Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I am honoured to speak today to recognize our former colleague Senator Landon Pearson who passed away on January 28 at the age of 92.
In this place, we often deal with big ideas, and, sometimes, we deal with complicated, intricate and detailed legislation. We have each developed skills that allow us to examine such legislation because of fundamental building blocks set out for us in childhood. Our foundation as children is something that Senator Pearson recognized as important to shaping capable, interested and analytical adults. Children need our support, and they should be provided with opportunities to express their ideas and their opinions on matters that directly impact their lives. This was a principle that Senator Pearson strongly believed in and advocated for on behalf of children.
From 1984 to 1990, Landon served as the president and then the chair of the Canadian Council on Children and Youth. From 1989 to 1994, she was a founding member and the chair of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, which worked to promote the 1991 ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Former prime minister Jean Chrétien wisely appointed Landon to the Senate in September 1994. As Senator Tannas stated, it wasn’t long until she was known around the Hill as “the Children’s Senator.” In 1998, Prime Minister Chrétien appointed her as his personal representative to the United Nations Special Session on Children.
There are only a few of us left here today who served with her in this place, and, honourable senators, it is impossible to forget her compassion and love for children. Senator Pearson was the driving force behind the original idea for the Senate to host an annual event to celebrate National Child Day. Hundreds of children have had the chance to attend these special annual celebrations over the years. Held in this chamber, the celebrations have been a joy to attend for both children and senators alike. After Landon’s retirement, former senators Terry Mercer and Jim Munson took over for her as hosts, and they were fond of saying how it took two senators to try to replace her. She would serve in the Senate for 11 years, retiring in 2005. Landon Pearson’s work with children would not end with her retirement from this place. In 2006, she helped establish the Landon Pearson Resource Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights at Carleton University.
Colleagues, Senator Pearson was a lifelong, passionate advocate for children and youth. It was truly her life’s work. On news of her passing, former Senator Munson and former Senator Mercer both reached out to me to share their condolences with the Pearson family.
Senator Munson wrote:
Terry Mercer and I were her disciples. Landon was actually the one who dragged me into the Senate when I was sworn in. Under her guidance, Terry and I hosted National Child Day after her retirement. We used to say, only half-jokingly, to her that it took two men to do her job. She was my hero in the Senate.
Senator Mercer expressed similar sentiments. He wrote:
Canada has lost a true hero. What a legacy Landon has left behind. When I was appointed to the Senate, Landon was one of the first to take me under her wing. She guided and mentored me, especially in our work for children. She was truly a great woman.
Honourable senators, please join with me to celebrate a great Canadian — a beloved Canadian — who lived a long and full life, and who did so much to elevate the often-overlooked voices of children and young people. It was an honour and a privilege to have worked with her.
On behalf of myself and the Progressive Senate Group, I wish to express our most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of my former colleague and friend Landon Pearson. Thank you.