Manitoba surgeon Dr. Gigi Osler appointed as independent Senator

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appointed a high-profile surgeon and the former head of Canada’s public service to the Senate. 

“I am pleased to welcome Flordeliz Osler and Ian Shugart as Parliament’s newest independent senators,” Trudeau said in a statement issued Monday.

“I am confident that their dedication, unique perspectives and stellar careers will help them best serve Canadians from all walks of life.”

Osler is an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba and a former president of the Canadian Medical Association. 

Shugart is the former Clerk of the Privy Council. The clerk is Canada’s most senior federal civil servant; the person holding the office leads the federal public service and serves as both secretary to cabinet and deputy minister to the prime minister.

Osler was born in Winnipeg to parents to immigrated who Canada from the Philippines and India. She works with racialized medical students through the Filipino Association of Medical Students in Manitoba and by helping to train surgeons in Africa.

The first female visible minority appointed to lead the CMA, she used the opportunity to craft the organization’s first policy on equity and diversity.

Dr. Gigi Osler, former head of the Canadian Medical Association, has been appointed to the Senate. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The announcement came on the same day Trudeau made Shugart a privy councillor.

“For over 40 years, Ian Shugart’s advice and leadership in service of Canadians has been invaluable,” Trudeau said.

“I am pleased to appoint him as Canada’s newest privy councillor to recognize his contributions and dedication to making Canada a better place for everyone.”

Shugart, who led the federal public service’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, also served as deputy minister of foreign affairs, deputy minister of employment and social development and deputy minister of the environment. 

The appointments process

Under the Constitution, the Governor General appoints individuals to the Senate. By convention, senators are appointed on the advice of the prime minister.

When the Liberal government was first elected in 2015, it promised to rid the Senate of partisanship by ending the decades-old Liberal and Conservative duopoly in the upper house.

To that end, the government appointed an independent advisory board of distinguished Canadians to help the prime minister make his Senate picks.

There’s a federal advisory board of three members that oversees the process. Each of the provinces and territories have their own boards that compile lists of possible candidates to send up to the federal board and the prime minister.

Trudeau appointed Osler and Shugart after they were recommended to him by the federal government’s independent advisory board for Senate appointments.

Osler and Shugart’s appointment means that Trudeau has now made 62 independent appointments to the Senate using the advisory board process.

These appointments reduced the number of vacancies in the 105 seat upper house from 17 to 15.