Sudbury

Canada's newest senator Josée Forest-Niesing says she'll fight for minority rights

Sudbury lawyer and community activist Josée Forest-Niesing says she plans to fight for the rights of minorities in her new role.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau names Sudbury lawyer, community activist to the Red Chamber

Josée Forest-Niesing of Sudbury was appointed to the Senate of Canada by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week. (Radio-Canada)

Northern Ontario has another one of its own serving in the Canadian Senate.

Sudbury lawyer and community activist Josée Forest-Niesing says she'll take time to learn the senate's ways, but she plans to fight for the rights of minorities in her new role.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made Forest-Niesing's appointment official last week, also naming Abegweit Mi'kmaw Nation Chief Brian Francis to the senate.

In addition to practising law for nearly 20 years, Forest-Niesing has served as member or chair of numerous boards of directors, including the Art Gallery of Sudbury, the Carrefour francophone de Sudbury, and the University of Sudbury.

She was also appointed to the Ontario Arts Council in January.

Forest-Niesing admitted the idea was in the back of her mind as she became aware that local groups were pushing for her nomination.

Josée Forest-Niesing has also served as member or chair of numerous boards of directors and was appointed to the Ontario Arts Council in January. (Sophie Houle-Drapheau/Radio-Canada)

"My initial reflex was, 'My goodness, as if,'" explained Forest-Niesing. "But when I really started to think about it, I thought, would I have something to contribute? Yes, of course. And is this the kind of work I think I'd like to do? Yes, of course.

"So it was an easy thing to follow up on. But I can assure you my expectation was not to be taken as seriously as I ended up being taken. I mean, it's a dream, really."

Forest-Niesing called herself "a Canadian first, a Franco-Ontarian next."

She said she also recently learned she's of Métis descent, but explained that hasn't changed how she views the world around her.

"Differences don't scare me. They challenge me, they interest me," said Forest-Niesing. "For that reason, I've always been, I hope, very sensitive and interested in learning more about the Indigenous culture. I find it rich, I find it beautiful.

"I expect I'm going to be working very hard to learn what's expected of me and how to best carry out my responsibilities. But I plan to be the best senator I can be."

With files from Wendy Bird

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