The Senate of Canada

The Senate. The Red Chamber. The chamber of sober second thought.

It is the Upper House in Canada’s bicameral parliamentary democracy, a place that unites a diverse group of Canadians of varying accomplishments who are dedicated to the service of their country.

The Senate was created under the Constitution Act, 1867, with its goal primarily to protect regional interests.

Chamber of the Senate of Canada
The Senate Chamber, Ottawa © iStock

The Role of a Senator

The Senate consists of 105 members, with senators tasked at scrutinizing legislation, suggesting improvements to such legislation and fixing mistakes, with bills required to pass through its walls and by its members before it can become law, as well as investigate national issues and, most crucially, according to the Constitution, give the regions of Canada an equal voice in Parliament.

Senators can propose bills of their own and generate debate on issues of national importance. The Chamber is a place where ideas are debated on their merit, and an entity created to counterbalance representation by population in the House of Commons.

The territories – Nunavut, the Yukon and Northwest Territories – each have one Senate seat. Of the provinces, Prince Edward Island has the fewest number of seats in the Senate at four.

Being qualified or disqualified

In order to qualify for an appointment by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister, an individual must be a Canadian citizen, at least 30 years old, have real property worth $4,000 free of mortgage, and a net worth of at least $4,000, amounts that remain unchanged from when first enacted during Confederation in 1867. An individual must also reside in the province or territory for which one is appointed.

Senators hold their seats until age 75.

Senators will lose their seats if they become aliens; are convicted of felony or any “infamous crime”; lose their residence or property qualification; or are absent for more than two consecutive sessions of Parliament.

PEI Women in the Senate

Since its inception, there has been 38 senators from Prince Edward Island in the Senate of Canada, including the following six female senators:

  • Hon. Florence Elsie Inman, who served July 28, 1955, to May 31, 1986;
  • Hon. Eileen Rossiter, who served Nov. 17, 1986, to July 14, 2004;
  • Hon. Doris Margaret Anderson, who served Sept. 21, 1995, to July 5, 1997;
  • Hon. Catherine Callbeck, who served Sept. 23, 1997, to July 25, 2014;
  • Hon. Elizabeth Hubley, who served March 8, 2001, to Sept. 8, 2017; and
  • Hon. Diane F. Griffin, appointed Nov. 10, 2016 and continues to serve.

(With information from The Senate of Canada and The Canadian Encycolopedia)