Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals):
Honourable senators, I am saddened today to rise in tribute to a good friend, the Honourable Senator Erminie Cohen, who passed away in February at the age of 92 years. I regret that we were never colleagues here in this chamber, representing our home province of New Brunswick together. But as things sometimes happen, I arrived here after her retirement, filling the seat that she vacated when she retired from the Senate.
Her professional life before her Senate career was, as you’ve heard from Senator Smith, a litany of achievements. She, along with her late husband, Ed, operated a women’s clothing store in Saint John for more than 50 years.
In social advocacy, she was tenacious. She sat on the first New Brunswick Advisory Council on the Status of Women, as well as on the Canadian advisory council. She founded the Saint John Women of Action and a shelter to assist victims of domestic violence.
In 1993 she was called to this place. She was intensely proud to be here. In her maiden speech in the Senate, just one week after she had been appointed to the Senate, she said, “I wish to tell you that I consider my appointment to the Senate a true honour. I treat it with great pride. I make a commitment to work hard for the Senate and to work with each and every one of you.”
And she did. While she considered herself a Red Tory, she found friends and allies on all sides of this chamber. She served on a great number of committees, including the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access. She worked extensively to fight against poverty and family violence. She sponsored legislation that would have prohibited discrimination based on a person’s social condition. She brought a human face to all her work in committees and here in the Senate.
When she retired, the Honourable John Lynch-Staunton, who was leader of the Conservatives in the Senate at that time, called Erminie Cohen “the conscience of the Senate.” Erminie remained true to her own conscience throughout her life, serving others and ensuring that the voices of the least fortunate were heard.
On behalf of the Independent Senate Liberals, I would like to offer our deepest condolences to Erminie Cohen’s beloved children, Cathy, Lee, a lawyer in Halifax, and Shelley, to their families, and all her loved ones and friends. She was quite simply a remarkable lady and we are all poorer for her passing.