The Late Benoît Pelletier, C.M.

By: The Hon. Diane Bellemare

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Hon. Diane Bellemare: Benoît Pelletier was a remarkable man, an outstanding politician and a great educator. He passed away far too young, on March 30, at the age of 64. He had so much to give to enlighten our society and our governments.

He leaves behind a multi-faceted legacy as a lawyer, academic, politician and man of principle. In the 1980s, Benoît Pelletier practised law at the federal Department of Justice. He later taught at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law, both before and after his involvement in Quebec politics.

Beyond his academic contributions, Benoît Pelletier was a committed person, concerned with striking a proper balance between individual and collective rights, particularly when it came to protecting the French language and minority rights. His advocacy for legislation on state secularism and on the official and common language are proof of his commitment to Quebec values. He was also a staunch supporter of asymmetrical federalism.

As a member of the Quebec National Assembly from 1998 to 2008, Benoît Pelletier served as minister of intergovernmental affairs, aboriginal affairs, the francophonie and the reform of democratic institutions. In carrying out his duties, he always exemplified dignity and respect. That ability to be a respectful adversary while demonstrating a capacity for dialogue and consensus is a rare and valuable quality in politics. He was an inspiring example of leadership. That’s why his views were important to me.

For all these reasons, it was with great pride and humility that I recognized his contributions when the Senate marked the 150th anniversary of Confederation and awarded medals to outstanding Canadians.

I’ve had the privilege of speaking with Benoît Pelletier a number of times. For example, last summer, when I was working on the rising interest rates that some provinces were deeply concerned about, I asked him for his opinion on the constitutionality of the Bank of Canada’s monetary policy. He was very attentive and intrigued by the question. His gave a thoughtful answer, as did Professor Daniel Turp when I asked the same question. Professor Turp paid tribute to Benoît Pelletier in Le Devoir.

With his characteristic intelligence, charm and flair, Benoît Pelletier was a symbol of what the vast majority of Quebecers deeply desire and what humorist Yvon Deschamps summed up as “a strong Quebec within a united Canada.”

I caught a glimpse of him at the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney’s lying-in-state. I thought I’d have a chance to talk to him one of these days, but now he’s gone. It was too soon, and I didn’t have time to talk to him or say goodbye. I would like to extend my sincere condolences to his family, his loved ones and his friends.

Thank you.

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