Honourable Janis Gundrun Johnson, C.M.
Janis Johnson has had, and continues to have, a prominent career spanning the corporate sector and the public service, including 26 years of distinguished service in the Senate. She is recognized as a leader in championing women’s rights and as a visionary entrepreneur in the arts and cultural sectors with a long record of volunteerism leadership.
A proud Icelandic-Canadian from Gimli, she is the eldest daughter of Doris Blondal Johnson and Dr. George Johnson, the province’s 20th lieutenant-governor.
Johnson first pursued political science at the University of Manitoba and was a leader in the student union. After completing her bachelor of arts degree, she moved to Ottawa, where she was a youth policy advisor to the Robert Stanfield, then leader of the Progressive Conservative (PC) Party of Canada. She went on to become policy advisor to the party president.
From 1971-1979, Johnson worked closely with Frank Moores, helping to organize his campaign for premier of Newfoundland, that led to the defeat of Joey Smallwood in 1971. In 1973, they married and had a son, Stefan Moores, in 1975.
Returning to Manitoba in 1979, Johnson became an advisor to Premier Sterling Lyon and created the first women’s Progressive Conservative caucus in Winnipeg. She also worked with the University of Manitoba’s continuing education division.
In 1983, she served as Manitoba co-chair of Brian Mulroney’s successful campaign for national PC leadership and became the party’s first female national director.
In 1985, Johnson founded a public policy and communications consulting company that worked in the areas of women’s health and equality, Indigenous affairs and cultural policy. This was the same year she joined the CN boar, convincing it to establish a head office daycare, a first in corporate Canada.
She was appointed to the Senate in 1990, and upon retiring in 2016 was the longest-serving Conservative member. Among her achievements, she served as chair or vice-chair of the committees on human rights, Aboriginal Peoples, transport and communications, and fisheries and oceans.
Voluntarism has been a fundamental part of Johnson’s life. Active in the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba, she is the founder (2001) and chair of the Gimli Film Festival, which has won numerous awards, including from Tourism Manitoba. She was a founding member of the Manitoba Special Olympics board and sat on the Canadian Special Olympics board for 10 years.
Johnson is one of the few Canadians to be awarded Iceland’s prestigious Order of the Falcon.
She is the loving ‘amma’ of three grandsons.
Her record of service has been recognized by many and acknowledged by several awards including a doctor of laws, honoris causa, the U. of M.; the Canada 150 Medal for Community Service; the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal; the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal; the Canada 125 Medal; and, the Queens’s Silver Jubilee Medal.