When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau phoned Pat Duncan to say he would be recommending her to the senate, she said she told him it would be an honour and a privilege to assume the role.
“That’s where I’m at right now,” Duncan told the News on Dec. 13, a day after her appointment was formally announced. “I truly feel this is an honour. I’m keenly interested in the changes brought about in the senate.”
Duncan, along with three other appointees in N.W.T., Ontario and Nova Scotia, have brought the number of senators up to 105, a full upper chamber. It’s a change that’s been eight years in the making.
During the phone call, Trudeau, Duncan said, acknowledged her work as a Liberal MLA in the Yukon but emphasized the need for independence.
She will join the Independent Senators Group, where there are 54 members, the highest proportion of any other in the upper chamber.
“I understand the need for independence from the government, from party lines and so on,” Duncan said.
As an MLA, she said she lobbied hard that appointments of major boards and committees be independent.
“And that’s exactly the same sort of model that senators are chosen, as well,” she said.
“We’re there to serve the people, and that’s what I like to do.”
Duncan said her work at the legislative assembly and as a public servant has prepared her to be a senator.
Her time at the legislature spanned 10 years. From 2000 to 2002, Duncan served as the Yukon’s first female premier.
Duncan said there’s been “enormous” changes in the last decade or so in the Yukon, some of which she played part in.
Those major files include signing the Yukon’s devolution agreement with the federal government when she was premier and helping negotiate final agreements with First Nations, she said, including Ta’an Kwach’an’s.
“To bring some agreements to conclusion, it meant so much to all Yukoners, to have a self-governing First Nation,” Duncan said. “It’s how we live together. To have an understanding and an appreciation of the land claim agreements is key to our lives as citizens. I think we’ve set an example. We’ve led the way in many ways.”
Prior to her time in politics, Duncan served as the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce. She has also worked as a public servant and manager of claimant services for the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, according to a Canadian government press release.
“I just want to thank Yukoners for their support, their encouragement, and I will do my very best to represent them,” Duncan said.
Contact Julien Gignac at firstname.lastname@example.org