Stepping Up To The Senate

Windsor Doctor Rises up to One of
The Highest Places In The Canadian Government

Story by Ryan Percy
Photography Courtesy Senate of Canada

Canada is a country of immigrants. While greatness is born in Canada, it also brought by those who come to our great nation and become its citizens.

Doctor Sharon Burey came to Canada from Jamaica and has since spent decades helping improve the lives of children across Ontario as a pediatrician.

Now, as of November 21, 2022, Senator Burey has the opportunity to help the entire nation. She is the first woman from the Windsor-Essex region to be assigned to the Upper House of Parliament, the Senate of Canada. She is also the first senator from Windsor in 40 years.

Senator Burey signs her Oath.

The announcement of her appointment came to her one recent evening during a phone call after dinner. It came as a wonderful shock after a lengthy process of applications and interviews that lasted months.

“You throw your hat in the ring and you wait, and you wait,” Burey says of the process she went through. “I just finished supper when I received a call from the Prime Minister. I’m usually not at a loss for words but I must have had some stumbles there. It was a very gracious conversation inviting me to this appointment. Of course, I said yes.”

While she has had to begin slowing down her medical practice there is a certain balance, she may be able to achieve. However, being a senator is a busy job, but Burey is used to being busy.

“I have to give myself enough time to make the right decisions,” Burey says of trying to find a balance between her medical career and the Senate. “It’s too early to say definitively but I have to step back now to focus on the Senate.”

While she is set to pause her practice for the Senate appointment, she says her time as a doctor has given her a potent toolset, she will be able to call upon as a senator.

“Pediatrics is one of the broadest specialties because it is concerned about the entire welfare of the child,” Burey says. “It’s not just concerned about ear infections or asthma. It’s what we call the ecology. When you create a safe nurturing environment for children which looks at housing, poverty, education and justice, along with health, children can thrive. You look at the whole child, their whole family, their whole experience and not just what they’re presenting with. This holistic look at everything is really what I think the Senate requires.”

She laughs about how her time as a pediatrician had, unbeknownst to her at the time, been a training session towards becoming a strong Senator.

“I’ve had to deal with large amounts of information and papers as well,” she adds. “I’ve had to learn to synthesize and analyze large amounts of information and be very reflective. The goal is to find common ground between your families and patients. It’s part of being a good physician and I think it is something we need often in politics.”

While she says the training for the Senator came from her medical practice, Senator Burey is also no stranger to stepping into the political aspects of medicine itself.

Burey has worked with ADHD Windsor for over a decade, pushing for the education around and advocating for people in the Windsor-Essex region with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

Senator Burey shakes hands with the Speaker of the Senate of Canada, Senator George J. Furey.

She also served as the President of the Pediatricians Alliance of Ontario under the American Academy of Pediatrics. Burey is also a member of the OMA’s Health Policy Committee and sat as a delegate and a committee member on OMA Council and Committees. “I know how resolutions are passed and had to master the legislative process,” she says of working with international medical organizations. “Many issues affecting the health of children cross traditional national boundaries. When I served as the President of the PAO and worked with the American Academy of Pediatrics, I got international political experience as well.”

Senator Burey recognizes, despite her experience and training, she is still one of the newest members of the Senate and wants to focus on learning from her new peers first. Especially before she begins jumping into Senate committees.

“The Senate and the administration have been so welcoming,” Burey says of how she has felt upon starting her appointment. “I feel at home. The other senators have really reached out and told me it takes time to find your place in the Senate.’ You’re not going to know where you’re going to end up. My own process is to listen, ask questions and then to take walks while I reflect on the answers.”

Senator Burey has likewise come into the Senate as a non-affiliated member. While each of the four political groups in the Senate have reached out to her, she has not made a decision yet if she intends to join one of them.

“At least one senator from each group has welcomed me,” Burey says of how the Senate political groups have reacted to her appointment. “I’ve been welcomed by all the groups, but I’ll leave it at that.”

While she is moving forward, she says that the importance of those who helped her along the way is the only reason she was able to get to this appointment and what she strives to provide for others.

“No one gets to this place without a huge support network,” Burey says. “And that’s one thing I’ve been working on; creating safe, secure families, neighbourhoods and places for kids. A large part of that is your support network and your connections within the community.”

While she is still growing into the appointment, she did say one thing has always driven her, a love of learning. While Burey warmly laughs at the idea of already being asked if she plans to leave a legacy with her term, she says she expects to learn a lot and will focus on what is important.

“There’s a vast amount of learning that’s going to take place, which I love,” she says of her passion for education and literacy. “I think learning opens all kinds of doors.”

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