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Pam Williamson named chair of National Seniors’ Council

OTTAWA—An Island woman has been appointed to chair the National Seniors Council (NSC) after serving on the council for three years. Dr. Pam Williamson may be more familiar to 㽶Ƶ communities as the former executive director of Noojmowin Teg Health Services, but she has spent much of the time since her retirement giving back to the community—the NSC stint being just one of those activities.

“Canadians deserve to age with dignity,” notes a government announcement of Dr. Williamson’s appointment. “That comes down to choice, to affordability, to inclusion and to community. The Government of Canada seeks the advice of experts and seniors themselves on issues concerning them to inform the government’s work, to make sure every senior in Canada can live in health and safety.”
“It is an honour,” said Dr. Williamson in conversation with The Expositor. “I was a little taken aback when they approached me to find out if I was interested,” she admitted. “There are so many amazing colleagues on the council. I said yes.”

“Dr. Williamson’s perspectives have been invaluable to the NSC’s work over the past three years,” said Minister for Seniors the Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr. in announcing her appointment. “Her leadership as chair will only strengthen that work.”

“Congratulations to Dr. Pamela Williamson on her renewed tenure as a member of the NSC and her appointment as Chairperson,” said Minister of Health the Honourable Mark Holland. “I look forward to continuing to benefit from Dr. Williamson’s expertise and leadership on how we can further support Canadians who wish to age at home and in their communities.”

Originally appointed to the NSC in 2021, Dr. Williamson is an accomplished First Nations researcher and author with extensive, first-hand experience in community primary healthcare and championing initiatives that support the health and well-being of Indigenous elders, notes the announcement.

Dr. Williamson explained that, over the past three years, the NSC has been creating a list of priorities. “We became an ‘expert’ panel in 2022,” she said. That identification as an expert panel has given greater impetus and gravitas to the NSC’s recommended priorities.

Much of that work centres around the importance of being able to “age in place.” “I think we all want our independence,” noted Dr. Williamson. Being able to access public buildings and having services that help to support that independence longer brings a greater quality of life to an aging population. A lot of the work involves “changing the mindset” of people delivering services.

In October 2022, it was announced that the NSC would serve as an expert panel to examine measures, including a potential aging at home benefit, to further support Canadians who wish to age in the comfort of their own homes.

The expert panel delivered a report to the government ‘Final report of the Expert Panel: Supporting Canadians aging at home: Ensuring quality of life as we age’ that outlines something they call the 4As—a result of the NSC’s identification and analyzation of barriers to aging at home. Those are: availability, accessibility, affordability and accountability and their collective impact. 

“These pillars are key to ensuring people can benefit from the services to age at home,” notes the report—a perspective reinforced by Dr. Williamson.

The four perspectives are linked and can have a stronger collective impact when addressed in parallel or together, she notes. “Also, a comprehensive approach would involve various service sectors and disciplines, foster collaboration across levels of government, and bring together diverse partners. Such an approach would more likely achieve system-level change and maximize impact.”

The complete report can be found at Canada.ca.
NSC members are appointed, based on their expertise and experience related to seniors’ issues, by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Minister of Seniors and the Minister of Health. The government is committed to open, transparent, and merit-based processes for selecting appointees. Appointees play a fundamental role in Canadian democracy as they serve on commissions, boards, Crown corporations, agencies, and tribunals across the country.

Dr. Williamson said that she is looking forward to working with her colleagues on the NSC to better inform the federal government on how best to serve the nation’s diverse senior populations.

Article written by

Michael Erskine
Michael Erskine
Michael Erskine BA (Hons) is a staff writer at The 㽶Ƶ Expositor. He received his honours BA from Laurentian University in 1987. His former lives include underground miner, oil rig roughneck, early childhood educator, elementary school teacher, college professor and community legal worker. Michael has written several college course manuals and has won numerous Ontario Community Newspaper Awards in the rural, business and finance and editorial categories.