The independent advisory board tasked with recommending the next Northwest Territories senator has begun its work.

Fort Simpson’s Nick Sibbeston, the NWT’s senator since 1999, gave up his seat in November on his 74th birthday.

The vacant position is filled not by an election but by appointment – a decision ultimately taken by the Prime Minister but heavily influenced by a report from the federal Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments.

The process by which the advisory board arrives at its recommendations is relatively new, having been introduced in 2016. The evidence so far – based on two cycles of senate appointments elsewhere in Canada – suggests the board could take around half a year to produce recommendations for Justin Trudeau to consider.

Last year, tasked with filling senate vacancies in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario, the advisory panel received 1,358 applicants in total.

New Brunswick, which has a population of around 750,000, saw interest from 135 applicants for its vacant senate position. This suggests the Northwest Territories, with a population of 40,000, could expect to generate around seven candidates.

Gail Cyr is one NWT resident to have applied and one of very few to have made their application public.

Cyr was a Yellowknife city councillor for 10 years, spent more than a decade as executive director of the NWT Native Court Workers Association, and has served as a special advisor to the NWT’s minister responsible for women.

On Thursday, Cyr said she had received a call from the advisory panel to check in on some missing documentation, indicating the process of vetting candidates for the position has begun.

Contacted by Cabin Radio, the federal government declined to identify the candidates under consideration.

“Names of candidates are not released,” said Stéphane Shank, the Privy Council Office’s manager of media relations, last month.

“The number of applications received, as well as other aggregate data, are only released at the end of the cycle in the [board’s] report to the Prime Minister.”

This means the next time NWT residents hear anything about their senate position may well be when a successful candidate is revealed, later this year.