The Late Étienne Gabrysz-Forget

By: The Hon. Diane Bellemare

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Beach and waterfront, Vancouver

Hon. Diane Bellemare: Colleagues, I rise today to pay tribute to Étienne Gabrysz-Forget, whom some of you will remember as being part of the Senate family, since he was my parliamentary adviser from 2014 to 2016. He took his own life on April 21, just before his 33rd birthday. A lawyer by training who specialized in litigation, he had a bright and promising future ahead of him. At the time of his passing, he was working for the Morency law firm. He always sought justice and wanted to become a judge. He supported me very well in my work as a senator.

He was the one who conducted the statistical research that can be found on my website regarding senates around the world. We were trying to better understand the unique nature of the Canadian Senate in relation to other senates around the world.

He encouraged me when I decided to become an independent senator, and later when I agreed to join Senator Harder in the Office of the Government Representative in the Senate. He also left his mark on today’s Senate by proposing a new title for the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, namely the Legislative Deputy, which is now in the Parliament of Canada Act.

Étienne was a mischievous, sociable soul who loved to laugh. He talked to everyone and was very quick witted. One morning, he decided, without telling me, to talk about Senate reform with the Minister of Democratic Reform at the time, none other than the current Leader of the Opposition, Pierre Poilievre, and it did not go as well as he thought it would. Étienne also liked to have his picture taken with the Speaker of the Senate, Pierre Claude Nolin.

Under his refined, well-dressed exterior, Étienne was a complex being. He was trying to find his way. His spirts were low, but I never ever would have thought that he would resort to such an irreversible act. However, as senators know, mental health problems can sometimes manifest suddenly and without warning. Temporary problems can lead to lasting consequences.

We will never know what he was thinking when he did what he did, but what we do know is that he knew he was having an unbearable anxiety attack and that he went to the hospital to stop himself from committing suicide. Unfortunately, the staff there did not feel it was necessary to keep an eye on him and sent him home. Even specialists have a hard time truly grasping mental health issues because they are so intangible. What a waste.

Colleagues, we take care of our physical health by having our blood pressure taken, getting blood tests and watching our weight, but we also need to take care of our mental health and that of our loved ones.

Étienne, there were so many people at your funeral. It was incredible, and yet you felt alone. Many of us are thinking of you and hold you close in our thoughts.

Étienne leaves behind his mother, Marguerite Gabrysz, his sister, Fanny, her partner, Guillaume and his young nephew, Adrien, whom he never met since the child was born just weeks after his death, as well as his uncles, aunts and many friends.

Rest in peace. Thank you.

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