Tomorrow, the retirement of Liberal Senator and Lethbridge native Joyce Fairbairn will be made official.
The long-time senator has been on extended leave since the summer, when it was learned she had been dealing with the impacts of Alzheimer’s disease.
Fairbairn was first appointed to the Senate in 1984 on the advice of Pierre Trudeau. She had served as Prime Minister Trudeau’s senior legislative assistant for 14 years, and was the communications co-ordinator from 1981-1983.
In the Senate, Fairbairn served on several committees, and in 1990 she was inducted in the Kainai Chieftanship of the Blood Nation. Fairbairn also served on the Senate at the University of Lethbridge, an institution which also recognized her with an honourary degree in 2004.
“On behalf of the University of Lethbridge, I would like to sincerely congratulate Senator Joyce Fairbairn as she brings to a close an exceptional career in Canada’s Senate and thank her for her years of service to Canadians,” said Mike Mahon, president and vice-chancellor of the U of L. “Senator Joyce has served Canada with dignity and passion as a journalist, political aide and senator. Communities in southern Alberta have been particularly fortunate to have her advocacy and support as she championed many causes during her years as Senator. The University of Lethbridge has benefited greatly from her tireless advocacy and will be ever grateful to her.”
In Ottawa, the senator was vice-chair of the National Liberal Caucus and vice-chair of the Western and Northern Liberal Caucus, along with being co-chair of the National Campaign Committee of the National Campaign in 1991.
Fairbairn was the first woman to be named Leader of the Government in the Senate, with special responsibility for literacy, a capacity in which she served from 1993-1997.
She was also a journalist, who started who career working summers at The Lethbridge Herald, followed by a stint at the Ottawa Journal after college in 1961. She joined the bureau of the United Press International in the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Ottawa in 1964.