The Honourable Sharon Carstairs, P.C. was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia to Vivian and Harold Connolly. She attended Dalhousie University where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History. She went on to achieve a Masters of Arts in The Teaching of History at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts in 1963. She has taught in Massachusetts, Alberta and Manitoba in public, private and Catholic school systems.

In 1984 she moved to public life and became Leader of the Liberal Party of Manitoba. She was elected to the Legislative Assembly in Manitoba in 1986. In 1988, she led the Liberal Party in Manitoba to a monumental election gain and became the first woman to lead the Official Opposition in a Canadian Legislative Assembly. She remained a provincial Member of the Legislative Assembly until her appointment to the Senate in 1994. From 1997 to 1999 Sharon Carstairs served as the first woman to be Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. She served as Federal Cabinet Minister from 2001 to 2003 as Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister with Special Responsibility for Palliative Care.

Sharon Carstairs has also been an advocate for women and children and a defender of human rights. She has served as a founder and President of the Prairieaction Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the elimination of family violence and violence against women. She was a member of the Human Rights Committee of the IPU from 2004 to 2011 and chaired this committee from 2007 to 2009.

Sharon Carstairs has served as a member and as Chair of various Senate Committees, including two Committees which examined the issues of hospice palliative care and she served as Chair of the Special Senate Committee on Aging.

She has released two special reports on palliative in Canada, one in 2005 and the most recent one in June 2010 on the state of palliative care in Canada, titled Raising the Bar.

Sharon Carstairs is the author of Not One of the Boys, an autobiography. She is a contributing author to Dropped Threads, a book of Canadian women’s stories and to I feel great about my hands. She is also the co-author with Tim Higgins of Dancing Backwards: A Social History of Canadian Women in Politics.

She is married to John Esdale Carstairs, a retired corporate lawyer. They have two daughters, Catherine and Jennifer. They live in Ottawa.