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Meet Senator Renée Dupuis
January 24, 2018

Renée Dupuis was appointed to the Senate of Canada in November 2016. Senator Dupuis is a member of the Barreau du Québec and specializes in human rights, law in regard to Aboriginal peoples and administrative law. She is also accredited in civil and commercial mediation with the Barreau du Québec and has authored numerous books and other publications.

Who inspired you to get involved in public life?

Some kind of stirring political debate was always going on at my paternal grandparents’ house when I was growing up. My grandfather, Louis-Auguste Dupuis, and all my aunts and uncles would engage in these discussions, especially my aunt Thérèse. I grew up with the understanding that women had an important civic role to play, and that their political opinions and comments were just as valid as a man’s. My grandfather was very active in the agricultural sector in the area where he was born. Land was plentiful, and he was involved in various experimental farming initiatives in the Lower St. Lawrence region on the southern shore, 250 km east of Quebec City. A notary by profession and a man who greatly enjoyed walking, he served in various public roles, including as mayor, credit union president, president of the Quebec Chambre des notaires and as a Member of the National Assembly of Quebec.

The President of the Barreau du Québec, Louis Masson, presents Senator Renée Dupuis with the Médaille du Barreau in June 2012. As the most prestigious distinction of the Barreau du Québec, it highlights remarkable contributions made by Quebec lawyers in advancing the practice of the law. The award was presented to the senator for her contributions to human rights law, Indigenous rights law and administrative law.

Rector Denis Brière presents Senator Dupuis with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Laval in June 2012.

What do you think are the biggest public policy issues facing Canada today?

Eliminating the various forms of socioeconomic inequality, namely:

  1. Ensuring that true equality between women and men is implemented in a concrete and purposeful way. No political, social, cultural or economic reason can justify delaying its implementation.
  2. Equally important is reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, particularly in terms of eliminating the current gap between the services provided to Indigenous children, women and men and the services provided to non-Indigenous Canadians. The necessary changes must be identified by the Indigenous people themselves. This is the only way to close the gaps in health care, education and employment. My work over a number of decades with First Nations peoples in Quebec and Canada has given me a deeper understanding of just how important it is to eradicate this institutionalized discrimination.

Why should more Canadians care about what happens in the Senate?

Today, information circulates constantly. Canadians are more educated than ever. As a result, Canadians have changing expectations of the people who govern them. We expect to be involved in more ways than just voting every five years. The political decision-making process should involve more citizen participation. We need new ways of carrying out consultations to ensure that Canadians can participate in areas such as studying bills that directly affect the lives of citizens, including on topics like consumer protection and banking, marijuana consumption, or protecting journalists’ sources.

Senator Dupuis takes part in Children For Peace, a program that brought more than a dozen Syrian refugee children to Parliament Hill to display paintings inspired by their experiences in May 2017.

Senator Dupuis draws inspiration from the <a href=''>Persons Case</a> statue on Parliament Hill. Senator Dupuis served as a commissioner with the Canadian Human Rights Commission from 1989 to 1995, where she took a special interest in such issues as discrimination against women, sexual harassment, pay equity and employment equity.

What legislative or committee work are you most proud of participating in to date?

I was appointed as an independent senator in November 2016. I’ve sat on a number of Senate committees since, notably the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs since my nomination. I’ve served as deputy chair since November. I also sit on the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. My work is only just beginning, but already so many subjects have caught my attention: addressing the opioid overdose crisis, fighting discrimination against transgender people, protecting journalistic sources and reducing delays in the criminal justice system, to name a few.

What is a hidden gem in your region that more Canadians need to know about?

The area of the Laurentides I represent in the Senate covers a vast swath of northern and northeastern Quebec. It has a number of spectacular spots. The northern coastline, from L’Île d’Orléans in the estuary of the St. Lawrence River to the Labrador border, where the Laurentides mountain range is very craggy, features Quebec’s highest peaks and the majestic Saguenay fjord. Most of it is now accessible by car, almost all the way to the eastern border of Quebec, which gives visitors the opportunity to learn about the rich culture of the various francophone, anglophone and Indigenous communities that live in the area, as well as the salmon rivers, which are very scenic.

The St. Lawrence River is what ties all of these communities together; it serves as a method of transportation, and also as a source of inspiration. Local songs and literary and artistic works demonstrate this close bond.

The scattering of islands in the St. Lawrence River extending all the way to the Atlantic Ocean are host to specific varieties of Quebec flora and fauna, including some very rare ones.

Travelling away from the coastline into the interior is worth the detour: visitors can see herds of caribou, a truly unforgettable experience.

There are truly an infinite number of natural and human wonders waiting to be discovered. Come see for yourself!

Senator Dupuis was appointed to the Red Chamber in November 2016, where she represents the Laurentides region in eastern and northeastern Quebec.

In 2001, Senator Dupuis won the Governor General's Award for non-fiction for her book Quel Canada pour les Autochtones? La fin de l'exclusion (2001), which was later published in English as Justice for Canada's Aboriginal Peoples (2002). Senator Dupuis's other publications include Max "One Onti" Gros-Louis, Constance et détermination (2008), Tribus, Peuples et Nations (1997) and La question indienne au Canada (1991). Many of her articles have appeared in academic journals and popular magazines.

Can you name a song that always makes you smile?

A French children’s song that I’ve been singing for years, first with my two daughters when they were little and now with my grand-daughters, as I walk along the hallways of my house or down the street, or swim with them in my arms:

"Maman, les petits bateaux qui vont sur l'eau ont-ils des jambes ? Mais oui, mon gros bêta, s'ils n'en avaient pas, ils ne marcheraient pas..."(sung to a familiar tune)

What is the last movie you saw that you recommended to someone else, and why?

The documentary “Tomorrow,” because it is about the future of our planet — a growing concern for many of us. It looks at initiatives being taken all over the world right now to save it. This aligns with my vision that every single one of us has a contribution to make.