Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on September 26 announced the appointment of two senators, and one of them made political history in the country, especially for the fast growing Filipino community.
Dr. Flordeliz “Gigi” Osler has become the first Canadian Filipino woman to be named to the Red Chamber.
Osler is only the second Canadian Filipino to be appointed to the Canadian senate, after the late Tobias Enverga, a Conservative Party appointee, who served as senator for the province of Ontario.
Osler, an internationally renowned surgeon based in Winnipeg, fills in a seat for the province of Manitoba.
“I am there as a proud lifelong Manitoban. I am there to represent Manitoba but certainly, as a person of colour and as a woman, I can add that perspective to the work that goes on," Osler told CBC Manitoba Information Radio guest host Faith Fundal on September 27.
"I think we've seen how any cracks in the system became wide gaps with a pandemic. Many of us, we realized how important health is and all of the determinants — social, financial, genetics, diet, housing, water — how all of those go into health," the newly minted Canadian Filipino senator said.
"And you can give voice to some of the historically underrepresented groups," Osler said.
At present, there is only one Canadian Filipino in the other chamber of the Canadian parliament, which is the House of Commons, in the person of Rechie Valdez.
Valdez is the Member of Parliament for the Ontario riding of Mississauga—Streetsville. She was elected in 2021, and became the first Canadian Filipino woman to become MP.
The honour of having become the first Canadian Filipino MP belongs to Dr. Rey Pagtakhan, a medical doctor like Osler.
"I am deeply delighted. I join the Canadian Filipino community nationwide in conveying our salute to the Prime Minister for the excellent choice,” said Pagtakhan, who writes a regular opinion column with Canadian Filipino Net.
“Dr. Osler would serve well the community and country as a Senator as she has eminently served her patients and the medical profession," Pagtakhan also said.
Now retired, Pagtakhan served in the House of Commons from November 1988 to June 2004, and became Secretary of State for Asia Pacific; Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development; Minister of Veterans Affairs; Minister of Western Economic Diversification; and Senior Federal Minister for Manitoba.
The other appointee to the Senate was Ian Shugart, a longtime federal public service leader.
An official announcement from the Prime Minister’s Office relates that Osler is an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba.
“She was the first woman surgeon and the first racialized woman elected President of the Canadian Medical Association. Dr. Osler is known for her active involvement within and dedication to the medical community in Canada and abroad. She is also the recipient of numerous honours and awards,” the release said.
Canadian Filipino Net readers may recall that in 2018, Osler contributed an article to this publication as public health concerns by physicians regarding a well-known psychoactive substance. For details:
Osler and Shugart were recommended by the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments.
An official background released by the Prime Minister’s Office relates that Osler currently operates out of two clinics, including one in the Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Section of the St. Boniface Hospital where she served as Section Head from 2010 to 2019.
“Born in Winnipeg to immigrant parents from the Philippines and India, Dr. Osler serves as a role model, research supervisor, and mentor for Filipino and other racialized medical students in Manitoba and across Canada, including within the Filipino Association of Medical Students in Manitoba,” the material states.
Osler holds a medical degree from the University of Manitoba, where she also completed her residency training, and a Graduate Certificate in Global Surgical Care from the University of British Columbia. In addition, she completed a Rhinology fellowship at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
Osler is the daughter of a physician from India and a nurse from the Philippines.