Sen. Josée Forest-Niesing, 56, has died, after being discharged from hospital this week following treatment for COVID-19.
Forest-Niesing, of Sudbury, Ont., was released from hospital on Nov. 14, after being admitted in October. Her office said Tuesday she had struggled for 15 years with an autoimmune disease affecting her lungs.
The Ontario senator was fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but her office said her condition made her more vulnerable to the virus.
George Furey, the Speaker of the Senate, confirmed the news in an email to senators and staff on Saturday.
“Senator Forest-Niesing contributed to her community as a member and chair of numerous boards of directors, and she will be remembered as an ardent and passionate defender of access to justice in both official languages,” Furey said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lauded Forest-Niesing as “a dedicated public servant and a champion for minority language communities,” while Gov. Gen. Mary Simon said the late senator was “a dear friend to many, and a loyal and cherished colleague.”
Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré said the news was “heartbreaking,” and that Forest-Niesing had always been “there to help people out.”
“She is a very caring person, and always had a smile. She’s been involved in community organizations all over northern Ontario,” he said in an interview with CBC News on Saturday. Serré praised her attention and dedication to the concerns and rights of French-speaking Canadians.
Serré urged community members to get vaccinated against COVID-19. According to data from Sudbury’s public health unit, just under 83 per cent of residents 12 and older were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday.