Mamidosewin (meeting place, walking together)

Farewell remarks by Senator Serge Joyal, P.C.

Farewell remarks by Senator Serge Joyal, P.C.

Hon. Serge Joyal: 

Honourable senators, after 23 years of faithfully attending sittings in the Senate, 10 years in the House of Commons and nearly 20 years as the policy chair of the Quebec branch of the Liberal Party of Canada, I rise for the last time in this chamber to share my thoughts as I prepare for my statutory retirement and to consider with you the dynamic force that, even after 50 years, keeps me just as engaged in public life.

[English]

The political train that I have travelled on for over 50 years is finally arriving at the station — literally, since we sit today in the concourse of the national capital’s old Union Station.

For me, it’s the end of an exceptional trip but not the end of my commitment to this country. Allow me to share with you some personal thoughts that this long journey of public service brings to my mind.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, there is no cause more noble and patriotic than defending the very existence of one’s own country and to directly contribute to building it for the good of all its people. Generations of Canadians have done this before us, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives, and we must never forget that.

I had the privilege of serving during an extraordinary period in Canada’s history, at a time when two referendums were held in less than fifteen years, one in 1980 and one in 1995, in order to decide the very fate of our country. I participated directly, with profound conviction, in both of those campaigns as a representative of the Liberal Party of Canada on the No committee, while the Honourable Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin represented the Progressive Conservative Party.

I was able to intervene immediately after the October 1980 referendum, when I had the opportunity to co-chair the special committee charged with laying the foundation of a new Canada by repatriating its full constitutional power from London in 1982, thereby ensuring that Canada would be the master of its own destiny as an entirely sovereign country, and by guaranteeing, in a charter, the rights and freedoms of its citizens in accordance with an ideal of equality based on the inherent dignity of all human beings.

That humanist world view crystallized from the ideal of the free man that I have always embraced and that has been the reason for my involvement in public life from day one. I have advocated for that world view every day in the Senate and at every opportunity, and I have regularly taken it upon myself to attempt to transform the conditions of our shared existence and build a society that is more respectful of each individual’s life choices, one that creates opportunities for everyone to grow freely in their own way.

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My response to the threat of Quebec separation in 1980 was a passionate defence of Canada’s very existence, which I felt was my duty because I believed that this country, Canada, could become a society where anything is possible, a society open to all who accept the challenge of being open to others regardless of their language, religion, race, origin, disability, social status, sex, sexual orientation, gender or economic status.

I was well aware that francophones were a minority in Canada and that many others before me, in Acadia and elsewhere, had no choice but to fight, sometimes doggedly, for their identity and their language. I knew that the demographic and cultural dominance of English in North America meant that French would always be under pressure. However, I also believed that effective legislation could restore a balance and create more space for the French language. I believed that a majority of citizens speaking other languages across the country, people who would also choose to embrace the humanist benefits of multiculturalism, could help strike that balance. That is the country I fought for in 1980 and again in 1995, the country I have always tried to champion in the Senate.

Not that Quebec’s independence isn’t a worthy option in itself. Withdrawing into one’s own boundaries is perhaps on its face a more reassuring approach to one’s identity, but personally, I chose broader values to make room for freedom and respect for my language that appeals to the better side of humanity: openness to others, the recognition that difference is a more powerful force of compassion that banks on an idea of freedom that makes way to opening and appreciating different cultural identities.

I made that choice conscientiously, freely, because it was more rooted in my personal values. This was the most rewarding challenge of my life, but it couldn’t be separated from the existence and defence of strong institutional protections that would guarantee that this ideal would be held up and not undermined by circumstances, difficulties or even crises. On the contrary, such guarantees can make this ideal resilient to eroding and dissolving over time and give it strength from the conviction that this is the preferred route to creating a future society that is more open, more tolerant, more united, a society that to those who are prey to division, partisanship, poverty and violence, could be a haven of hope, an ideal of peace, where all differences can find respect and appreciate and value each other.

Serving in this legislative chamber, the Senate, is a privilege that is unlike any other in public life, in the polis — not that which maintains order, but rather the city state, as Plato and the ancient Greeks referred to it. As senators, both individually and as part of a group or political party, we possess tremendous power. Our consent is needed for the valid passage of every piece of legislation in this country. First and foremost, we must review the legislation introduced by the government, but we might also debate all the issues that are plaguing our constituents, just as we might be called upon to explore every aspect of potential opportunities intended to expand or improve our shared liberties.

In other words, the Senate is not a chamber whose sole purpose is to resist the government’s bills. First and foremost, it is a place that presents opportunities to create better conditions to further develop the values that define us, to protect and expand the rights of minorities and especially marginalized populations — people who are struggling with the prison system or with mental health problems — and of course, to give a voice to the regions.

That is the fundamental advantage of our chamber, which is not established through an electoral process for a shorter term that would make it more susceptible to pressure from voters, who, today, are bombarded, assaulted by the horde of social media that relay both the best and the worst. Rather, it is a chamber that provides an opportunity for reflection, that can give pause for a critical assessment, that by its independence can be more objective, and that can with time provide a perspective that tempers conduct.

It is this role of the Senate in particular that I believed needed to be understood when I entered this chamber, and to be shared in 2001 when I published a book on the Senate entitled Protecting Canadian Democracy: The Senate You Never Knew, which Senator Mercer referred to. Why? To provide a perspective other than that repeated like a soliloquy by the vocal critics to that point, namely that the Senate was powerless, deaf to citizens’ concerns, and detached from the reality of Canadian society.

Honourable senators, I have always seen the true purpose of the Senate, at its core, to be connected to the federal principle that defines our form of government, in that the identity and autonomy of the regions, and particularly those of Quebec, are clearly guaranteed. The status of our two languages is guaranteed, as are minorities’ rights to respect and protection of their identity. This is what distinguishes us from a unitary country: institutions that guarantee each citizen greater freedom and true autonomy of choice.

If we are not American, it is not by default or by spite, but because we prefer a human experience rooted in a concept of freedom that differs from that of our neighbours. We, for example, value linguistic duality, diverse identities and a more generous vision of social solidarity.

I have always defended the Senate of Canada as an institution, in several books, articles, conferences, and I even argued on its behalf before the highest courts in the country: the Quebec Court of Appeal in 2013, and then the Supreme Court of Canada. The resulting ruling, in April 2014, clearly set out the constitutional parameters of our institution, its role and its particular function within our federal system of government. The ruling, which I supported in my arguments, is what led Prime Minister Trudeau to appoint 49 unaffiliated senators. How many of them would be here today if each had been required to run for election just to be here in this place, as the four bills introduced by the previous government would have required? I will leave you to think about that. What I wanted to point out is that others were here before you, acted independently and paved the way for the role you currently play.

For me, it was a unique privilege to assume the responsibilities of a lawmaker and, at the same time, having been a member of the Barreau du Québec for 50 years, to be able to appear directly as an intervenor before the highest courts of the land, on more than nine occasions, in order to stand up for certain principles that are essential to our existence as a country: the equal status of French as an official language, human rights in the face of a wrong-headed interpretation of parliamentary privilege, the defence of the Senate’s constitutional nature and its special responsibility to take the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms into account when reviewing legislation, and an understanding of the scope of the institutional principles underlying our system of parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy.

Such interventions had never happened before in the political history of the federal Parliament. I will always be profoundly grateful to the courts that gave me that opportunity. And believe me, I always conducted myself in accordance with the highest professional ethics called for in those exceptional circumstances.

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I was never one to believe that examining a bill meant reading the text alone and studying it literally, without truly understanding or assessing the magnitude of its impact on specific groups of people, especially minorities and marginalized groups. The Charter sets out our rights and freedoms, which are evolving as our society evolves. These rights and freedoms are not frozen in time. They must also evolve to benefit those who are directly affected by the bills, not just in relation to the overall condition of the majority of society.

For example, that is what led me in 2001, along with Senator Wilfred Moore from Nova Scotia, to propose an amendment to the Youth Criminal Justice Act to ensure that the sentencing process took into account the special circumstances of Indigenous youth, who, as we know, are significantly disadvantaged in the justice system. This amendment passed with a one-vote majority even though the then justice minister publicly declared at the legal affairs committee that the government would not accept any other amendment and that the bill had been sufficiently improved in the House of Commons. When this amendment passed, Prime Minister Chrétien was furious, but the other place conceded and accepted the amendment to protect Indigenous youth caught up in the criminal justice system.

In 2000, I moved, seconded by independent senator Michael Pitfield — whom some of you may remember or have worked with — an amendment of major political importance for the future of Canada during the debate on the clarity bill. The amendment called for formal recognition that the primary responsibility of any Canadian government is to protect the country’s integrity, which would take precedence over any consideration of a proposal to negotiate breaking up Canada. The debate was tense, and the government did everything in its power to finally defeat the amendment, but everyone got the point. It is the Government of Canada’s sacred duty to unequivocally defend the country’s existence and fight for its survival. After the 1995 referendum, I sent a confidential message to Prime Minister Chrétien in which I personally recommended seeking clarification from the Supreme Court about the conditions that would legally apply if ever there was a third referendum on separation, thereby protecting the country from being constantly held hostage by provinces that could hold referendums on separation anytime they liked, referendums that only the secessionist province can interpret and validate. The very survival of this country was at stake in the debate on the amendment to the clarity bill, and I felt it was of vital importance that, before dismantling the country, we be clear about the absolute duty to defend its integrity unconditionally.

Still, honourable senators, the longest and most passionate debate that took place almost every day for more than three months was the debate on the amendment that Senator Jerry Grafstein and I introduced in 1999, which sought to limit the extradition power of the justice minister to countries with the death penalty and which specifically targeted the United States, where capital punishment is still today in effect in 29 states. We argued that this clause of the bill went against section 7 of the Charter because it effectively restored the death penalty. That issue completely escaped the attention of members of the House of Commons. The government once again did everything in its power to defeat the amendment, despite the fact that we called for a free vote, like we had before when the death penalty was abolished in 1976, because this was first and foremost a personal moral issue. The government even went so far as to inform Senator and Sister “Peggy” Butts that her charities would lose their federal subsidies if she did not vote as the government wanted. The Speaker of the Senate at the time, the Honourable Gildas Molgat, was ordered by the government to vote against the amendment, but he went against that order and voted in favour of the amendment, affirming his personal beliefs, his independence and his responsibility as a senator. A while later, he was removed from his position and reclaimed his seat among the senators. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, he died a few months later, in January 2001. I went to Winnipeg with Governor General Adrienne Clarkson to attend his funeral.

The amendment was defeated in the Senate after some unbelievable arm-twisting. However, that defeat was not the end of the debate. One year later, in 2001, the Supreme Court in United States v. Burns and Rafay deemed this provision in the extradition legislation to be unconstitutional. By the way, the court remarked in its ruling that it had taken note of the debate that was held in Parliament.

Honourable senators, history always remembers the courageous, exemplary and the inspiring and forgets those who yield to circumstances. It is hard to imagine a clearer and more challenging expression of independence than that. As you can see, independence is more than just a label people use to make themselves feel good. There has certainly been a great show of independence within our institution.

However, a debate that continues to this day concerns an amendment to broaden the protection established by Part VII of the Official Languages Act, which was introduced several times by the late Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier between 2001 and 2004. The government at the time, which insisted on opposing better protection for francophones and anglophones in a minority situation, continually adjourned the debate in order to drag it out knowing that Senator Gauthier would have to retire in the not-too-distant future. The government always publicly declared its support for the Official Languages Act and would point out its many financial commitments in support of the act’s objectives. Senator Gauthier had to resign himself to leaving the Senate without the amendment being adopted. It was Senator Claudette Tardif and I who took up the cause and backed the government into a corner and forced it not to shirk its constitutional obligation. The amendment was finally adopted in 2005, but the regulations that were to follow never materialized, thus making the provision almost unenforceable, as the Federal Court ruled in 2018. All of Acadia and minority communities still bear the burden of this decision. Unfortunately, I will not be with you to contribute to the debate and the adoption of legislation to modernize the Official Languages Act, which has become imperative.

Hon. Senators: Hear, Hear!

Senator Joyal: Honourable senators, the list of amendments and bills I’ve introduced or initiated over the past 23 years is long, and I would be testing your patience if I were to recall all of them. However, I’d like to look back at few of them.

Let me simply recall the amendments proposed to the Anti-terrorism Act during the national security crisis that occurred following the events of September 11, 2001, to give real status to the special advocate, a notion that Senator Gold will understand well, to protect the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial, amendments that were rejected at the urging of the government representatives in the Senate. Their substance was restored, however, following a Supreme Court ruling.

There were also the amendments presented in 2016, to which some of you referred earlier, amendments supported by Senator Cowan, to remove the “reasonably foreseeable death” criterion from the medical assistance in dying bill, amendments that were adopted by the Senate but rejected by the government in the House of Commons. We all know what happened. Last September, in the middle of the election campaign, the Quebec Superior Court ruled it as unconstitutional and in violation of the Charter, and gave Parliament six months to amend the legislation.

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I unfortunately will not have the satisfaction of voting in the new year to restore the amendment we proposed. The majority of the senate unfortunately yielded to the government and did not want to insist on this amendment to protect the dignity of those suffering from intolerable and irremediable pain.

I could also remind senators of the amendment proposed in 2018 to the Canada Corporations Act, with the support of several of you, to provide for real progress on achieving gender parity on the boards of directors of major corporations, in accordance with the principle of gender equality recognized in the Charter. The amendment was defeated, but the problem still exists. According to recently released figures from the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University in Toronto, women hold just 24.9 per cent of senior leadership positions.

I could also remind senators of the 2018 amendment to combat tax havens proposed by Senator Carignan, which I strongly supported during the debate on the Cannabis Act. The amendment was defeated, but the facts are undeniable. The Montreal police specialized investigation unit into proceeds of crime recently reported that organized crime has now invaded the licensed medical cannabis cultivation industry.

The proliferation of tax havens is undermining the principle of equal treatment for all, which is crucial to maintaining the democratic social order. Combatting this social ill is vital if we want to prevent populism from spreading and rotting the foundations of our freedom.

Last spring, Senator Dalphond also presented amendments that I, as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, strongly supported. I felt they were necessary to protect the principle of judicial independence, which was at issue in Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, and Bill C-337, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code (sexual assault). In a rule-of-law society like Canada, we cannot weaken this principle without also compromising the entire structure that protects our rights and freedoms.

Several amendments to Harper-era bills and to the Criminal Code were defeated and then reinstated following Supreme Court rulings.

I would like to remind you, honourable senators, that the courts regularly review our chamber’s debates when ruling on a question of law that calls into question an act of Parliament. The courts have often specifically mentioned the arguments raised during our debates and, as former Senator George Baker liked to remind us, the Senate is quoted “seven times more than the House of Commons.”

Then, there are those special moments where one has the opportunity to directly help change the bases of social relationships in Canada to make them more egalitarian, for instance when I sponsored the Civil Marriage Act in the Senate in 2005. That law now has the support of over 80 per cent of Canadians.

There was also the bill that I introduced in 2008, seconded by Senator Andreychuk, to establish a regulatory system to better protect the human rights of employees of Parliament who are victims of abuse.

There were also the three successive bills that I introduced in 2009, 2012 and 2015 to recognize and promote Indigenous languages, bills that the government ended up making its own and that we proudly passed in June 2019, thereby giving Indigenous people the dignity of their identity, of which they had been robbed for over 150 years. That changed the course of Canada’s history.

Lastly, there are the last few bills I tabled yesterday in this chamber. One was to prohibit conversion therapy for minors, which had already been tabled in April 2019. The other amends the National Capital Act to protect the heritage integrity of Parliament Hill and national historic sites and monuments.

Honourable senators, the reason I wanted to remind you about all the amendments and bills that I presented or introduced over the years was to tell you about a few of the lessons I learned, which I would like you to mull over.

First of all, belonging to a political party does not, in and of itself, make a senator less independent. I think I illustrated that by reminding you of those past debates that I took part in directly or was personally associated with.

Honourable senators, independence is first and foremost a scale of personal values that each senator establishes for themselves based on their life experience, the meaning that they give to their lives, the values that they choose to defend, their personal vision of a freer society, and the initiatives that each of us is willing to take in order to advocate for those things in studies on bills, in debates on public policy or in tabling private bills, which is an option available to every senator.

Such independence is also a matter of will. Are we prepared to take the personal risk that comes with opposing the will of the government, the Prime Minister who recommended you and in some cases — as in mine — may be your close friend? There were a number of occasions over the years when I had a debate with Prime Minister Chrétien, who recommended me to the Senate and to whom I remain personally and deeply grateful for taking the risk of recommending me to the Governor General of the day. Honourable senators, are you prepared to oppose a government that wants to pass its legislation at all costs as quickly as possible, or do you simply express your point of view and vote against your values or deeply held personal convictions?

This independence can also be defended and rationalized from a purely democratic perspective. The biggest weakness afflicting Canadian democratic institutions, as Donald J. Savoie recently illustrated in his book that was published on November 30, has to do with the excessive concentration of executive and legislative powers in the hands of the Prime Minister alone and a few of his immediate associates. This is the greatest blight affecting our system and it tends to grow no matter all the commitments to undertake reforms. The Senate has real legislative powers to first guarantee the federal principle and respect for the rights of minorities. Should it choose to become a simple chamber that gives advice, no matter how good the advice, without defending fundamental rights or respect for the country’s Constitution, it will not fulfill its fundamental role. The Senate will then be easily manipulated, particularly if senators isolate themselves and act as individuals and not as groups that have a defined political orientation to offset the omnipotence of the Prime Minister and the government machinery at his service and the control and impact he has on the administration.

Honourable senators, you would do well to reflect before amending the rules on the duration of debate in this chamber. The government, no matter which one, will always find a stratagem to take the utmost advantage of a particular situation or of a breach that could weaken the powers or the independence of this chamber.

I truly believe that the Senate can also be a powerful forum to embody the motto of the Order of Canada, “They desire a better country,” or desiderantes meliorem patriam. This is absolutely possible, and I can attest to that. Inspired by the principles and values of culture I’ve embraced over the years, I am convinced that a senator is what he or she does.

Better is always possible. It is up to each one of us to decide what we want to take on. In our presumed age of wisdom, to quote popular theatre director Enrico Casagrande:

I [personally] prefer life in a tempest to a life of rest. By choice, by duty [by culture], I seek the tempest.

I have always believed that art, reflection and a life of thought are this “tempest,” leading us to better ourselves. Art is political because it affects the world, and this idea is important to me because it changes us deep down inside.

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I have always been a little bit skeptical, not to say fearful, of men and women in politics who stay aloof from history, from culture, from cinema, literature, theatre and museums. The Roman senator Cicero felt the same way, over 2,000 years ago. These people are not engaging in what my mother called the “science of doubt,” meaning the realization that life did not start with us and will not end when we pass on. Reflecting on what we are and what freedom means in our times and in today’s world requires us to engage with cultural works. Besides the entertainment factor, since they can certainly lighten our spirits, we also have a responsibility to expand our memories and the horizons of our freedoms.

Unless we understand what happened in history before our time, in all its triumphs and horrors, how can we truly understand and appreciate the magnitude of the actions we are responsible for taking? For instance, in this very country, there is the idea of the superiority of one particular civilization that invented Indigenous residential schools. That was a horrific chapter in our history that we must never forget, and it is the reason we must choose the path to reconciliation and better governance for Canada. Yet it was our human solidarity that led us to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees in 2015 who were fleeing from destruction and certain death. That solidarity leads us to open our hearts and our homes to other people who are suffering.

It truly is art and culture that give us a glimpse of the best and brightest aspects of humanity, what connects us to our shared humanity, what gives full meaning to our public engagement and can help us grasp a broader scope of our liberty.

Thus, with the support of the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association, the Library of Parliament, the Internal Economy Committee and the Speakers of the Senate — including the Honourable Senator Furey, whom I want to thank personally, as well as Senators Housakos, Pierre Nolin, Kinsella, Hays and Molgat — I was able to organize five different symposiums in the Senate. The first, in 2008, had to do with our exceptional relationship with France. The second, with Senator Hugh Segal in 2010, had to do with Canada’s constitutional monarchy. The third, on the one hundredth anniversary of the First World War in 2014-15, had to do with the political transformation process that launched the war for Canada. The fourth, in 2015, with the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, had to do with Senate reform outside of an amendment to the Constitution. Finally, the fifth, in 2017, marked the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of Confederation and helped us to reflect on where we are as a country. I sincerely thank the Honourable Senator Seidman for agreeing to co-chair the fifth symposium.

As senators know, this initiative was accompanied by the striking of medals to commemorate the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Senate, a very successful project that was carried out thanks to the unwavering support and goodwill of my colleague and friend Senator David Wells. Thousands of Canadians were proudly awarded this medal in recognition of their volunteer work. Perhaps the Senate should make this a permanent annual project to help maintain its ongoing relationship with Canadians who do volunteer work to help improve living conditions in their communities.

An important book was published following each of these five symposiums, and some of them were given prominent awards. They will remain as tangible evidence of our reflection on our maturity as a country and the unique character of our national identity.

I will never forget the project I undertook with Senators Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis and Wilfred Moore to produce a calendar in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, a calendar placed in the centre of the Clerks’ table, the cost of which was covered by donations from every senator and senior staff member of this chamber.

[English]

This will remain, honourable senators, as testimony to our respect for the head of state and Her Majesty. I’m deeply grateful to the other senators who have been involved and, singularly, to Senator Noël Kinsella who brought his patronage to this initiative.

[Translation]

However, that which brought me some of the greatest satisfaction and joy was to work closely, again thanks to the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association, with the different ambassadors of France to Canada since my election in 1974. There were 16 in all, from Jacques Viot to the current ambassador, Ms. Kareen Rispal. That experience helped deepen the unique bond between Canada and France and to better understand and support our countries’ shared values. This also went a long way in supporting the defence by Canada and France of the rule of law and human rights in international forums such as the UN, the G7, G20, the OECD, the WTO, and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.

I was also able to advance, first with Senator Jerry Grafstein and then with Senators Linda Frum and Patricia Bovey, a plan to have a national portrait gallery in the former U.S. Embassy, across the street from Parliament, and convince the then Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, to move forward with it. Sadly, that project was abandoned midstream by successive governments.

I also had the opportunity to publish many articles in specialized publications such as the Supreme Court Law Report and the Canadian Parliamentary Review, as well as in academic literature. Finally, I have published historical essays, given specialized lectures at universities and places of learning and given speeches to professional associations. All these contributions illustrate that a senator can really be the impetus for reflection, studies and debates that advance the ideals underlying the vitality of Canada and the type of society it has.

I was not away from the chamber more than necessary because, at some point, it was felt that I was perhaps collecting too many allowances for being the chair or deputy chair of standing or special committees, as if one can work too much!

I leave this place knowing that I tried to help improve this institution and protect its reputation and integrity. In 2004, I started working on the code of ethics with Senator Andreychuk and on appointing an independent ethics officer. This was to ensure that the Senate would not have to go through the House of Commons ethics commissioner, as two previous successive governments wanted. This battle lasted three years. This did not stop me from standing up for senators’ privileges and promoting better understanding of their roles and responsibilities when the auditor general spoke in this chamber without truly understanding the role and responsibilities of a senator.

For 15 years I served, in turn, as chair and vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators because I firmly believed that public confidence in the Senate was fundamentally connected to the how strictly senators apply the principles and rules of the code. Inaction on the part of just one senator has an impact on all senators, and we all suffer.

I urge you to continue reviewing the code of ethics in response to the report tabled in August. This chamber must maintain a high level of responsibility for our integrity and honour.

For the edification of future generations, I have gifted you all these works of Indigenous art, which will now be part of the everyday fabric of the Senate, these nine portraits of French kings who reigned during the French regime in Canada, and these three portraits of English kings, which will soon be displayed in the foyer of the Senate. These works give us a better understanding and appreciation of our political, legal and cultural origins. Most importantly, I am leaving you the imposing chair of Speaker Sir Alexandre Lacoste, as a reminder of the authority and primacy of the Speaker in the institution of the Senate.

Honourable senators, I cannot leave you without thanking the Speaker and his staff, the Clerk of the Senate and his staff, the Chamber Operations and Procedure Office, the Committees Directorate, the Usher of the Black Rod and his team, the International and Interparliamentary Affairs Directorate, the Communications Directorate, the Office of the Law Clerk, Human Resources Directorate and the Information Services Directorate. All of these groups provide us with neutral, objective, independent and impressively efficient service.

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Everything I talked about earlier, and so much more, could not have been accomplished without the love and affection of my immediate family and the person with whom I share my life and my passion for thinking, writing, history and works of art, or without the team of devoted, loyal, efficient, task-oriented collaborators who make sure everything is always impeccable and exemplary. The people in the gallery today — I see Alain Landry; Norman Villegas; my friend, Momar Diagne; Aram Adjemian, for whom I have so much admiration because of his book about the roots of the Armenian genocide and who is still deeply involved in advocating for a community that history has not done right by; and of course, honourable senators, Sébastien Payet, who has been by my side here in Parliament every day for over 15 years now — these people are all paragons of steadfast loyalty and true, sincere friendship. I will be eternally grateful to them. They know that they can count on my affection for them, for their children, for their partners and for their families.

[English]

Commitment to public life is not limited to standing up for fundamental values when they are being challenged directly. It is also being engaged through the vigilant defence of these values when they are compromised through measures that are motivated by convenience. The nobility of public service is a reward in itself. It does not need to be sustained, praised or recognized, but is simply a self-awareness that the cause of public service is good in itself.

[Translation]

I have truly enjoyed the Senate, honourable senators. I leave this place feeling personally indebted to each and every one of you. I was happy here. I benefited from your sincere consideration and, with many of you, a warm friendship that always kept me on my toes. I really appreciated our debates, which are central to the democratic exercise. Our ideas should clash at times; the co-existence of discordant voices, diverse voices, is at the heart of a healthy and vibrant democracy, as Senator Plett mentioned. I thank everyone who expressed opinions that differed from mine, as they helped expand my own reflection.

I hope our paths cross again one day, honourable senators, so that we may always answer “present,” if ever our country’s destiny is challenged and the liberty we care about as an ideal also calls on us to march on together.

Long live Canada!

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!