Mamadosewin (meeting place, walking together)

Tributes to the Late Honourable Wilbert J. Keon, O.C.

Tributes to the Late Honourable Wilbert J. Keon, O.C.

Tributes to the Late Honourable Wilbert J. Keon, O.C.

Hon. Joseph A. Day (Leader of the Senate Liberals): 

Honourable colleagues, I join Senator Smith in remembering a wonderful former colleague, Dr. Wilbert, Willie, Keon who died at the age of 83.

He spent nearly 20 years in this chamber where his commitment, dedication and hard work in the service of Canadians were on constant display. People and their health and well-being were always his focus. He was a driving force, together with other members of the Social Affairs Committee, in the creation of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. And close to his heart, he chaired the subcommittee on population health and its in-depth examination of the disparities facing different sectors of our population.

To say that his career before he came to the Senate was successful would be a gross understatement. Dr. Keon was the founder of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and where he, in 1984 along with his surgical team performed their first heart transplant.

He continued this trailblazing and two years later Dr. Keon performed Canada’s first artificial heart transplant. He also pioneered what he would describe to us as one of his greatest achievements, a life-saving technique, that of putting a patient on a heart-lung machine to restore blood flow in an acute heart attack, which has become standard practice.


Among many accolades, he was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame and made an Officer of the Order of Canada and a member of the Order of Ontario.

It must be noted that Dr. Keon continued to practise, albeit informally, even here in the Senate after he was appointed a senator. As many senators and staff can attest, he was quick when needed to provide sound medical advice. He often put his physician skills to good use. I know there are many examples here in the Senate where his interventions made a concrete impact on the good health of his colleagues and others.

Honourable senators, Dr. Keon never faltered in his mission to improve the health and well-being of others. He was a good, kind and caring man, and his contributions in cardiology and here in the Senate will long be remembered.

On behalf of the Independent Senate Liberals, I would like to offer my deepest condolences to his wife Anne, his children Claudia, Neil and Ryan and to their families, his loved ones and friends.