Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, from the Great Wall of China, to the first Gulf War, to North Korea, to Tiananmen Square, to Prime Minister Chrétien’s office, to the Senate of Canada, with a great deal in between, it has been quite a ride, Jim Munson. Your hard work and your passion for everything you undertake, and your ability to work hard while having fun, have made it a privilege to know you and to be your colleague. The Progressive Senate Group will miss you, but you won’t be too far away.
For the past few weeks, I have been jotting down notes, funny anecdotes and stories of what you have accomplished. But, Jim, that all stopped when I got a call last week from Ginette, your biggest supporter and someone we all love. Ginette asked if I would be willing to make an announcement as part of my tribute to you, to which I readily agreed.
But first I spoke to Margaret Whelan. To those of you who don’t know Margaret, she is a lifelong advocate and leader in the field of autism. She served as an executive director of the Geneva Centre for Autism, and she was a board member of the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance. She has worked with Jim and Ginette for over 14 years, pushing for autistic Canadians to enjoy a more inclusive Canada.
Today in the Senate of Canada, I am delighted to announce a special recognition of Jim’s work and that of his wife, Ginette. As we all know, Jim has dedicated himself to advocacy on behalf of autistic Canadians, their families and the communities in which they live and are loved. In 2007, Jim challenged autism communities to seize the opportunity presented in the Senate report Pay now or pay later: autism families in crisis. In response, those communities banded together to form the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance, or CASDA.
Throughout the intervening years, Jim has been an unwavering supporter of and mentor to CASDA, providing sage advice and reassurance, pressing his colleagues to listen to and understand the importance of the issues facing autistic Canadians. And, yes, Jim has persistently — and I use that term in the most positive way — worked the corridors of power here in Ottawa to advance the call for a national autism strategy. With sheer tenacity, Jim was able to get the World Autism Awareness Act passed in 2012.
He has led autism awareness events on Parliament Hill for many years, and he has brought a wide variety of autism advocates, families and individuals with autism to celebrate and to hold government accountable.
In 2019, the National Autism Strategy finally became a reality. That could not have happened without Jim’s dedication and determination.
In recognition of this unflagging support and perseverance, CASDA is pleased to be creating the “Jim and Ginette Munson Autism Leadership Award.” That award will be presented annually to a Canadian who demonstrates the leadership, determination and values that reflect Jim and Ginette’s commitment to creating a better Canada for autistic Canadians. The recipients of this reward will be recognized at the Canadian Autism Leadership Summit held in October each year.
Jim, on behalf of the Progressive Senate Group, congratulations to you and to Ginette. This award is a fitting tribute to your work.
Throughout your Senate career, you have demonstrated a commitment to hard work and advocacy, and it has been a privilege to be your colleague. You will forever be our “kindness senator.” Our love and best wishes always.
And, Jim, I do hope you are wearing your dad’s shoes today. Rest assured, you have more than filled them. He would be very proud.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.