Wanda Thomas Bernard, a professor at Dalhousie’s School of Social Work, has been named to the Senate of Canada.
Dr. Bernard, who also serves as the university’s special advisor, diversity and inclusiveness, becomes the first African Nova Scotian woman to serve in the Senate Chamber.
Following changes made to the Senate selection process by the federal government in 2015, Dr. Bernard applied to represent Nova Scotia in the Chamber this past summer. On Wednesday evening, she received a phone call from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau informing her that she had been chosen.
“It’s very exciting, but it’s also very humbling, because I take this responsibility very seriously,” she says.
Pushing for "equity for all"
Dr. Bernard has taught and conducted research in the area of anti-oppression and diversity at Dalhousie since 1990, served as director of the School of Social Work from 2001-2011 and took on the role of special advisor, diversity and inclusiveness earlier this year. She says her academic work will inform her approach as a Senator.
“My interest in being part of the Senate is to continue to do the work I’ve been doing around equity and diversity and inclusiveness.
“Equity for all is my primary goal in life. To be able to enter the Senate with that perspective and contribute to the country is an incredible privilege, one that I know I will be accountable for.”
Dr. Bernard also cites her achievement as a historic moment for her home community of East Preston, the second-largest of the indigenous Black communities to settle in the province in the 18th century.
“The East Preston community will be celebrating with me and I know that when I go forward into the Senate, I go with the blessing of my community,” says Dr. Bernard, who is an elder in the East Preston United Baptist church.
“One of the things I take a lot of pride in is that I have a really solid integration of my academic work and my spiritual walk. And I carry that with me into the Senate as well. “
An "inspired appointment"
Dalhousie president Richard Florizone says he was “delighted” to learn of Dr. Bernard’s appointment.
“This is an inspired appointment that’s wonderful for Dal, for Nova Scotia and for the entire country,” says Dr. Florizone.
Dr. Bernard credits the support of her family, her community and the people who encouraged her to apply.
“As an African Nova Scotian woman, I know that I’m standing on the shoulders of others who’ve gone before me. I’m standing on the shoulders of people from my community that never dreamt of these kinds of opportunities.”
Also appointed to the Senate from Nova Scotia is Dan Christmas, who received an honorary degree from Dalhousie in 2005. Dr. Christmas is senior adviser for the Mi'kmaw First Nation of Membertou.
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