Pam Williamson appointed to National Seniors Council

Dr. Pamela Williamson

GATINEAU – The list of new federal appointees to the National Seniors Council (NSC) contains a name familiar to Manitoulin Islanders. Dr. Pamela Williamson, former executive director of Noojmowin Teg Health Services, has been named to the council charged with providing “advice on seniors’ issues to inform its work so that Canadians can age with dignity and in the best possible health, while enjoying social and economic security.”

The NSC provides advice to three ministries and Minister of Seniors Deb Schulte and the Minister of Health Patty Hajdu joined forces to announce the appointment of the three new members to the NSC.

“I am pleased to welcome the NSC’s newest members,” said Minister Schulte in a press release. “Their vast knowledge and experience of seniors’ issues will be a valuable asset in the continued work of the council to support seniors across Canada.”

“I value the advice provided by the NSC on the best way to serve seniors and support our aging population,” said Minister Hajdu. “As the proportion of seniors grows in Canada it is important that their views be reflected in the policies and programs to help them live well as they age.” 

Dr. Williamson is referenced in the announcement from the ministers as a First Nations researcher and published author who is currently serving as a member of the Health Sciences North Research Institute Board of Directors. For Islanders, she is best-known for the decade-and-a-half she helmed Noojmowin Teg Health Centre, growing the institution to serve nine Indigenous communities as well as off-reserve Indigenous individuals and families. Dr. Williamson also currently serves on numerous boards and committees.

When contacted following the announcement of her appointment, Dr. Williamson told the Expositor how she was looking forward to being in a position to provide input on issues that impact the lives of seniors.

“This is something I really care about,” said Dr. Williamson, noting that many seniors face financial insecurity and serious challenges such as elder abuse. “I want to be able to make a difference.”

Dr. Williamson is no stranger to making that difference, as Noojmowin Teg put in place many services and programs aimed at assisting elders, notably the Aging at Home transportation program among other geriatric services during her tenure.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to be a champion for seniors,” said Dr. Williamson. “I hope to be a helpful voice in providing advice to the government.” She cites being on the doorstep of being a senior herself as well as her experiences as an Anishinaabe-kwe as assets to that end.

According to the release, “NSC engages with seniors, stakeholders and experts to provide advice to the Government of Canada on matters related to the health, well-being and quality of life of seniors.”

Dr. Williamson has been appointed for a three-year term. The two other appointments announced were for two-year terms. They include Zena Simces, an accomplished senior consultant and change agent with over 30 years of experience in the health, social services, education, justice and employment sectors; and Dr. Samir K. Sinha, a highly regarded expert in the care of older adults who currently serves as the Peter and Shelagh Godsoe chair in geriatrics and director of geriatrics of Sinai Health System and the University Health Network in Toronto, director of health policy research at Ryerson University’s

National Institute on Aging and was recently named the chairperson for Health Standards Organization’s National Long-Term Care Services Standard Technical Committee.

Since 2007, the NSC has examined issues related to the social isolation of seniors, the participation of older workers in the labour force, positive and active aging, volunteerism, low income among seniors and elder and financial abuse. Most recently, NSC members have examined issues emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and provided ministers with advice on these matters.