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Sudbury Senator Josée Forest-Niesing has passed away

Well-known Sudbury woman had spent the past month in hospital battling COVID-19

UPDATED:  This report has been updated as of 4:20 p.m.

Sudbury senator Josée Forest-Niesing has died.

Forest-Niesing, 56, had been admitted to Sudbury's Health Sciences North hospital in October to be treated for COVID-19. She was released from hospital on Nov. 14 to recover at home.

A statement from her staff last week advised that Forest-Niesing had been fully vaccinated, but had an autoimmune condition that affected her lungs for more than 15 years. 

Her passing has prompted a statement of condolence from Nickel Belt MP Marc Serré who had known Forest-Niesing and her family for many years.

"My family and I are heartbroken to hear of the tragic passing of my colleague and friend the Honourable Senator Josee Forest-Niesing.  I wish to offer my most sincere condolences to her husband Robert, her children and her entire family,"  Serré said in an statement Saturday morning. 

"I have had the pleasure of knowing Senator Forest-Niesing personally and professionally. Coming from the same neighbourhood in the 90s I saw firsthand her drive and dedication to her family and her community as we advocated together to save a local school that  our children attended. Her ambition to help others was embedded in her DNA. She shared her father Norm Forest's Passion for their Francophone heritage and its preservation," he added.

Serré described her as "a tireless advocate along with her husband Robert to help the most vulnerable. Not one to sit on the sidelines she wore many hats -- judge, community pioneer, Senator, wife and mother."

Niesing's biography from the Canada Senate webpage revealed she was a lawyer by profession. The bio said she began her career in family law and continued to specialize in estate law, real property law, insurance law, civil law, education law and employment law.

Forest-Niesing led numerous cases through trial in Sudbury and surrounding jurisdictions, as well as in Toronto. In addition, she had been a Superior Court of Justice Small Claims Court judge and a member of several professional associations and committees.

City of Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger also issued a message of condolence Saturday. Bigger said he was is saddened by the news.

“She was an ideal person to represent Sudbury in the Senate. Her long volunteer history in the cultural community - and especially as a Franco Ontarian voice - was a great contribution. She served on the boards of the Art Gallery of Sudbury, the Carrefour Francophone de Sudbury, the University of Sudbury and the Ontario Arts Council. I last saw her prior to the Pandemic. We met shortly after she was appointed to the Senate in 2018. She will be missed," said Bigger.

Sudbury MP Viviane Lapointe also expressed sorrow and said Forest-Niesing was a mentor, an advocate and community leader.  

"I extend my sincerest condolences to her husband Robert, children Véronique and Philippe and her entire family," said Lapointe.  

"She has left us too soon. But in that time, she made a real and lasting impact on those who knew her and the wider community. There is no greater testament to a life well lived than to work diligently and earnestly for the betterment of the community." Lapointe continued. 

"And Senator Forest-Niesing, lived this life from the very beginning. As a student she joined the Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario (AJEFO), became a member of its board of directors and eventually went on to serve two terms as President. She was member of the board of directors of the Fédération des associations de juristes d’expression française de common, the founding chair of the Centre canadien de français juridique as well as chair of the Ontario Bar Association’s Official Languages Committee. Ms. Forest-Niesing was proud to be Franco-Ontarian. 

Lapointe said Forest-Niesing expressed this affection in many ways as a tireless advocate for access to justice in both official languages throughout her career. She had a passion for our community and actively contributed as a member or chair of numerous boards of directors, including the Art Gallery of Sudbury, the Carrefour francophone de Sudbury, Université de Sudbury, and the Ontario Arts Council. I know that her impact on the community will be a living legacy for her tireless work, dedication and integrity.

Details with respect to the funeral and memorial service are expected to be released in the coming week.