The jurist who led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been appointed to the Senate, which he calls a "sacred honour."
"I approach this appointment with hope for the future, and remain committed to reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people, something I believe in my heart is possible," Justice Murray Sinclair said in a statement Friday morning.
The Liberal government named Sinclair and Raymonde Gagné, former president of Université de Saint-Boniface in Winnipeg, to the Senate on Friday. Five other Canadians were also appointed.
Gagné said as a Franco-Manitoban, she wants to see improvements in both French and English services across the country.
"Obviously equal quality of communication services offered by the federal institutions in both official languages is very [much] of interest," she said.
The appointees were selected by a new non-partisan advisory board. Sinclair said he believes not being formally tied to a particular party is important.
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"Being connected to neither in some ways means you're connected to both, so I'm looking forward to the opportunity to work with everybody who is involved and trusted," he said.
Gagne said she, too, is happy to sit as an independent.
"Actually, my ultimate goal would be to ensure a very high standard of integrity and collaboration and non-partisanship in service of the Parliament and all Canadians."
The appointments leave 17 vacancies in the Red Chamber.
Sinclair was born near Selkirk, Man., in 1951. His parents and grandparents were both sent to residential schools.
Sinclair graduated from the University of Manitoba's faculty of law in 1979, and has additional honorary degrees from both his alma matter and the University of Ottawa.
He was called to the bar in 1980 and went on to specialize in aboriginal legal issues.
Gagné, another U of M alumnus, graduated in 1977 with an education degree. She was awarded the Order of Canada in September 2015 for her work promoting French language post-secondary education in Manitoba.
Sinclair was appointed associate chief judge of the court of Manitoba in 1988, and co-commissioner of Manitoba's Aboriginal Justice Inquiry the same year.
Read Sinclair's full statement below:
Justice Murray Sinclair Senate nomination
It is with heartfelt gratitude that I receive this nomination to the Senate of Canada.
I believe that the higher calling of public service is a sacred honour and it is with great humility that I accept this recommendation to be appointed.
I would like to thank the independent, and nonpartisan Advisory Board for considering me for this appointment.
I thank the Right Honourable Governor General David Johnston and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for entrusting me with these duties.
I approach this appointment with hope for the future, and remain committed to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, something I believe in my heart is possible.
In the time following the release of the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and in the wake of the TRC's Calls to Action, it is my belief that we are entering a new era of relations with Indigenous people in Canada.
It is my wish to work toward repairing this relationship and doing what I can to make reconciliation a reality in Canada.
Having served Canada's justice system for over 25 years, and in my duties as Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I have spent my life in the service of Canadians and intend to continue to serve them in this new role.
Finally, it is my promise to speak for the people of Manitoba in the Upper Chamber and to focus on establishing regional balance for the men and women I will represent.