Hon. Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard: Honourable senators, Senator Cotter is a hard act to follow, but my tribute is also personal.
I’m pleased to rise today to pay tribute to our honourable colleague, Senator Jim Munson. As many have already said today, Senator Munson is a tireless advocate for persons with disabilities, particularly children with disabilities and those on the autism spectrum.
In December 2016, shortly after I arrived in the Senate, he gave a statement for International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In that statement, he said:
I believe each of us has a role in creating an accessible future for everyone. Whether as policy-makers, community leaders, advocates or neighbours, there is a part for all of us to play.
At the end of that sitting, I immediately went over to thank Senator Munson for his statement and to ask what part I could play in getting a national autism strategy in Canada. That was the beginning of our work together on the autism file and many other issues of advocacy, human rights, and of course, all injected with humour.
Senator Munson became my go-to person for advice, support, wise counsel and a laugh when I needed it. I will always be grateful for the fun-filled guided tour of the tunnels in Centre Block that he organized for my family when they visited Ottawa, and I will never forget the hilarious race between Senator Munson and my two young grandsons, Damon and Gavin. I will leave it to you to guess who won that race.
Senator Munson, the legacy you leave behind is one of inclusion and kindness. I am especially grateful for all of your advocacy on autism initiatives and the priorities outlined in the Pay Now or Pay Later report. Here’s Gavin, who has autism, joining me today.
Thank you, Senator Munson, for elevating the voices of persons with disabilities and for the passion that you poured into every issue you fought for. I wish you well in your retirement, and I look forward to seeing all the amazing things you will do in your next chapter. We will miss you. Asante. Thank you.