Tribute to the Honourable Lillian Eva Dyck – Sen. Klyne

By: The Hon. Marty Klyne

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Hon. Marty Klyne: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to a parliamentarian of distinction, a senator whose work and approach to carrying out her responsibilities and duties as a senator is held in high regard. I speak of my fellow Saskatchewanian, our colleague and a dear friend to many in these chambers, the Honourable Lillian Dyck.

Lillian Eva Quan Dyck was born in North Battleford, Saskatchewan in 1945. Having reached the Senate’s mandated retirement age of 75, former Senator Dyck retired this past summer on her birthday, Monday, August 24, 2020, ending a 15-year term in the Senate of Canada faithfully representing Saskatchewan and guarding the interests of Canadians without voices in the Senate.

Lillian is an inspiration and a trailblazer. Yes, she was the first Indigenous woman and the first Canadian-born Chinese person to be appointed to the Senate, but that alone is not why she is referred to as a trailblazer. Instead, it has been her great work ethic that led her to the Senate.

She spent her youth in small towns in Alberta and Saskatchewan where her family ran a local Chinese café. Lillian left the family restaurant business to pursue a career in academia.

Let the trailblazing begin.

After earning a PhD in biological psychiatry at the University of Saskatchewan, Lillian worked at that same university as a researcher, becoming a full professor of neuropsychiatry and Associate Dean of the College of Graduate Studies & Research.

In 2005, while working at the University of Saskatchewan, she got the call, and former senator Lillian Dyck was appointed to the Senate by former prime minister Paul Martin.

Unable to establish the NDP caucus in the Senate, she sat as an independent until joining the Liberal caucus in 2009 and retires from the chamber as a member of the Progressive Senate Group.

Former Senator Dyck’s goal of justice for Indigenous women is reflected in her introduction of Senate Bill S-215, a bill amending the Criminal Code to make violent acts against Indigenous women an aggravating factor in an offender’s sentencing. Although the bill was defeated, she was successful in amending Bill C-5, providing the same effect sought in Bill S-215.

She had many achievements in the Senate. She was a hard-working advocate for families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, promoting an inquiry into the atrocity. In June 2019, the National Inquiry released its report.

Some of her highly acknowledged and valued work includes Senate Bill S-3 in the Forty-second Parliament, which removed a gender-based bigotry within the Indian Act; an inequity aimed at First Nations women who married non-First Nations men, stripping the First Nations woman and her children of their status, and hence their treaty rights.

In August 2019, the final provisions of the bill were brought into force, correcting a historical wrong, and restoring the rights and identity of First Nations women as First Nations status women according to the Indian Act.

Colleagues, it is said a founding aspiration of the creation of the Senate was to have a parliamentary body made of individuals who are the best among us, to ensure minority voices are heard by government in the study and examination of proposed legislation.

Former senator Lillian Dyck is one of those individuals and dutifully served Canada for 15 years. Studious in her evaluation, humble in her demeanour, Lillian has exemplified a quietly bold leadership that is exemplary of model parliamentarians, demonstrating objectivity without bias or succumbing to political interference.

Saskatchewan Indigenous people and all Canadians were well served by Lillian in the Senate of Canada. We all owe her a debt of gratitude, though she would never ask that of us.

The strength of former Senator Dyck’s character is personified in a story from my spouse, Charlene, who was flying from Regina to Ottawa via Saskatoon a year or so ago. She told me that when they stopped in Saskatoon to pick up more passengers, a lady boarded and looked like royalty, and she thought that lady might have been a senator. I acknowledged, saying, “That must have been Senator Lillian Dyck.”

Thank you, former Senator Dyck. Your body of work and approach to doing Senate business says it all. Best wishes to you going forward, enjoying retirement and time well spent at home with family and friends. Thank you.

Please click here to read more tributes to the Honourable Lillian Eva Dyck.

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