Longtime Liberal Senator Joyce Fairbairn is going on extended sick leave as she faces health challenges. It was later reported that Fairbairn was still casting votes after she was declared legally incompetent by a geriatric psychiatrist.
Canada’s Senate has been informed that Liberal Senator Joyce Fairbairn will not be returning to Ottawa this autumn because she is undergoing treatment for her dementia. Patricia McCullagh, Fairbairn’s niece, wrote a letter to Conservative Senator David Tkachuck, Clerk of the Senate Gary O’Brien and Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella, according to the National Post.
The letter stated that Fairbairn would not return to Ottawa next month because “she has declined significantly over the past year and is no longer able to look after herself, having had 24-hour, full-time care for the past 18 months.”
It was learned that in February, a geriatric psychiatrist declared her mentally incompetent. Tkachuk stated in an interview with CBC News that he is seeking documentation and will now seek the legal opinion of the Senate for the next steps.
Since her dementia diagnosis and declaration that she was mentally incompetent, the Grit Senator attended Senate meetings and voted with her fellow Liberals prior to the Upper Chamber rising for the summer two months ago.
Liberal leadership permitted this to happen and allowed Fairbairn to spend taxpayers’ money for four months. Many were asked about Fairbairn’s health in the spring, in which the Liberal Party persisted in stating that she was fine. Liberal Senate whip Jim Munson told the Ottawa Citizen that he never doubted Fairbairn’s competence level when she was in the Senate during this timeframe.
According to documents obtained by Digital Journal, Fairbairn voted 12 times in the Senate, while also authorizing more than $85,000 in spending. It was discovered that she spent less on travel expenses between her home in Alberta and in Ottawa; $4,000 from March to May, compared to $13,000 spent over three previous quarters.
Senate rules state that a doctor’s note must be provided if a senator takes sick leave of more than six days and he or she is still obligated to attend once every two sessions. New rules that are expected to be accepted this autumn can allow the Senate to make a seat vacant, which would trigger a selection and nomination process.
Fairbairn has served as a senator since she was appointed by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1984. Prior to her appointment, Fairbairn worked as his Legislative Assistant, Senior Legislative Advisor and then the prime minister’s Communications Coordinator.
Fairbairn, 73, is only two years (Nov. 2014) from mandatory retirement. It is unknown as to why she isn’t stepping down from her post and only taking sick leave.