for the Senate, which many of us submitted, are vetted by an independent advisory committee, constituted by nominees of both the province and the federal government. It is at arm’s length from the government. Those nominations are vetted, and then a list of recommendations are given to the Prime Minister. I cannot comment on your belief as to what criteria may have entered into the selection, nor am I aware of how many applicants there have been who are Black men, but I am assured that this is a fair, open and equitable process, and all processes should be free of any hint of discrimination — intentional or systemic.

Senator Bernard: Senator Gold, we all know that sometimes unconscious bias happens. We also know that representation matters. My youngest grandson recently asked me if Black men could be senators. Senator Gold, will you commit to raising this matter with those involved in the appointment process?

Senator Gold: What I can commit to, senator — because I don’t have a role in the appointment process — is that on those occasions when I am asked to provide a summary or an overview of what the Senate does, to those who are on those committees, I will certainly underline the importance of diversity and remind them of our shared commitment to making this chamber represent Canada in its full diversity.

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