Cornwall, Ont. mayor Bernadette Clement appointed to Senate
Cornwall, Ont. mayor Bernadette Clememt has been appointed to the Senate of Canada. The Prime Minister's Office made the announcement June 22, 2021. (Photo by Jason McNamara from Framed Photography)
OTTAWA -- Cornwall, Ont. mayor Bernadette Clement has been appointed to the Senate of Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office made the announcement Tuesday. Clement is among three new senators appointed by Richard Wagner, Administrator of the Government of Canada, to fill vacancies for Ontario and New Brunswick.
In a press release Tuesday, Clement said she is resigning as mayor of Cornwall effective immediately.
“This is an incredible honour, which feels both thrilling and wistful,” Clement wrote. “It’s a tremendous opportunity, which I cannot wait to start. However, I am very sad to resign from my role as the Mayor of Cornwall. It’s quite remarkable that you can feel such opposing emotions intensely and at the same time.”
Clement was elected mayor of Cornwall in 2018. She is the first woman to serve as mayor of the eastern Ontario city and she is the first Black woman to serve as a mayor in Ontario. Prior to this, she was a three-term city councillor. Clement, a lawyer, was born in Montreal, attended the University of Ottawa, obtaining degrees in Civil Law and Common Law, and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1991. She began her legal career with the non-profit corporation Roy McMurtry Legal Clinic in Cornwall, where she still works today.
Clement is also a former federal Liberal candidate in the riding of Stormont--Dundas--South Glengarry in the 2011 and 2015 elections.
"Through various professional and volunteer leadership roles, she has served many members of her community, including newcomers, women fleeing violence, and people with developmental disabilities. She is also a tireless advocate for injured workers," said a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.
Clement will be the seventh Black person appointed to the Senate of Canada since the first, Senator Anne Cools, was appointed in 1984, and the fourth Black woman.
The other two newly announced senators are Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yusuf and St. John Port Authority president and CEO James Quinn.
A mixture of emotions
In an interview with CTV News Ottawa, Clement said that she's thinking of her mother, who passed away earlier this year.
"My mother died a couple of months ago and it's been very difficult during a pandemic to lose mom, and I keep thinking of her and how she would react to this news, so it's poignant for me," she said.
Her constituents in Cornwall are congratulatory for her new position, but also sad, she said.
"I'm getting congratulations from friends and residents here in Cornwall but I'm also getting messages from people saying, 'We would have wanted you to finish your term. We wanted more of you as mayor,' so, I feel sad about leaving."
Clement said she loved her time as mayor of Cornwall, and while she's leaving that post, she's not leaving Cornwall behind.
"Cornwall is where I live. I chose Cornwall 30 years ago; I got on a Greyhound bus and got a job at the legal aid clinic and I'm still employed at the legal clinic. I have been a municipal councillor for 15 years, so it's hard for me to leave things. I don't leave them. So, I'm not going to leave Cornwall. I'm not going to say goodbye," she said. "I'm just going to say thank you to Cornwall for putting trust in me and electing me as a city councillor three times and as the mayor and for giving me the confidence to do this next big thing."
Clement said she would take some time to look into the work that's being done in the Senate as settles into her new role, but added that she believes her experience on city council will be an asset.
"As a mayor, as a councillor, you're always part of a council, of a team, and I'm bringing that into this process. I think that that's important in the Senate."
Some of the topics Clement said she is excited to look at issues surrounding the environment and infrastructure, but she also said diversity and representation are important.
"It's really been so important this last year, where we have leaned into issues around Black Lives Matter and systemic racism," she said. "It's very important that I wear all the hats that I wear. It's important for people to see themselves reflected in every place where Canadian decisions take place."
Her message to others interested in politics, especially girls and women, is to try.
"It's so important not to be afraid of winning or losing because that's where you learn. It's important to support women running for office, and to be inspired by women and girls around you doing wonderful things. It's important to just do it," she said.