Hon. Percy E. Downe:
Thank you, colleagues, and Senator Day, Leader of the Senate Liberals, for offering me this opportunity to speak and welcome Senator Deacon. I have known Senator Deacon and his family personally for a long time.
Senator Deacon, although the good lines have been taken, and I won’t repeat them, I fully endorse what has been said. Your business experience and your entrepreneurship has always come with a human side of helping the less fortunate. As Senator Woo indicated earlier, SpellRead was helping those who had difficulty reading, and advancing children, adults and seniors, whatever their age. All the initiatives you were involved in had the principle of helping the community that you live in and the country.
This is not only true for Senator Deacon, but it is also true for his spouse, Jennifer, who is here today, and I know it would also be true for their children.
Senator Deacon comes by this quite honestly, of course, because his parents, who retired to Prince Edward Island a number of years ago, and at an age when most people put their feet up, got actively involved in all aspects of the Prince Edward Island community. They instilled in all their children the importance of public service and contribution, and I know how pleased all the siblings are on your appointment today.
You have big shoes to fill, given the role your parents played, but I know you’re more than competent to do that.
In fact, it was Senator Deacon’s father, Donald Deacon, when he heard the trains were pulling out of P.E.I. — and we just chatted about that a few weeks ago, about no rail service in P.E.I. — saw an opportunity. He went to the PEI Rails to Trails and said, “Let’s turn these abandoned rail tracks into walking and biking trails.”
I will tell you, colleagues, that was not very popular at the time because every farmer wanted the 10 feet of their land back. No one wanted people walking across their land. I still remember the former Premier Joseph Ghiz saying, “Donald Deacon is right: If we lose that land, we’ll never be able to assemble it again.” Today, we have this tremendous trail system in P.E.I., The Canadian Trail that we all enjoy across the country.
Florence and Donald Deacon were part of that generation that instilled in their children the importance of service because they served in the Second World War. Florence was overseas in the London area; Donald was on the front lines, where he won the Military Cross.
In fact, there is a well-known story. Shelagh Rogers at CBC interviewed Donald Deacon years ago. He talked about the war ending and wrapping up, and he and a friend were talking by the side of the road as they were waiting for the battle up ahead to clear out so they could go in the other direction to another battle. They talked about what life they would like to have in the future. The two men agreed all they could do was go home to Canada, raise a family of caring individuals, contribute to the lives of others in their communities, and encourage everyone they met to travel the world so that they could experience and gain respect for other cultures and people.
Their conversation ended and his colleague went up the road. His car blew up and he was killed. Two days later the war ended. Donald returned to Canada, married Florence and had six children. Today his son is able to participate in democracy, to vote, to disagree and all the other things we take for granted in the freedom of this country because his parents fought for it. He gets to enjoy it, as we all do in the Senate and as all Canadians do.
Welcome to the Senate of Canada, Senator Deacon.