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Finestone, Sheila

FINESTONE, SHEILA

FINESTONE, SHEILA (1927– ), Canadian politician and Jewish community worker. Finestone was born in Montreal, Quebec, daughter to Minnie and Monroe Abbey, a lawyer and former president of the Canadian Jewish Congress. Finestone earned a bachelor of science degree from McGill University, but it was human need not the study of science that was her passion. She began a long career in public service by volunteering in the Montreal Jewish community. By the mid-1970s she was actively engaged by issues in the larger public forum. Among her many community positions, Firestone was a founding member of the Alliance Quebec and from 1977 to 1980 she served as first Anglophone president of the 130,000-member Fédération des Femmes du Quebec. Deeply concerned with issues of community development and women's and minority rights, she was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Allied Jewish Community Services of Montreal and was outspoken on a wide range of social fronts.

She first entered the political arena in 1979 when she joined the Yvette Movement, the women's movement dedicated to keeping Quebec in Canada. She was the only woman to serve on the "No" Committee during the Quebec sovereignty referendum of 1980. In 1984 Firestone was elected to the federal Parliament for the Liberal Party in Montreal's heavily Jewish riding of Mount Royal, Pierre Trudeau's former seat. She was re-elected in each of the next three federal elections. In 1993 Firestone was appointed to the federal Cabinet as secretary of state for multiculturalism and the status of women. In this capacity she led the Canadian delegation to the 1995 United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing. Leaving electoral politics, she was appointed to the Canadian Senate in 1999 where, along with her support for Israel, she took a special interest in the campaign to eliminate the use of landmines. Sheila Finestone retired for the Senate when she turned 75, the Senate's mandatory retirement age.

[Richard Menkis (2nd ed.)]

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