Prime Minister Stephen Harper filled Quebec's vacancies in the Senate with four new faces Monday, including a champion of aboriginal rights and a former politician with the separatist Parti Québécois.
The Quebec appointees are Patrick Brazeau, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples; former PQ politician Michel Rivard; Leo Housakos, a Greek community leader and businessperson; and former Tort MP Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis.
Brazeau said he welcomed the invitation to join the Senate because he agrees with Harper that reform is necessary.
"Obviously, knowing the government's position on Senate reform and supporting the government on the need to reform the Senate, I look forward to the challenges ahead," said Brazeau, a member of the Algonquin Nation who lives on the Kitigan Zibi reserve near Maniwaki.
The other appointees echoed support for an elected Senate in accepting their new roles.
"I was very surprised and very touched," said Fortin-Duplessis.
After expressing her gratitude, the former MP for the Louis-Hébert riding in Quebec City quickly defended Harper's decision to name18 senators for appointment now, when House of Commons has been prorogued.
"It's important that he names the Senate because there is a lot of work that needs to be done to the Senate, and the job rests on the shoulders of the senators who are there," said Fortin-Duplessis, who in addition to having an active political life has been involved in many charitable organizations.
Liberals baffled at appointment of Rivard
On Monday, Liberals in Quebec took aim at the appointment of Rivard, who has spent most of his professional life in public administration in the Quebec City region including as the mayor of Beauport in the 1980s.
In 1994, he was elected to the national assembly as Parti-Quebecois MNA for Limoilou. He stayed for one term.
Liberal Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette said Rivard's appointment contradicts Harper's anti-separatist rhetoric during the recent constitutional crisis in Ottawa.
"After insulting the Bloc Quebecois MPs, who were duly elected, that he would appoint a Péquiste is totally amazing," said Hervieux-Payette.
Rivard said he accepted the job because he wanted to help Harper with efforts to overhaul the Senate.
The fourth senator appointed from Quebec was Leo Housakos. A Montrealer by birth, Housakos is a leader in the Greek community and is currently a director of Via Rail.