Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named two new Independent senators to sit in the upper chamber.Mary Coyle will sit for Nova Scotia and Mary Jane McCallum will represent Manitoba.The prime minister said Coyle and McCallum have dedicated their lives to helping others
After these two appointments, Trudeau will have named 30 senators to the Red Chamber. These two women are expected to sit as Independents — as all of the prime minister’s other appointments have opted to do thus far.
The Independent Senators Group has a plurality in the Senate with 39 seats followed closely by 34 Conservative senators and 15 Liberals. After today, there are still 11 vacancies to be filled in the 105-member body.
Mary Jane McCallum, who is of Cree descent and a survivor of the Indian residential school system, is believed to be the first female Indigenous dentist accredited in Canada.
She has worked throughout Manitoba’s north for decades and obtained her dental nursing certificate in 1977, and later her doctorate in dental medicine in 1990 — and still runs a practice on Opaskwayak Cree Nation near The Pas. In addition to her private practice, McCallum has worked with the federal First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, and helped lead the Aboriginal Dental Health Program at the University of Manitoba.
McCallum is set to become a parliamentarian as Health Canada faces criticism for its handling of the dental file. The auditor general has raised alarm bells about the provision of dental services to First Nations peoples, finding the department does “not know how much of a difference it was making” despite its annual budget of $200 million. Unlike other Canadians, First Nations health care, including oral health, is largely the responsibility of the federal government.
Mary Coyle, a champion of women’s leadership, gender equality and the rights of Indigenous Peoples, is the new senator for Nova Scotia.Mary Coyle is an executive director of St. Francis Xavier University’s Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership.According to her official Senate biography, Coyle is a long-time champion of women’s leadership, gender equality and the rights of Indigenous peoples, and has had a distinguished career in post-secondary education.