Canadian PM urged to create gender-equal Senate

Toronto, Dec 23 (IANS) Over 80 Canadian women have signed a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, urging him to work to ensure that the new process of selecting nominees to the Senate of Canada could produce a gender-equal Senate.

“We applaud you for appointing women to hold half of your cabinet positions, thereby, creating the first gender-equal federal cabinet in Canadian history. We call on you to extend this principle to appointments to the Senate of Canada,” Xinhua cited the letter as saying on Tuesday.

Signers of the letter included former Prime Minister Kim Campbell, former Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps and activists.

When Prime Minister Trudeau was sworn in on November 4, he appointed 15 women to his 30-minister cabinet.

In Canadian politics, the Governor General of Canada holds the power to make senatorial appointments on the advice of the prime minister.

The seats in the Senate are assigned on a regional basis, with each of the four major regions receiving 24 seats and the remainder of the available seats being assigned to smaller regions. Senators hold their seats to the age of 70.

The federal government announced earlier this month that it would fill in vacancies of the Senate by applying a new process, stating in a document issued that “nominees will be considered with a view to achieving gender balance in the Senate,” yet stopping short of a pledge as for how to achieve gender equality.

Under the new process, advisory Boards with federal and provincial representatives will assess potential candidates according to criteria including age, residency, independence, non-partisanship, among others.

“The proposal to create a Senate which is independent and non-partisan has the potential of increasing the importance of this institution in the governing of Canada,” said Donna Dasko, one of two women who organised the letter signing campaign.

“This makes it even more important that women be fairly and equally represented.”

At present, there are 83 sitting members on the Senate of Canada, of whom, 30 are women.

There are 22 vacancies, and another four retirements scheduled for 2016. Gender equality in the Senate would be achieved if the 22 current vacancies are to be filled by women, according to Dasko.

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