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SENATORS' STATEMENTS - Tributes - The Late Honourable Pierre Claude Nolin—Speaker of the Senate

 

Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, I rise here to pay tribute to Senator Nolin by recalling the vast scope of his ideas and his initiatives as Speaker of the Senate.

Just three months ago, on January 27, when Parliament resumed after the break, Speaker Nolin called us to a special sitting during which he shared with us the results of his reflections on how best to envision the future of the Senate. He outlined his plan's broad objectives and informed us of the steps he had taken to further the interests of the Senate with respect to the audit that is currently underway in the Senate.

Speaker Nolin appeared determined, clear-sighted and, above all, sincerely committed to defending the interests of this chamber as an essential component of the Parliament of Canada.

He clearly understood his responsibility, which was, first and foremost, to protect the institution from criticism and attacks from all sides, then to implement the reforms needed to make the Senate more transparent and more accountable in terms of its administrative and constitutional responsibilities, and finally to encourage each and every senator to contribute to achieving these shared goals.

He knew that we would need to work together and move beyond partisanship in order to put the interests of the institution first.

A little over a year ago, after Senator Nolin was appointed Speaker pro tempore, he moved 10 motions to debate various aspects of the Senate, namely its legislative role; its duty with respect to linguistic and cultural minorities and regional or Aboriginal interests; and its impact on parliamentary diplomacy.

His objective was clear: to make all senators reflect on and debate these issues in order to better understand the institution and the scope of the constitutional role of senators. It would then be easier to develop and implement the necessary reforms, and to restore this chamber's credibility in the eyes of the public, so that it may better serve all Canadians.

Over the months that followed, Senator Nolin took the floor a number of times to move each of his motions. Unfortunately, his proposal to form a special senate committee to define the broad policy direction for the reforms did not receive the necessary support from his colleagues.

We discussed it again later and agreed on another avenue in order to break the impasse, namely to ask a university to organize a symposium with leading experts from across Canada to reflect on ways to reform or renew the Senate without having to reopen the Constitution. Senator Nolin personally supported that approach and on January 28, 2015, the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa hosted a symposium, whose report is being finalized. This chamber will eventually consider a motion for debate on the report's content in order to reach a consensus on what path to take in future.

That is where things stand. Rest assured, Senator Nolin, your efforts bore fruit: a consensus is being reached and, on Saturday, was expressed in an editorial in the National Post entitled, "The Senate, like it or not." The National Post article ends with the following, and I quote:

[English]

There are alternatives, however [to the status quo or let the Senate wither away]. One is to reform the appointment system. . . A second . . . would ask the Senate to reform itself: . . .

[Translation]

That is the direction Senator Nolin passionately wanted to take as he guided and directed each of our efforts to reach his goal: having the Senate take the initiative to reform itself.

His legacy is his contribution to developing this consensus on a non-partisan foundation. He was adamant about putting the interests of the institution ahead of the interests of the parties. The future Senate, honourable senators, is in our hands. It will become what we have the courage and conviction to build.

I am certain that this chamber has sufficient intellectual resources, wisdom, life experience and reserves of goodwill to help the Senate restore its credibility among Canadians and be better able to serve them in its parliamentary role.

By continuing in this direction, we will ensure that Speaker Nolin's brief term was a complete success and that future generations are deeply indebted to him.

Thank you, honourable senators.