The Honourable Renée Dupuis—Tribute by Senator Dalphond

By: The Hon. Pierre Dalphond

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Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Honourable senators, today, I am pleased to pay tribute to our colleague in the language of Gabrielle Roy and Gaston Miron, who she knew well.

When she agreed to participate in the modernization of the Senate in November 2016, it was just one more challenge for Renée Dupuis, lawyer emeritus, who dedicated 40 years of her life to the advancement of social justice.

Since the beginning of her career, she has defended the most vulnerable members of society, such as roomers in Quebec, when their rights were being violated. In the late 1970s, she participated in the creation of the Centre de Santé des femmes de Québec, which supports women’s freedom of choice during pregnancy. She was then hired by the Atikamekw of Quebec, who were joined a few years later by the Innu.

As she explained in her most recent book, Ce chemin sous mes pas, which I happily read cover-to-cover, she doesn’t speak for them. Instead, she strongly supports them in their claim for self-government.

In 1989, she became a member of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, where she participated in the fight against workplace discrimination and harassment, particularly the sexual harassment of women. In 2001, she was appointed to what was then called the Indian Specific Claims Commission, and later became the last chair of that commission in 2003.

So it’s not surprising that, in 2011, she became the vice-president of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec.

What’s fascinating about her is that she realized very early on that misunderstanding is often a source of dispute, prejudice and stereotypes that lead to discrimination, both individual and systemic. That’s why she has always been so eager to share her knowledge, whether teaching at the École nationale d’administration publique, giving conferences around the world, presenting in elementary and secondary schools, giving media interviews or publishing books and many articles, as cited in previous speeches. In 1979, she even created and hosted a radio series introducing Innu women to Radio-Canada listeners.

I was finally able to work alongside this wonderful person in the Senate, where she was both a seatmate and an influential member of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. I was delighted to work with this independent-minded colleague, who listens attentively and always takes notes before offering pertinent, sometimes even incisive comments that reflect her great legal talents and vast life experiences, both professional and personal.

My dear friend Renée, all the best to you and Pierre when you’re back home in Île d’Orléans. You will be missed.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

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