LETHBRIDGE HERALD (WITH CP FILES)
Senator Joyce Fairbairn, afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, has resigned her seat in the upper chamber.
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae announced her departure Friday in Ottawa, saying Fairbairn has served Canada with dignity, pride and devotion for more than four decades.
A native of Lethbridge, Fairbairn has been on an extended leave since the summer and will officially leave the Senate on Jan. 18.
"She broke ground throughout her distinguished career as one of the first women journalists in the Parliamentary Press Gallery, senior adviser to Prime Minister (Pierre) Trudeau, and then as the first woman leader of the government in the Senate," Rae said.
"She worked tirelessly to help Canadians, especially those facing challenges, particularly through her work on literacy and the Paralympics. And, as she now faces health challenges of her own, she continues to inspire all of us."
Fairbairn has also devoted many years to southern Alberta issues, pointed out Lethbridge Mayor Rajko Dodic.
"She has worked well for all Canadians," he said. But the senator been instrumental in securing support and funds for projects here, the mayor said.
"For me, it's a sad day when we're no longer able to call her our senator," he added.
"We're proud of her."
Citizens of southern Alberta will wish her well in her latest challenge, Dodic said.
Fairbairn, 73, worked for Trudeau for 14 years before he appointed her to the Senate in 1984. She later served as Senate leader under Jean Chretien's government.
Her departure leaves just four Trudeau-appointed senators still serving, and opens the door for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to appoint one of three senators-elect from Alberta.
Alberta is the only province that has taken up Harper's call to elect potential appointees to the upper chamber.
The Conservatives hold 60 of the Senate's 105 seats, with Harper having made 53 appointments - all Conservative - since coming to office in January 2006.