The case of Senator Fairbairn

The Citizen and Star detail the circumstances of Senator Joyce Fairbairn’s dementia diagnosis.

Liberal Senator Joyce Fairbairn, 72, has been receiving round-the-clock care for a year and a half due to her declining health from dementia and will not return to Ottawa for the time being, according to a letter her niece, Patricia McCullagh, sent to Senate officials earlier this month. The letter, dated Aug. 13, says that a geriatric psychiatrist signed a declaration of incompetence for Fairbairn sometime in February and that in April, McCullagh and Leonard Kuchar, chief of staff to Liberal Senate Leader James Cowan, co-signed a power of care that made them agents acting on her behalf.

Senate attendance records show that Fairbairn regularly attended sittings in the Upper Chamber after being declared incompetent, missing seven sitting days between February and the end of session in June. She was away on public business for five of those days, leaving only two absences unexplained. She voted along Liberal lines a dozen times during that same time period, including seven times in June on the Copyright Act, the omnibus budget implementation bill and changes to the immigration and refugee system.

When I asked for comment last night, a Liberal spokesman said he could only say Senator Fairbairn—as reported last week—will be on sick leave when the Senate returns in the fall and he could not comment on the nature of her health concerns.

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