Third reading of Bill C-13, An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19

By: The Hon. Jim Munson

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Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, this is a speech I never thought I would have to make in the Senate, but this is our new reality living with COVID-19, the coronavirus.

On behalf of the progressive Senate group, we strongly support the measures being taken by all governments — federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous.

We have had questions today of the minister, and that is normal. We have our concerns, and that is normal. We will continue to push for more to be done, and that is also normal. But we live in abnormal times, and in times like these, we must be united as a nation.

The clock is ticking. The numbers continue to rise.

The words of Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer resonate with me. Dr. Theresa Tam said a few days ago, “We don’t just need to flatten the curve, we need to plank it.” That means every Canadian must do their part.

As we are about to pass this crucial piece of legislation, Bill C-13, I am thinking of every Canadian that it will affect. We see the essential workers, like the people working in our grocery and pharmacy stores, our police services, postal workers, custodians, the small-business owners who are worried about their futures. We see you.

We see Canadians working on the front-lines of our health care system, working long hours away from their families while continuing to care for the well-being of strangers, those working in long-term care facilities caring for our most vulnerable citizens. We see you and all that you do.

We see the volunteers delivering food and necessities to their neighbours. We see you, the Canadians staying at home, making sacrifices in our daily routines. We see humanity at its best despite the challenges.

Every action is important. The efforts we put in now will determine the length and outcome of the biggest health care crisis this country and the world has ever seen. So thank you to each Canadian for shining through this time of uncertainty. We know it is not an easy thing to do.

I often speak about the importance of kindness and inclusion, but in times like these, they are so imperative that I need to mention them again. Remember, the smallest action can still have a big impact. I’m thinking about people who already lived more isolated lives before this started, those with physical and cognitive disabilities who rely on volunteers and community groups for their relationships and socializing. We need to reach out to them. They cannot be forgotten. I know our leaders and my fellow Canadians will not let that happen.

I am encouraged to see American Sign Language, ASL, on our news broadcasts during these times. Finally, a real step towards inclusion and fairness for the deaf community. I know the thousands of Canadians who communicate with ASL appreciate being informed in real time.

I also applaud the daily and detailed sharing of information with Canadians through newscasts. It is comforting for Canadians to have predictable and reliable communications. Our journalists are working around the clock to keep us up-to-date and connected. We see your work and we thank you.

I keep hearing that we’re all in this together, but together means those who need our love and support more than ever. I talk again about the elderly and those who are ill, those in the intellectual disability community, those with autism, those in the physically disabled community.

Honourable senators, in the Special Olympics, we like to hug a lot. That’s hard to do right now, isn’t it? But that doesn’t stop me or you from sending out a virtual hug now, an online hug, a telephone hug. We have to hold on to each other.

And again, there are so many of you in the medical community on the front-lines, a line that stretches from coast to coast to coast. You are giving hope to others by caring for others. Through food banks, you are feeding others. You are doing it because this is Canada and what we do best is caring for others. We are all finding ways to have courage, and it can be tough.

In closing, everyone has their own story. My father was 8 years old in 1918 when he lived through a new influenza virus. We know the horrific result of that virus. World War I was ending and then there would be the Great Depression, followed by the Second World War. And then in the 1940s and the 1950s, there was the outbreak of polio. Imagine living through all of that.

My father died in 2003. He was 93.

This is where I find my courage.

Today as a nation, as individuals, we’re all taking steps to defeat COVID-19. We must walk together, even if it has to be six feet or two metres apart for the next little while.

With that, honourable senators, I urge immediate passing of this historic piece of legislation. Thank you.

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