Trudeau appoints former heads of Canadian Medical Association, federal public service to Senate

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

These two appointments reduce the number of vacancies in the Senate from 17 to 15

Ian Shugart replaced Michael Wernick as Clerk of the Privy Council on April 19, 2019.
Ian Shugart, who left his job as Clerk of the Privy Council in May, was also appointed a privy councillor. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

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 who immigrated to 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.

The Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments oversees the process. The board is made up of five members. Three of those members are federal permanent members. The remaining two spots on the board are for provincial representatives who change depending on which province or territory is getting a new senator.

Provincial board members have standing equal to that of federal permanent members.

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.


  • This story has been updated from a previous version that incorrectly stated that there are provincial and territorial boards to recommend potential senators. In fact, there is only one body that recommends Senate candidates to the prime minister.
    Sep 27, 2022 4:24 PM ET


Peter Zimonjic

Senior writer

Peter Zimonjic is a senior writer for CBC News. He has worked as a reporter and columnist in London, England, for the Daily Mail, Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph and in Canada for Sun Media and the Ottawa Citizen. He is the author of Into The Darkness: An Account of 7/7, published by Random House.