07/27/2016 11:53 EDT | Updated 07/27/2016 11:59 EDT

Changes To Senate Appointment Process Aim To Give Canadians A Voice

Overlooking the seat of the Canadian Senate, Parliament Hill, Ottawa Canada. The room is often called the Red Chamber.
Saffron Blaze via Getty Images
Overlooking the seat of the Canadian Senate, Parliament Hill, Ottawa Canada. The room is often called the Red Chamber.

It's fair to say there has been a cloud over the Canadian Senate, after several scandals that have tested public trust in this important constitutional body. Some want to see the Senate abolished, others have called for its reform.

In the wake of the issues that have dogged it, moves are now afoot to restore public faith in the Senate.

I'm proud to say that I'm very much part of that process. In June I was appointed to the independent advisory board that will submit Senate candidate recommendations to the prime minister. Canadians from a wide range of backgrounds are being encouraged to apply to take a seat at the table and then have a voice in the direction our country takes, and that could include YOU, or your spouse, your friend, a colleague or a boss. People who are contributing to their own communities right now, could soon be contributing to the nation.

There's not much time left for applications -- the August 4th deadline is not far off, and you need to get letters of recommendation together, as well as the usual paperwork -- but I urge you to think hard about who YOU think would make a great addition to the Senate and get applications in ahead of the deadline.

Perhaps you're scratching your head and wondering what a chef is doing advising on Senate appointments.

Well, I'm not a politician, but I do value the role of the Senate. This chamber is engrained in the Canadian political and cultural system that has allowed my career and the careers of countless immigrants to flourish in this country.

For those of you who don't know, I came to Canada to work at the Banff Springs Hotel in 1989. I'm originally from India, but also spent some time training as a chef in Salzburg, Austria. My life would be very different today if I hadn't jumped at the opportunity to work in Canada.

This country allows all people -- including immigrants and refugees; the wealthy and the poor -- to sculpt and change their lives. Believe me, this is a privilege people living in many countries across the globe can only dream of and one that Canadians sometimes take for granted.

So, yes, the Senate has had its fair share of issues, but that doesn't mean it's no longer relevant. In fact, with these changes, I would say it's possibly becoming the most relevant it has ever been. It gives a voice to Canadians, including minority groups who otherwise wouldn't have one. Senators also investigate important issues and protect rights by speaking on behalf of marginalized groups, regions and individuals.

When I first came to Canada, I dreamed of opening my own restaurant. I never thought I would own a number of restaurants and a food production facility, have a frozen food line named after me, be involved in culinary education, be asked to contribute directly towards new entrepreneurs on a national television show, be a part of important volunteer programs, and much more. Am I saying the Senate is directly responsible for my success? No. I'm saying that the people who are chosen to represent and protect the rights of all Canadians gave me the chance to build a life and career in Canada.

I bring an immigrant and entrepreneurial perspective to the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments (IABSA) table. And I'm joined by an amazing group of people -- including scholars, university chancellors and past presidents, an engineer, a lawyer, a philanthropist, a musician and singer, a nurse, a public policy expert and author, a CEO and healthcare expert, a PhD and women's rights advocate, an advocate for Indigenous rights, a politician, a First Nations chief, an entrepreneur, an Olympian, and a doctor, CEO and author of 37 books.

My IABSA colleagues come from different backgrounds, walks of life, and provinces. They all bring unique experiences to the table, so as Canadians start applying online to fill 20 current and upcoming Senate positions in seven provinces, they can rest assured that the board is made up of people who represent the entire population.

So let's all take a step out from under that cloud and start to learn more about what the Senate has done and can do for Canada in the future.

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