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UPDATE: P.E.I.’s newest senator, Abegweit First Nation chief Brian Francis, hopes to help in reconciliation process

Brian Francis will be sworn in Tuesday as Prince Edward Island’s newest senator.
Brian Francis will be sworn in Tuesday as Prince Edward Island’s newest senator. - Jim Day

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Abegweit First Nation Chief Brian Francis is thrilled to be given the opportunity to represent his Mi’kmaq people – and all of P.E.I. – as Canada’s newest senator.

Francis, who lives in Rocky Point, will be resigning as chief effective today after more than 11 years in the busy, high-profile position.

On Tuesday, he will be sworn in as a senator for Prince Edward Island to fill a seat that has been vacant for more than one year following Libbe Hubley’s retirement in September 2017.

“I think I’m interested in the Senate because I feel I can make a very worthwhile contribution, first as a Prince Edward Islander and second as a Mi’kmaq person,’’ he told The Guardian in his first interview after being named to the red chamber.

“I kind of have a vision of what Canada should be and that vision includes reconciliation…I’m eager to be part of that process.’’


Senator snapshot
Here is a quick look at Brian Francis, who will be sworn in Tuesday as Prince Edward Island’s newest senator.

  • Bachelor of social work from Dalhousie University.
  • Certificate in conflict resolution studies from UPEI.
  • Chief of the Abegweit First Nation since 2007.
  • Formal signatory to the Canada-Prince Edward Island-Mi’kmaq Partnership Agreement.
  • Executive member of the Fathers of Confederation Building Trust.
  • Area Aboriginal programs co-ordinator with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (2001-2007).
  • He lives with his wife Georgina in Rocky Point. They have three adult children.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Thursday announced the appointment of Francis as a P.E.I. senator and Josée Forest-Niesing as an Ontario senator.

“I am pleased to welcome parliament’s newest senators,’’ Trudeau said in a statement.

“I look forward to work with Ms. Forest-Niesing and Mr. Francis, and I have no doubt that their vast knowledge and experience will greatly benefit parliament and all of Canada.’’

In the announcement, Francis is described as a leader and respected member of the Mi’kmaq community who has experience with all levels of government and has helped advance social and economic development for his community through important infrastructure development work.

Francis was recommended by the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments and chosen using the process open to all Canadians.

Francis, who just turned 61, says he is looking forward to making an impactful contribution during his eligible 14-year run as senator until reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75.

“I’m going in with an open slate and a clear mind and will do my utmost to contribute in any way I can,’’ he said.

Francis will be joined in the senate by fellow P.E.I. senators Percy Downe, Diane Griffin, and Mike Duffy. 

Francis noted he will step down as chief of the Abegweit First Nation in the knowledge he has helped improve the state of affairs on a financial, cultural and social level for his Mi’kmaq community.

“What really stands out for me is really bringing the community together and moving it forward in a positive way,’’ he said.

“It’s kind of bittersweet because I really enjoy the role of chief…I will miss that.’’

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