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STATEMENT - Symposium 150


Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, this year marks the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. It is a memorable event in every respect.

While considering the types of initiatives the Senate, as the chamber of sober second thought, should take to mark the sesquicentennial, the proposal came to mind that reflecting on Canada's evolution during the last 50 years and how these changes will continue to shape the country's future in the years to come would be meritorious and useful.

Ten themes or subjects were identified, and a selected group of highly reputable Canadians were invited to share their reflections and wisdom. The first theme is, to be sure, the re-emergence of indigenous peoples, with their full status, rights and identities, with guests Phil Fontaine, former Chief of the Assembly of First Nations; and Ellen Gabriel, former President of the Quebec Women's Native Association.

Canada's international personality has expanded over the years. The speakers are former President of CIDA, Huguette Labelle, and the noted diplomat Paul Heinbecker.

Equality of French and English and Canada's concomitant responsibility within la Francophonie have certainly come a long way. The Secretary-General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, and former Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache will have more to say on that.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin, and legal expert Mark Walters will address the theme of a society built on respect for rights and freedoms.

Our country has experienced important national tensions during the last 50 years that have challenged its unity. Three former provincial premiers will share their views on our future as a united country: Bob Rae from Ontario, Jean Charest from Quebec, and Gary Doer from Manitoba.

Gender parity emerged as a prevalent issue during this time and continues to challenge us today. The Right Honourable Kim Campbell and Monique Leroux, former CEO of the Federation Desjardins, are both unique witnesses of those changes.

Sustainable development and the future of the Arctic will be the themes expanded upon by David Suzuki and Rosemarie Kuptana, former Chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. Science and culture are linked to the essential creation of knowledge and free expression of identity.

Hubert Reeves, a well-known astrophysicist, Pierre Lassonde, an exemplary patron of arts and culture, and Yves Gingras, a science historian, will take on these themes.

Our quality of life is linked to the strength of an economy that is able to continually adapt.

David Dodge, former Governor of the Bank of Canada; and Hassan Yussuff, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, will be heard.

Finally, what role did the Senate play in the making of Canada during the last 50 years and how Parliament should adapt to contemporary needs will be led by Professor David Smith of Ryerson University and David Docherty from Alberta.

By welcoming these eminent Canadians from all walks of life in a symposium hosted in this chamber next week, Thursday and Friday, May 25 and 26, under the patronage of our esteemed Speaker with an opening address by the Governor General and the support of the Internal Economy Committee, it will certainly help Canadians to better understand and appreciate our country.

Senator Seidman and I convey to you our enthusiastic invitation and all honourable senators are warmly welcome.