Senator Cardozo pays tribute to the late Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, P.C., C.C., G.O.Q.

By: The Hon. Andrew Cardozo

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Could wearing a Canadian flag, Toronto

Hon. Andrew Cardozo: Honourable senators, it is an honour to stand in this august chamber to pay tribute to the late prime minister Brian Mulroney. I had the good fortune to work with his government on several important issues, whether it was exerting pressure from the outside or working closely with his ministers and officials in drafting policies and legislation.

I want to focus my tribute on highlighting Mr. Mulroney’s deep and comprehensive understanding of the identities and diversity of Canadians. It started with his pulling together a grand coalition of support, which was new for the Progressive Conservative Party, and resulted in his unprecedented electoral victory — Prairie Conservatives, Quebec nationalists, moderate Conservatives from Ontario and the Atlantic provinces, as well as ethnic minorities in the big cities.

Certainly, regarding Quebec, the Meech Lake Accord demonstrated his commitment to national unity, and even though it ultimately did not succeed, we had an important national debate on who we are.

It’s important to remember that at the heart of the Meech Lake Accord there was the following provision:

2. (1) The Constitution of Canada shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with . . .

b. the recognition that Quebec constitutes within Canada a distinct society.

Beyond this, his government established the Court Challenges Program, which assisted Canadians in accessing their Charter rights in the courts — most notably women; Canadians with disabilities; and ethnic, racial, religious and linguistic minorities.

His government passed the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1988. He was the first prime minister to issue an apology for past wrongs by the Government of Canada, as he did for Japanese Canadians. As part of that settlement, he established the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

On immigration, his government increased annual levels considerably from just 84,000 when he took office in 1984 to 256,000 in 1993 — his last year in office.

In 1990, his government announced that RCMP officers would be able to wear religious and traditional headwear, such as the turban, the kippah or a braid. The same went for the Canadian Armed Forces.

In 1991, he established the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, or RCAP.

Lastly, Canada — under his personal leadership — has been widely recognized as playing a major role in bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa.

Prime Minister Mulroney understood that government could be a force for good, and he was well in tune with the issues of the 1980s and 1990s that defined modern Canada and advanced equality in human rights. While diversity, equity and inclusion are under attack today from some quarters, it was the Mulroney government that put in place many policies that focused on bringing Canadians together in a respectful way. His was a legacy worth upholding.

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