The Honourable Sharon Carstairs, LL.D., May 10, 2007


The Honourable Sharon Carstairs
P.C.B.A.(DaI.); M.A.(Smith); LL.D.(Bran.)

Senator Sharon Carstairs truly has a lifetime of familiarity with Canadian public service, growing up in Halifax where her father Harold Connolly served as Premier of Nova Scotia, and was subsequently appointed to the Senate of Canada in 1955.

After obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History at Dalhousie University, Senator Carstairs completed a Masters of Arts in Teaching in 1963 at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She has remained a dedicated advocate of excellence in education, a commitment nurtured through diverse teaching experience which has included schools in Massachusetts, Calgary, and Manitoba and as a Sessional Lecturer at the University of Manitoba.

Manitobans remember with respect and fondness the passion and integrity with which Senator Carstairs led the Liberal Party in Manitoba from 1984 to 1993. In 1988, Senator Carstairs became the first woman elected Leader of the Official Opposition in both Manitoba and Canada, a position which she held in the Manitoba Legislative Assembly from 1988 to 1990. She was elected Member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly for River Heights in 1986, and served until her appointment to the Senate on September 15, 1994.

A member of the Senate of Canada since 1994, her accomplishments are numerous and remarkable. Senator Carstairs was the first woman in Canada to be appointed as Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate in September 1997, and from January 2001 to December 2003 was the Leader of the Government in the Senate. She has served on and has chaired several Senate Committees and has been a member of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians for InterParliamentary Union since 2004 and Vice President of this Committee since July 2006.

Senator Carstairs is a tireless champion for improved access to quality palliative and end-of-life care for Canadians. In 1994-1995, she served as a member of the Special Senate Committee on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, releasing in June 1995 the comprehensive and challenging report Of Life and Death which served as a catalyst for palliative care initiatives across the country. Senator Carstairs was Chair of the Subcommittee of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, releasing in June 2000 the report Quality End-of-Life Care: The Right of Every Canadian, an update to “Of Life and Death.” From March 2001 to December 2003, Senator Carstairs served as Minister with Special Responsibility for Palliative Care, an appointment indicative of the confidence held for her ability to move forward on unmet needs. A reflection of her steadfast commitment to Palliative Care, in June 2005 she released a 10-year report card entitled Still Not There-Quality Endof-Life Care: A Progress Report, highlighting achievements and ongoing gaps in palliative and end-of-life care in Canada since the initial 1995 report Of Life And Death.

The creation and ongoing development of the Canadian Virtual Hospice, a unique online palliative care resource, has benefited greatly by the support and advocacy of Senator Carstairs.

Senator Carstairs' ongoing advocacy was instrumental in the development and subsequent revisions of the Employment insurance Compassionate Care Benefits, supporting those who must miss work in order to care for someone who is terminally ill. She has also been a strong promoter of mandatory palliative care curriculum for medical students.

An accomplished author, Senator Carstairs' publications include her autobiography Not One of the Boys, and an essay about women in politics which was reviewed as "clear-eyed and devastating" for the book Dropped Threads. As well, she recently co-authored with Tim Higgins the book Dancing Backwards: A Social Histoiy of Canadian Women in Politics.

Numerous honours have been awarded to Senator Carstairs for her continued commitment to Canadians, including the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Confederation in 1992; the Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2002; the 2003 Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association Leadership Award; a Doctor of Laws Degree (Honoris Causa) from Brandon University in 2003; Decoration, Member of Merit, The Military and Hospitaller Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem in 2003; and the Muriel McQueen Ferguson Foundation Award in 2004.

Senator Carstairs has a long, varied, and busy history in volunteer activities. She has been President/Chair or a member of numerous Boards, Councils, and Foundations. While co-chair of the Prairleaction Foundation fund-raising campaign, over $5 Million was raised to support research into family violence.

Senator Carstairs' lifelong dedication to improving the lives of Canadians has effected change that far exceeds what most could ever aspire to achieve. Her unwavering commitment to improving access to palliative and end-of-life care has been inspirational to those working in the field. In a career marked by many "Firsts," Senator Carstairs is first in the minds of those who work in Palliative Care when one thinks of relentless advocacy on a national level for those affected by life-limiting illness. She is married to John Esdale Carstairs and they have two daughters, Catherine and Jennifer.

-citation delivered by Dr. Michael Harlos, Professor of Family Medicine



The Honourable Sharon Carstairs