Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has named two new Independent senators to sit in the upper chamber.
Mary Coyle, 63, will sit for Nova Scotia and Mary Jane McCallum, 65, will represent Manitoba.
McCallum, who is of Cree descent and a survivor of the Indian residential school system, is believed to be the first female Indigenous dentist accredited in Canada.
She has worked throughout Manitoba’s north for decades — she obtained her dental nursing certificate in 1977, and later her doctorate in dental medicine in 1990 — and still runs a practice on Opaskwayak Cree Nation near The Pas. In addition to her private practice, McCallum has worked with the federal First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, and helped lead the Aboriginal Dental Health Program at the University of Manitoba.
McCallum is set to become a parliamentarian as Health Canada faces criticism for its handling of the dental file. The auditor general has raised alarm bells about the provision of dental services to First Nations peoples, finding the department does “not know how much of a difference it was making” despite its annual budget of $200 million. Unlike other Canadians, First Nations health care, including oral health, is largely the responsibility of the federal government.
CBC News has also profiled the struggles of a young Cree girl who has taken the government to court to secure payment for braces her doctors say are medically necessary. The government has spent some $110,000 in court fighting the $6,000 procedure.
According to a written statement distributed by the Prime Minister’s Office, Coyle is a long-time champion of women’s leadership, gender equality, and the rights of Indigenous people.
Since 1997, she has held a number of leadership positions at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., where she served as executive director of the Frank McKenna Centre for Leadership, a group devoted to helping students “to dream big, to make a positive difference in the world, and to learn to work with others to make things happen.”
Coyle also helped launch the university’s Coady International Centre for Women’s Leadership, which is devoted to bolstering the place of women in civil society in the global south.
“If you really want to change the world, you have to look at what hasn’t happened yet, and one of the…