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Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard appointed to the Canadian Senate

Dal President Richard Florizone reflects on a trailblazer’s impact

I consider myself lucky to count Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard as a colleague and friend. And while she will be sorely missed on campus, I have no doubt that Wanda will be as passionate and dedicated a voice in our country’s upper house as she has been at Dal – and can affect real change in Canada, just as she has on our campus. But perhaps her impact is best described by a student who wrote to Dr. Bernard following her appointment.

“As a Black young female and Dal grad student I’m writing to congratulate you on your appointment as a Senator! Even though I have not met you personally, I feel so proud and inspired by your accomplishments. In this achievement, you’ve shown us that whatever goals we set in our personal or professional lives are attainable, in spite of the numerous barriers we may face. I just started my masters and plan on going on to do a PhD, and I cannot count, neither do I want to focus on, the number of times I’ve faced racism, albeit covert, however there is no denying the sting and pain of it. Sometimes I wonder if this was a good idea. And then yesterday to read the news of your appointment, happening right here in our communities, brings me so much joy, strength, encouragement, determination to just keep pressing on! With much sincerity I am cheering you on this new path!”

A Dal alumna, Dr. Bernard (MSW’77) joined the Dalhousie School of Social Work in 1990, serving as its Director from 2001-2011, and teaching in the areas of anti-oppression, cultural diversity and research. Since February, 2016, Dr. Bernard has been special advisor on diversity and inclusion, and co-lead of the university’s Strategic Initiative on Diversity and Inclusiveness. She was appointed to the Canadian Senate in November, 2016.