OTTAWA — A Metis lawyer and scholar who has complained of “racist assumptions” in Canada’s health system has been appointed to fill one of a dozen vacancies in the Senate, making her the first Indigenous person from Ontario to take a seat in the upper chamber.
Yvonne Boyer, who has been vocal in criticizing both the real and the perceived inequalities in how medicare is provided in Canada, was named as an independent senator Thursday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
She is a member of the Metis Nation of Ontario, a professor in the law faculty at the University of Ottawa and associate director at the school’s Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics.
Boyer co-authored a report with Metis physician Dr. Judith Bartlett last year which laid out in graphic detail the sterilization of seven Indigenous women in Saskatchewan, noting how — as recently as 2015 — women have been coerced into being sterilized.
That report led to an outpouring of horror stories from women across the country who described inhumane treatment under Canada’s health care system.
“I am confident that Parliament will benefit from Dr. Boyer’s knowledge and experience, and that she will be a great ambassador for Ontario, the Metis Nation, and all of Canada,” Trudeau said in a statement about her appointment.
Boyer received her law degree at the University of Saskatchewan and earned master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Ottawa.
Much of her career has focused on inequalities between Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous people in health-care services and delivery.
She has advocated for “structural changes” so Indigenous people can become full partners in the health system, including allowing Indigenous Canadians to become co-designers of a system that meets their needs.
In January she pointed to Winnipeg’s Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre and the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia as effective models that Ottawa could study as it moves to transform what she described as Canada’s “already broken” health system.
Boyer is the 33rd person to be appointed to the Senate on the advice of Trudeau under a process that allows any Canadian to apply for a seat.
Trudeau appointed another Indigenous woman to the chamber in December, naming Mary Jane McCallum, a residential school survivor and dentist of Cree descent, to represent Manitoba.
The Prime Minister’s Office said Thursday that the independent Senate appointments advisory board will consider applications received by April 3 to fill vacancies still open in 10 provinces and territories.