Who inspired you to get involved in public life?
I am the fourth generation of women in my family to be involved in ecumenical social action and public policy reform.
What do you think are the biggest public policy issues facing Canada today?
We have not built a shared vision of a country that builds on all of our people and not on debt, either public or private. Violence against women is deeply embedded and costly in all kinds of ways. Governments make all kinds of human rights commitments to values and tools, such as constitutional equality rights and the implementation of gender-based analysis, and then ignores them.
Why should more Canadians care about what happens in the Senate?
The Senate has always had a unique constitutional role with respect to the protection of minorities, which in my view has expanded since the patriation of the Constitution of Canada to have a unique role in ensuring governments meet the requirements of all Charter rights, including equality rights.
What legislative or committee work are you most proud of participating in to date?
Four stand out. I played a role in ensuring that the then Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, studied the federal government’s implementation of gender-based auditing, and found it dismal. The Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights’ study on “Women, Peace and Security: Canada Moves Forward to Increase Women’s Engagement” led to Canada’s implementation of a national action plan. I also introduced the first bill in the Senate on medical aid in dying (Bill C-225). I am a leader of the public campaign for a gender neutral English National Anthem (www.singallofus.ca) and I am the sponsor of Bill C-210, An Act to amend the National Anthem Act (gender) in the Senate.
What is a hidden gem in your region that more Canadians need to know about?
Use Pat Staton’s book, Toronto Women - A Walk Through History, to learn about women here; see Toronto’s diverse neighbourhoods and eat in local restaurants with terrific world food.
Can you name a guilty pleasure song / album that always makes you smile and why?
Anything from K. D. Lang.
What is the last book you read or movie you saw which you recommended to someone else and why?
The movie Play Fair, about women and sport in Canada – because we need to know what is working and what is not. The book It Was Their War Too: Canadian Women in World War I – because too often the official narrative gives token space to the contributions of women. Both are open access on the Internet.
What sports team (amateur/professional) do you support?
Live theatre and music are my national passions.
Why are you proud to be Canadian?
We are blessed to live in a peaceful place, the world is welcome here and all together we can take leadership on achieving peace and justice for others.