Senator Rosa Galvez, originally from Peru, is one of Canada’s leading experts in pollution control and its effect on human health. Senator Galvez was appointed to the Senate on December 6, 2016, representing Quebec (Bedford). She is a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, as well as the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications.
What inspired you to get involved in public life?
I arrived at a point in my social and professional life where I realized that speaking at public meetings and scientific conferences was not enough to spread the word of science, progress, as well as environmental and economic issues.
Only a small segment of the population has access to advanced scientific knowledge. However, we can only make good decisions as a society and in government if we’re well informed. I felt the need to democratize knowledge and education.
What do you think are the biggest public policy issues facing Canada today?
The income gap between workers and corporations is growing astronomically, causing damaging social disruptions that translate into poor education, social problems (e.g. addiction, discrimination) and environmental degradation. I firmly believe that these problems have solutions — but they’re only effective when we deal with the problems at their root.
Why should more Canadians care about what happens in the Senate?
The Senate should be seen as a Council of Elders that can provide wisdom, experience, oversight, long-term perspective, analysis and reflection for a better functioning society. To accomplish that, senators should be able to promote the common good of Canadian society before party or individual interests. They should be able to speak their minds and opinions where they are recognized to have knowledge and experience. As the Senate is shifting towards greater independence, Canadians will be able to regain confidence in this important institution.
What does it mean to you to be appointed as an independent Senator?
Put simply, I believe that the role of any government in power should be to: 1) promote ideas, approaches, concepts (in the form of policies, legislations and bills) that increase the quality of life of its people; 2) tolerate less than ideal ongoing practices that, for economic or social reasons, cannot be changed in short desired periods, all the while working with a vision for change; 3) forbid and/or control practices that deprive or damage society and its members from its basic values and rights.
The Senate can assist government, corporations and society to find this equilibrium and efficiency. I find it important, as a senator, to be able to advance this in an independent manner.
What legislative or committee work are you most proud of participating in to date?
Each committee’s themes and working issues are very important. I am learning much by participating in committees where I have been appointed as member. I currently sit on three committees, all of which are undertaking important studies for Canadians: the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources (ENEV) committee, the Transport and Communications (TRCM) committee, and the Agriculture and Forestry (AGFO) committee.
For instance, discussions on climate change are here to stay. Ninety percent of scientists studying climate change agree on the general characteristics, trends and devastating impacts that planetary warming will have on our natural and constructed environments. Yet, there are still forces (political and economic, which are very much related) that wish to continue with “business as usual”, probably thinking that economical richness and power will protect them from climatic derangements (flood, drought, atmospheric phenomena). This is illusory. Nature has proven plenty of times within human history that she will survive with or without humans.
Moreover, climate change deniers hidden behind fatalist facades send the message that it is too late and humans can do nothing to stop the process. Yet, there is so much we can do globally to influence the warming rate and end-point. That’s why I am glad to be able to contribute to the study on transitioning to a low-carbon economy as a member of the Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources. I’m motivated to see Canada as a world leader in sustainable development.
How will your previous work help you advance policy in the Senate?
As an academic, I bring an approach that is based on facts, science and knowledge. I intend to bring rigorous analysis when making decisions. I plan to assist in building opinions based on science, data, tangible results and model predictions. More globally, I aim at considering multiple aspects (environment, social, technical, economic) when planning for the short and long-term.
Furthermore, ethics, collegiality, transparency and equity are values and principles that have governed my career path and developments. These principles should be applied horizontally across all sectors, regardless of time or place.
What experience in your career are you proud of the most, and why?
I have raised public awareness on environmental problems such as lake eutrophication and associated cyanobacteria problems, water pollution by chemical products, waste reduction and recycling, safe transport of dangerous goods, environmentally respectful development projects, as well as sustainable development.
What activity or hobby do you enjoy?
Life needs fun and enjoyment with family, friends and colleagues. We also all need art as means of evacuating emotions and pressures. I enjoy cooking and consider myself a good cook. I have travelled around the world and learned to appreciate flavours, sounds and colours. My kitchen is full of spices from all over the world. Whether it is a tajine, osso bucco or quinoa stew from the Andes, they all allow for sharing peaceful and rich multicultural conversations around a table. The same applies to music and dance.
What is the last book you read or movie you saw which you recommend, and why?
I enjoy quite a variety of movies. I love the Last of the Mohicans, Slumdog Millionaire and The Grand Budapest Hotel — perhaps because they are not the typical action movie. I also loved The Matrix series and Cloud Atlas. These movies push us to think outside the box and step outside our comfort zone. I have found that in both cases, they have succeeded in opening my mind and teaching me lessons. I don’t think I’m a person that likes high risk but I’m conscious that our relationship with risk is at the center of our entire existence and progress. The most useful tool that evolution has given humans is to learn from our mistakes. We have built civilizations by the approach of trial and error. We can learn from the messages promoted in these movies.
I am currently reading “Du Bonheur : Un Voyage Philosophique” (French only) by the French philosopher Fréderic Lenoir. “Know thyself” (Connais-toi toi-même) was a popular leitmotif during Socrates times. In our challenging times, it has become critical to reflect on who we are and what motivates us.
What sports do you enjoy?
I love sports. Practicing sports teaches us so many positive attitudes to cultivate that are practical in life: persistence, patience, “practice makes perfect,” concentration, strategy. It also keeps us in good spirits mentally and physically. Over the course of my life, I have practiced Kung-Fu (11 years), volleyball (more than 30 years), soccer, cross-country ski, Latin dancing and jogging.
Why are you proud to be Canadian?
My love for Canada is infinite, even though I was born in Peru. I don’t take for granted the benefits and advantages that come with living in this beautiful country. I am a Canadian by choice — I could have picked many other countries as my residence and adopted country. I’m proud to be Canadian for its openness, its values, its nature, its hard working people, and for the honesty and kindness of its people. I feel at home in Canada.
Canada is also a pacifist leader in the world and it can become a model to follow for emerging economies and developing countries.