Anne Cools

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The Honourable
Anne C. Cools
Senator from Ontario
(Toronto Centre-York)
In office
January 13, 1984 – August 12, 2018
Nominated by Pierre Trudeau
Appointed by Edward Schreyer
Personal details
Born (1943-08-12) August 12, 1943 (age 75)
Barbados, British West Indies
Political party Independent Senators Group (2016-present)
Other political
Liberal (1984–2004)
Conservative (2004–2007)
Non-affiliated (2007–2016)

Anne Clare Cools (born August 12, 1943) is a former member of the Senate of Canada. Born in Barbados, she was the first Black Canadian to be appointed to Canada's upper house. Having been appointed in 1984, she was, from the retirement of Lowell Murray on September 26, 2011, until her own retirement on August 12, 2018, the longest-serving member of the Senate. She is the first female black Senator in North America.[1] With the retirement of Charlie Watt, Cools was the last Senator appointed by Pierre Trudeau remaining in the Senate.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Cools' family immigrated to Canada in 1957 from the Caribbean island country of Barbados when Cools was 14 years old, and settled in Montreal. Cools attended Queen's College Girls School in Barbados and Thomas D'Arcy McGee High School in Montreal. She has a B.A. in Social Sciences, Sociology and Psychology from McGill University.[3]


Student activism[edit]

Attending McGill University to study social work in the 1960s, she became involved in radical campus politics. In 1969, she was a participant in a 10-day sit-in at Sir George Williams University (later Concordia University), protesting alleged racism at the school. The action ended with $2 million worth of damage to computer equipment. Although not accused of damaging property herself, Cools was sentenced to four months imprisonment for participating in the sit-in.

In 1974, Cools moved to Toronto where she founded one of the first shelters for abused women in Canada, Women in Transition Inc., and served as its executive director.

Canadian House of Commons[edit]

She twice sought election to the House of Commons of Canada as a candidate of the Liberal Party of Canada. She lost the Liberal nomination in a highly contested race against John Evans for the 1978 by-election in Rosedale. She ran again in 1979, and won the nomination but was defeated in both the 1979 and 1980 elections by Progressive Conservative candidate David Crombie. On her second attempt, she lost by fewer than 2,000 votes.

Canadian Senate[edit]

In 1984, she was summoned to the Senate of Canada by then Governor General Edward Schreyer, on the recommendation of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

In the 1990s, Cools served on the Senate/House of Commons of Canada Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access, which in December 1998 issued its report, For the Sake of the Children. A principal recommendation of this report was that, following a relationship breakdown, shared parenting should be presumed to be in the best interests of the child.[4] Her extensive work on the Committee, and its wide investigations, saw her become increasingly outspoken on the issues of fathers' rights, divorce and family values. She was candid in her criticism of the Liberal government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien when proposed legislation to be introduced in the House of Commons was shelved after intense lobbying by women's groups.


Crossing the floor[edit]

Cools also became increasingly critical of the Liberal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, and of same-sex marriage. On June 9, 2004, she announced that she was crossing the floor to join the Conservative Party of Canada.

Cools was vocal in criticizing Martin after the passing of a motion of non-confidence against his government in 2005. She openly called for Martin to resign rather than dissolving Parliament, stating that the motion of non-confidence was expressing no-confidence in the Prime Minister, and not directly in the government. Rather than calling for a general election, Cools stated that Martin should have resigned.


On June 25, 2007, she was removed from Conservative caucus for speaking out against Prime Minister Stephen Harper and for voting against the 2007 budget. She sat as a non-affiiated Senator until March 10, 2017 when she joined the Independent Senators Group.

She had designated herself as representing the Senate division of Toronto-Centre-York.


Assault controversy[edit]

In 2005, Cools claimed to have been assaulted by fellow senators and to have witnessed a senator hitting a child. Canadian senators expressed shock after the claims were picked up by the media.[5]

Views on domestic violence[edit]

In January 2016, in an audio interview conducted by Desmond Cole of Jesse Brown's Canadaland podcast, Cools supported and cited the work of Erin Pizzey, who believes that women are equally violent as men in domestic violence conflicts.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Sexton, Kevin (January 4, 2016). "Episode #: 34 A senator on mischief, mutiny and men's rights". Canadaland. Retrieved January 5, 2016. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Senator Anne C. Cools Toronto - Ontario: Biography". Senator Cools. Retrieved January 5, 2016. 
  4. ^ Pearson, The Honourable Landon; Gallaway, M.P., Roger (December 1998). "For the Sake of the Children: Report of the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access". Parliament of Canada. Retrieved January 5, 2016. 
  5. ^ Canadian Press (June 7, 2005). "Senator's Assault Claim Prompts Calls for Action". The London Free Press. Retrieved February 24, 2007. 

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