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Tributes and Farewell Address, Senator Serge Joyal


Business of the Senate

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I received a notice from the Government Representative in the Senate who requests, pursuant to rule 4-3(1), that the time provided for the consideration of Senators’ Statements be extended today for the purpose of paying tribute to the Honourable Serge Joyal, P.C., who will retire from the Senate on February 1, 2020.

I remind senators that pursuant to our rules, each senator, other than Senator Joyal, will be allowed only three minutes and they may speak only once.

Is it agreed that we continue our tributes to our colleague, Senator Joyal, under Senators’ Statements? We will therefore have up to 30 minutes for tributes, not including the time allotted for Senator Joyal’s response. Any time remaining after tributes would be used for other statements.


The Honourable Serge Joyal, P.C.

Hon. Joseph A. Day: Honourable senators, this is a sad day in the Senate as we pay tribute to our friend and colleague, Senator Joyal, who will be retiring in the new year.

I do not have enough time to list his achievements in the Senate or his many accomplishments before he arrived in this place.


For more than 30 years, Senator Joyal has served in Canada’s Parliament. He first came to the House of Commons in July 1974, and was re-elected twice more. During that time, he was a Minister of State, Secretary of State, and perhaps most importantly to Canadians, he co-chaired the joint committee of the Senate and House of Commons in charge of repatriation of our Constitution.

In preparation for my remarks today, I decided to read Senator Joyal’s maiden speech in the House of Commons, dating back to November 1974. The eloquence of his words as a 30-year-old, new MP should come as no surprise to any of us, and, honourable senators, he was speaking about the budget at that time.

He spoke with passion about the socio-economic situation in his beloved Quebec. His arguments were clearly laid out with facts and figures to support them. So it has been ever since. We all know in this chamber that when Senator Joyal speaks, it is wise to listen. He speaks most often here in the English language, which is his second language, and often without notes or hesitation about those issues he holds dear: rights and freedoms, parliamentary institutions, heritage and official languages.


Even our buildings have benefited from his great passion for collecting art pieces and historical artifacts. He led the initiative to purchase and seek donations of Indigenous artifacts and art, and other Senators generously followed his example. He donated the paintings used to decorate the Salon de la Francophonie.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the ceremony where he was made a commander in the National Order of the Legion of Honour of the Republic of France. Senator Joyal is one of most decorated senators of all time.


Senator Joyal, to say that your dignity, integrity and wise counsel will be missed here is a glaring understatement. We are at a loss. Your colleagues and I in the progressive Senate group wish you all the best for your coming retirement and good health and happiness always.

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, the new year will bring many challenges to this chamber. Among them will be the absence of a most valued and long-standing colleague who was first elected to Parliament, as has been referred to, in 1974 and has served in the Senate since 1977.


My first memories of Senator Joyal are from nearly 45 years ago, when I was a parliamentary intern. As a young man, I was extremely impressed by his museum-like MP office.


Little did I know at that time that one day my own workplace, the Senate of Canada, would be adorned with beautiful and priceless works of art carefully curated and generously donated by Senator Joyal.

While as a young parliamentary intern I was impressed with his beautiful office, I was also impressed by the man. It was clear to me then, as it is today, that before me was a statesman, not just a politician. A statesman who, over the course of a career that would span nearly half a century, would leave an indelible legacy on how parliamentarians work, how our legal systems work and, as a consequence, how Canadians live their lives.

I’m, of course, speaking of Senator Joyal’s historic role in the study, implementation and continued defence of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This most precious of documents enshrines the rights and freedoms that we cherish, freedom of expression, equality of language rights, the rights that have shaped the Canada of today as a country that respects, protects and celebrates diversity.


As Senator Joyal is one of our most experienced senators, we would listen carefully when he rose in this place. We knew that we would learn so much by listening to his comprehensive speeches, which were replete with historical facts and very detailed legal arguments. Senator Joyal is a Canadian who protects and celebrates the history, language, culture and democratic institutions of this fine country. With his departure, we are losing a great orator who speaks with passion and exceptional eloquence.



Senator Joyal, I suspect that this mandatory retirement from the Senate will in no way stop you from your continued contribution to Canadians. Whether busy or restful, I hope that the years ahead are filled with much happiness, good health and moments of deep satisfaction in knowing that you have served Canada so extraordinarily well. Thank you.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, this past July marked 45 years since Serge Joyal began his work here on Parliament Hill as a member of the other place.

As we all know, on February 1, he will retire from the Senate of Canada after a lifetime of public service in both chambers.

It is very difficult to neatly summarize Senator Joyal’s long career and varied interests in just a few words: jurist, author, historian, Secretary of State, Vice-President of the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party of Canada — and the list goes on. He is one of a kind and when Senator Joyal takes his leave of this place next year, he will be greatly missed.

It would take more time than I am allotted to list our colleague’s many accomplishments and honours. Senator Joyal has an alphabet of letters after his name which attest to that fact: Officer of the Order of Canada, Officer of the Order of Quebec, member of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, and more.

Since his appointment to this place in November 1997, he has been a fierce advocate for his home province of Quebec and the French language. We have all witnessed the passion he brought to his work on many issues facing our great country.

He speaks bluntly but not unfairly, and has put both Liberal and Conservative ministers of the Crown alike on the hot seat when he thought they deserved it.

During the Forty-second Parliament, he served as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. He expertly steered the committee through its study on some of the most contentious issues of recent years.

Senator Joyal has been a long-standing member of the Standing Senate Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest, serving in the roles of deputy chair and chair. He brought his fierce intellect and natural curiosity to all his committee work and to his interventions here in this chamber.

But allow me to make a personal observation about Senator Joyal that has been very meaningful to me. No matter how different our views may be from his own, Senator Joyal always welcomes them respectfully and treats one with dignity.

I experienced this first-hand many times. Senator Joyal and I were often on opposite sides of legislation and policy questions, yet he always welcomed my views.

I recall being the only plumber on the Legal Committee. I was surrounded by lawyers and constitutional experts, but rather than diminishing my contributions, Senator Joyal encouraged them, not because we agreed, but because in all the time I have known him, Senator Joyal has consistently exhibited those traits which I believe characterize a true statesman: humility toward oneself and honour toward others.

Senator Joyal, you have earned my deepest respect. On behalf of all Conservative senators, I wish you all the best as you move on to the next chapter of your life and extend to you best wishes for a long, happy and healthy retirement.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!


Hon. Raymonde Saint-Germain: Senator Joyal, like all my colleagues, I only have a few minutes at my disposal for this tribute, and that is not enough time to do justice to all the highlights of your long and illustrious career. The many awards and prestigious honours you have received through the years attest to your immense contribution to public life in Canada. Recently, I was filled with the same pride as my colleague, Senator Day, and most of our other colleagues who were present when you were awarded the exceptional distinction of being named Commander of the Legion of Honour of the Republic of France. It is a remarkable distinction for a Canadian and also an extraordinary one for a Quebecer. Once again, congratulations.

For 45 years, thus since 1974, the year you entered the world of politics, you have dedicated yourself, body and soul, to public service. What has stood out for me — above and beyond all your contributions, success and the work you have done over the years — is your passion, your great integrity and your strength of character. I also want to point out how you were always able to make Quebec and Canada shine on the international scene.

In that sense, Senator Joyal, you have been one of our most effective ambassadors. In your more than 22 years in the Senate, your sense of ethics, discipline and perseverance contributed to elevating the credibility of our institution, including in times of turmoil. One of your accomplishments that will leave a lasting legacy is your promotion of the French language and Canada’s Francophonie. The support you provided to Canada’s francophone communities was essential to their recognition, including under the law.


On a more personal note, I would like to salute your patronage of Quebec’s cultural institutions. It was always a great pleasure for me to meet you at various events in art museums in Quebec, and especially in my hometown of Quebec City.

I hope to see you there more often now that you will be enjoying a well-deserved retirement — I wasn’t able to find another word; it doesn’t fit you — from the Senate, although I know you are far from retired from your cultural, artistic patronage and multiple activities.

Your personal contribution to developing art within Parliament will also be one of your long-lasting accomplishments. Because of you, we are lucky to witness every day the beauty of Canadian and international artists in our place of work.

In particular, I would like to point out the investment you made in giving Parliament a large and beautiful collection of pieces of Indigenous art.

Senator Joyal, I think I speak not only for the Independent Senators Group but for each and every one of us when I say that your presence in this chamber will be dearly missed.

Thank you for your outstanding contribution to the Senate of Canada.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!


Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais: Honourable senators, I want to take a few minutes to pay tribute to our colleague, Senator Joyal, who is leaving us early in the new year after serving in the Senate for more than 22 years. When I arrived in the Senate roughly eight years ago, I was appointed to my first standing committee, the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. That is when I met Senator Joyal. As a new senator, it is important to listen and to observe — I have more to say these days — and that is what I did. I listened and observed.

The Conservative that I am quickly understood that this Liberal senator tackled every file with the ultimate goal of improving the legislation sent to us from the other place. As we all know, there’s often room for improvement. The parties in power, of both political stripes, have unfortunately too often rejected the amendments proposed by the Honourable Senator Joyal, despite their legal, linguistic and political merits. Here’s just one example: the legislation on medical assistance in dying. Some of our colleagues wanted to pass that legislation as it was presented, either by conviction or partisan obligation. In 2020, however, some provisions of that legislation will be reintroduced to us, but will be amended, because a court of law is forcing the government to do so. The government could’ve already done that if it had listened to the Senate. This political exercise could have been avoided two years ago.

Senator Joyal, you are leaving us, but I’m confident that you have no intention of stopping completely.


Not having to come to Ottawa as often may take a little getting used to, which is understandable given that it’s been your routine for the past 45 years, first as the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and then as a senator. Let me also add that, thanks to television, I have learned a lot about your passion for the arts and for Napoleon. I watched some very enlightening documentaries. Few people in this country can match your reputation in that domain, and I’m sure you are just as disciplined in your work in the arts as you were as a senator.

In addition to being disciplined, I believe you have always been driven by passion in both politics and the arts. Luckily, in the arts, nobody has dared set an age limit on performing, so I’m sure you’ll be able to make the most of that for many years to come.

In closing, how funny is it that, in the game of musical chairs that took place here, you took on the title of “progressive” for a few days? Personally, I don’t care if you’re Liberal or Progressive. In my eyes, you were a senator who cared about the well-being of all Canadians.

I want to thank you for that and wish you all the best going forward.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!


Hon. Terry M. Mercer: Honourable senators, we are losing one of Parliament’s most intelligent and passionate legislators, and one of its dearest friends.

Besides his parliamentary history, Senator Joyal is extremely active in his community. He sits on the boards of several foundations and cultural organizations dedicated to the improvement of higher education, the protection of heritage and the promotion of culture. For example, he is a member of the board of the Baxter & Alma Ricard Foundation, which awards scholarships to Francophone university students outside Quebec; he is the president of the Lafontaine-Cormier Foundation, which aims to protect Québec’s judicial heritage; and a member of the board of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, as well as the chair of its Decorative Arts Committee and Nominating Committee.

Senator Joyal has always supported organizations dedicated to improving the social and cultural conditions of the community.

His community involvement did not prevent him from participating very directly in the legislative work of this chamber. Most notably, he has served as Chair of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee — an active member of the committee for 23 years — and served as Chair and Deputy Chair of the Senate Ethics and Conflict of Interest Committee since its inception, for 15 years.

This is only a mere snapshot of his work here in the Senate.

In his spare time, he has published several books, including a book called Protecting Canadian Democracy: The Senate You Never Knew. If you have not read it, you should. It should be mandatory reading for anybody appointed to this place. I would recommend you get a copy very quickly. I’m trying to promote sales here for Senator Joyal.

He has also written countless articles and lectured at many universities and colleges. Senator Joyal is very proud of his homeland and is honoured by his heritage. In many ways, he is as diverse as Canada itself.

As one of the Senate’s most committed senators, both here and in his community, we shall miss you, my friend. The best to you in the next part of your life — I am sure we will notice as you go through it.


Good luck, my friend.

Hon. Claude Carignan: Senator Joyal, it was impossible for me to imagine not rising today to recognize your invaluable contribution to Canadian society over many years and especially to thank you for your enormous contribution to this noble institution that is the Senate.

I also want to thank you for your friendship and the great camaraderie that developed between us, particularly during that unforgettable trip to Bordeaux with the France-Quebec parliamentary association. It is said that young people are shaped by their travels, and that trip certainly shaped our young friendship.

To be completely honest, when I arrived in the Senate just over 10 years ago, you were one of the senators who impressed me the most. I had a great deal of respect for you because of the many years you had served as an MP, minister, attorney general, senator and brilliant lawyer.

You will recall that, at the time, we were members of more traditional caucuses and in open opposition to each other. I saw you as an experienced and effective orator and, I would even go so far as to say, a formidable adversary. However, over the years, we got to know and respect one another and we even began to happily work together. Of course, that did not stop you from asking me some very pointed questions when I was the Leader of the Government and, naturally, you were rarely satisfied with my answers. I understood that it was a question period, not an answer period.

Your extensive knowledge of the law, your erudition, your vast sense of culture, your talents as an orator, your passion for Napoleonic history, but first and foremost, your tremendous kindness have all left an indelible mark on me. You have always been able to characterize and explain the traditional role of the Senate and its principles, and the functions of the political parties within this institution. Some would do well to reread and learn from your interventions, which were always well structured and perfectly logical.

As Senator Dagenais said, your speech at third reading of Bill C-14 is a perfect example of your extensive knowledge of Canadian constitutional law. The government of the day should have taken heed, for it could have avoided losing its case before the Quebec Superior Court on that piece of legislation.

In the Senate, we rub shoulders with distinguished and talented people. Quite honestly, Senator Joyal, and frankly, Serge, in my view, you are in another category altogether. Some would say you are a great politician. Personally, I would say you are a giant and that your retirement will leave a gaping hole in our institution, which is unfortunate.

You’ve worked hard all your life, and I know you won’t slow down a bit. It’s in your nature. My hope for you for the future, for the months and years ahead, is that you stay healthy so you can keep throwing yourself heart and soul into all the things that make you happy. Senator Joyal, it was an honour to work with you in the Senate.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Hon. Marc Gold: Honourable senators, today we pay tribute to the Honourable Senator Serge Joyal. As Senator Carignan said, the Senate is about to lose a giant.

How can I sum up such an impressive career in just three minutes? Luckily, thanks to the many tributes that have already been paid, we know about his numerous accomplishments and senatorial qualities, including his long and fruitful career in Parliament, first in the House of Commons and then in the Senate. We have also heard about the important role he played in the drafting of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, his deep devotion to the cause of reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples of Canada, his love of the French language and France’s magnificent culture, as well as his reputation as a patron of the arts, whose name is a byword for generosity here in the Senate and in museums in Joliette, Montreal, Quebec City and abroad.


But what unites these many accomplishments and contributions? To borrow a phrase from the English common law, what is the golden thread that runs through this extraordinary life — my dear Serge, your extraordinary life?

As I see it, all you have accomplished, as a lawyer, parliamentarian and man of enormous culture, are expressions of your core values: a profound humanism and an incarnation of those fundamental liberal values that we’ve inherited from the Enlightenment — values that still offer us a beacon of light toward a better future. You have lived a life that has embodied these values; you remain a champion of the less privileged, of the excluded, of the most vulnerable. You are a proud and resolute defender of the oppressed and the marginalized, and a fierce advocate for the cause of justice for all.

Dear Serge, this will be your enduring legacy, one that will remain a source of inspiration for generations to come. Thank you for all that you have done for our country. As we say in my tradition, may you go from strength to strength.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!



Hon. Dennis Dawson: As tenth in line to pay tribute to our colleague, I worried there would not be much left to say. However, as I look up into the public gallery, I see people Senator Joyal knew in the past, people he knows now and people who are part of his future. I see parliamentarians who served with Serge 45 years ago, as I did, and who are in the gallery today because of his loyalty to them. That loyalty has always been repaid in kind, because everyone admired his work.


Serge will go down as one of the great parliamentarians of the last 50 years, along with Allan J. MacEachen and Herb Gray. They are legends in this Parliament and I think Serge belongs in that line.


I also see people in the room who worked with him recently, as Senator Dagenais mentioned earlier, on initiatives like the amendments to Bill C-14. Those were the amendments that Serge introduced here and that were rejected in the other place.

Had they been accepted, there would have been no challenge and no need to re-examine the bill. Serge saw this coming, but sadly we did not listen to him. Serge, there are people here who are part of your present and who provided inspiration on this subject. I also see people who are part of your future, because there are people in the gallery who are making a documentary about your past for posterity. I am sure we will continue to hear about Serge for many years to come.

Like Senator Saint-Germain, I was at the ceremony too. I just want to read out a brief excerpt from the terrific speech that Senator Joyal gave at the ceremony:

What has always mattered to me as a parliamentarian, throughout all these years in the House of Commons and the Senate, was to strengthen the status of the French language in Canada by seeking recognition for the principle of equality, rights and privileges, making it a cornerstone of this language’s identity.

Serge, you left a mark on our past, you are leaving a mark on our present, and I am sure that you will continue making a mark on our future. I am proud and grateful that you consider me a friend.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!


Hon. David M. Wells: Honourable senators, I rise to pay tribute to a distinguished and respected colleague, a parliamentary giant and, most importantly, a friend. It was a pleasure and a privilege to work so closely with Senator Joyal on so many things. We sat together on the Modernization Committee, and on the Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament Committee. We also co-chaired the senators’ working group on the successful Senate Sesquicentennial Medal program, and we waded into many of the same debates in this chamber.

As many colleagues will know, Senator Joyal is a legal and constitutional scholar. He’s also our institutional scholar. His knowledge was critical to each study undertaken, be they Modernization Committee reports or studies of parliamentary privilege or physician-assisted suicide.

I’ve long appreciated Senator Joyal’s passion for history and his ability to provide historical context for our important discussions. He has always given the greatest respect to our multicultural and multi-linguistic heritage and, of course, he was and is a champion for Indigenous culture and rights.

Senator Joyal, ever the wordsmith, held the pen on so many clauses in so many reports that it’s impossible to count. Always a consensus builder, he was often able to find wording that could be agreed on by all. There are numerous committee analysts out there who owe him a debt of gratitude for making their jobs so much easier.

As I mentioned, I had the distinct pleasure of co-chairing the senators’ working group on the Senate Sesquicentennial Medal program with Senator Joyal. It was in this capacity where I came to learn the depth of his love of country and sense of tradition.

The Sesquicentennial Medal program was designed to give much-deserved recognition to Canadians who share the Senate’s goal of giving voice to people or issues that sometimes fly under the radar or don’t capture the headlines. The diversity and character of recipients were remarkable, and much of it was due to the tireless work of Senator Joyal, who enthusiastically agreed that this was not just a worthwhile project, but an important initiative. Thousands of Canadians — recipients and their families and friends — were impacted by this program.

Senator Joyal dedicated so much of his time to this pursuit because of his love for Canada and his desire to recognize those who helped make this country better and who ask for nothing in return, sentiments that he himself embodies. I consider myself fortunate to have gotten to know Senator Joyal over the last seven years. He is a patriot and a man of honour, elegance and integrity. When Senator Joyal does something, he does it for Canada. He puts country above all.

When I say Senator Joyal is a parliamentary giant, I remind colleagues that he contributed greatly to the very structure of this nation through constitutional discussions of the 1980s. Senator Joyal had a direct hand in what this great country looks like today. Throughout his career, Senator Joyal has never slowed.

Senator, I have no doubt that, even after your seventy-fifth birthday, you will maintain your pace and continue to make Canada a better place. The entire Senate looks up to you, your country looks up to you and your contributions to Canada will never be forgotten.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!


The Hon. the Speaker: Dear colleagues, unfortunately, the time for tributes has expired. I yield the floor to the Honourable Senator Joyal.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Expression of Thanks

Hon. Serge Joyal: Honourable senators, after 23 years of faithfully attending sittings in the Senate, 10 years in the House of Commons and nearly 20 years as the policy chair of the Quebec branch of the Liberal Party of Canada, I rise for the last time in this chamber to share my thoughts as I prepare for my statutory retirement and to consider with you the dynamic force that, even after 50 years, keeps me just as engaged in public life.


The political train that I have travelled on for over 50 years is finally arriving at the station — literally, since we sit today in the concourse of the national capital’s old Union Station.

For me, it’s the end of an exceptional trip but not the end of my commitment to this country. Allow me to share with you some personal thoughts that this long journey of public service brings to my mind.


Honourable senators, there is no cause more noble and patriotic than defending the very existence of one’s own country and to directly contribute to building it for the good of all its people. Generations of Canadians have done this before us, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives, and we must never forget that.

I had the privilege of serving during an extraordinary period in Canada’s history, at a time when two referendums were held in less than fifteen years, one in 1980 and one in 1995, in order to decide the very fate of our country. I participated directly, with profound conviction, in both of those campaigns as a representative of the Liberal Party of Canada on the No committee, while the Honourable Senator Pierre-Claude Nolin represented the Progressive Conservative Party.

I was able to intervene immediately after the October 1980 referendum, when I had the opportunity to co-chair the special committee charged with laying the foundation of a new Canada by repatriating its full constitutional power from London in 1982, thereby ensuring that Canada would be the master of its own destiny as an entirely sovereign country, and by guaranteeing, in a charter, the rights and freedoms of its citizens in accordance with an ideal of equality based on the inherent dignity of all human beings.

That humanist world view crystallized from the ideal of the free man that I have always embraced and that has been the reason for my involvement in public life from day one. I have advocated for that world view every day in the Senate and at every opportunity, and I have regularly taken it upon myself to attempt to transform the conditions of our shared existence and build a society that is more respectful of each individual’s life choices, one that creates opportunities for everyone to grow freely in their own way.


My response to the threat of Quebec separation in 1980 was a passionate defence of Canada’s very existence, which I felt was my duty because I believed that this country, Canada, could become a society where anything is possible, a society open to all who accept the challenge of being open to others regardless of their language, religion, race, origin, disability, social status, sex, sexual orientation, gender or economic status.

I was well aware that francophones were a minority in Canada and that many others before me, in Acadia and elsewhere, had no choice but to fight, sometimes doggedly, for their identity and their language. I knew that the demographic and cultural dominance of English in North America meant that French would always be under pressure. However, I also believed that effective legislation could restore a balance and create more space for the French language. I believed that a majority of citizens speaking other languages across the country, people who would also choose to embrace the humanist benefits of multiculturalism, could help strike that balance. That is the country I fought for in 1980 and again in 1995, the country I have always tried to champion in the Senate.

Not that Quebec’s independence isn’t a worthy option in itself. Withdrawing into one’s own boundaries is perhaps on its face a more reassuring approach to one’s identity, but personally, I chose broader values to make room for freedom and respect for my language that appeals to the better side of humanity: openness to others, the recognition that difference is a more powerful force of compassion that banks on an idea of freedom that makes way to opening and appreciating different cultural identities.

I made that choice conscientiously, freely, because it was more rooted in my personal values. This was the most rewarding challenge of my life, but it couldn’t be separated from the existence and defence of strong institutional protections that would guarantee that this ideal would be held up and not undermined by circumstances, difficulties or even crises. On the contrary, such guarantees can make this ideal resilient to eroding and dissolving over time and give it strength from the conviction that this is the preferred route to creating a future society that is more open, more tolerant, more united, a society that to those who are prey to division, partisanship, poverty and violence, could be a haven of hope, an ideal of peace, where all differences can find respect and appreciate and value each other.

Serving in this legislative chamber, the Senate, is a privilege that is unlike any other in public life, in the polis — not that which maintains order, but rather the city state, as Plato and the ancient Greeks referred to it. As senators, both individually and as part of a group or political party, we possess tremendous power. Our consent is needed for the valid passage of every piece of legislation in this country. First and foremost, we must review the legislation introduced by the government, but we might also debate all the issues that are plaguing our constituents, just as we might be called upon to explore every aspect of potential opportunities intended to expand or improve our shared liberties.

In other words, the Senate is not a chamber whose sole purpose is to resist the government’s bills. First and foremost, it is a place that presents opportunities to create better conditions to further develop the values that define us, to protect and expand the rights of minorities and especially marginalized populations — people who are struggling with the prison system or with mental health problems — and of course, to give a voice to the regions.

That is the fundamental advantage of our chamber, which is not established through an electoral process for a shorter term that would make it more susceptible to pressure from voters, who, today, are bombarded, assaulted by the horde of social media that relay both the best and the worst. Rather, it is a chamber that provides an opportunity for reflection, that can give pause for a critical assessment, that by its independence can be more objective, and that can with time provide a perspective that tempers conduct.

It is this role of the Senate in particular that I believed needed to be understood when I entered this chamber, and to be shared in 2001 when I published a book on the Senate entitled Protecting Canadian Democracy: The Senate You Never Knew, which Senator Mercer referred to. Why? To provide a perspective other than that repeated like a soliloquy by the vocal critics to that point, namely that the Senate was powerless, deaf to citizens’ concerns, and detached from the reality of Canadian society.

Honourable senators, I have always seen the true purpose of the Senate, at its core, to be connected to the federal principle that defines our form of government, in that the identity and autonomy of the regions, and particularly those of Quebec, are clearly guaranteed. The status of our two languages is guaranteed, as are minorities’ rights to respect and protection of their identity. This is what distinguishes us from a unitary country: institutions that guarantee each citizen greater freedom and true autonomy of choice.

If we are not American, it is not by default or by spite, but because we prefer a human experience rooted in a concept of freedom that differs from that of our neighbours. We, for example, value linguistic duality, diverse identities and a more generous vision of social solidarity.

I have always defended the Senate of Canada as an institution, in several books, articles, conferences, and I even argued on its behalf before the highest courts in the country: the Quebec Court of Appeal in 2013, and then the Supreme Court of Canada. The resulting ruling, in April 2014, clearly set out the constitutional parameters of our institution, its role and its particular function within our federal system of government. The ruling, which I supported in my arguments, is what led Prime Minister Trudeau to appoint 49 unaffiliated senators. How many of them would be here today if each had been required to run for election just to be here in this place, as the four bills introduced by the previous government would have required? I will leave you to think about that. What I wanted to point out is that others were here before you, acted independently and paved the way for the role you currently play.

For me, it was a unique privilege to assume the responsibilities of a lawmaker and, at the same time, having been a member of the Barreau du Québec for 50 years, to be able to appear directly as an intervenor before the highest courts of the land, on more than nine occasions, in order to stand up for certain principles that are essential to our existence as a country: the equal status of French as an official language, human rights in the face of a wrong-headed interpretation of parliamentary privilege, the defence of the Senate’s constitutional nature and its special responsibility to take the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms into account when reviewing legislation, and an understanding of the scope of the institutional principles underlying our system of parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy.

Such interventions had never happened before in the political history of the federal Parliament. I will always be profoundly grateful to the courts that gave me that opportunity. And believe me, I always conducted myself in accordance with the highest professional ethics called for in those exceptional circumstances.


I was never one to believe that examining a bill meant reading the text alone and studying it literally, without truly understanding or assessing the magnitude of its impact on specific groups of people, especially minorities and marginalized groups. The Charter sets out our rights and freedoms, which are evolving as our society evolves. These rights and freedoms are not frozen in time. They must also evolve to benefit those who are directly affected by the bills, not just in relation to the overall condition of the majority of society.

For example, that is what led me in 2001, along with Senator Wilfred Moore from Nova Scotia, to propose an amendment to the Youth Criminal Justice Act to ensure that the sentencing process took into account the special circumstances of Indigenous youth, who, as we know, are significantly disadvantaged in the justice system. This amendment passed with a one-vote majority even though the then justice minister publicly declared at the legal affairs committee that the government would not accept any other amendment and that the bill had been sufficiently improved in the House of Commons. When this amendment passed, Prime Minister Chrétien was furious, but the other place conceded and accepted the amendment to protect Indigenous youth caught up in the criminal justice system.

In 2000, I moved, seconded by independent senator Michael Pitfield — whom some of you may remember or have worked with — an amendment of major political importance for the future of Canada during the debate on the clarity bill. The amendment called for formal recognition that the primary responsibility of any Canadian government is to protect the country’s integrity, which would take precedence over any consideration of a proposal to negotiate breaking up Canada. The debate was tense, and the government did everything in its power to finally defeat the amendment, but everyone got the point. It is the Government of Canada’s sacred duty to unequivocally defend the country’s existence and fight for its survival. After the 1995 referendum, I sent a confidential message to Prime Minister Chrétien in which I personally recommended seeking clarification from the Supreme Court about the conditions that would legally apply if ever there was a third referendum on separation, thereby protecting the country from being constantly held hostage by provinces that could hold referendums on separation anytime they liked, referendums that only the secessionist province can interpret and validate. The very survival of this country was at stake in the debate on the amendment to the clarity bill, and I felt it was of vital importance that, before dismantling the country, we be clear about the absolute duty to defend its integrity unconditionally.

Still, honourable senators, the longest and most passionate debate that took place almost every day for more than three months was the debate on the amendment that Senator Jerry Grafstein and I introduced in 1999, which sought to limit the extradition power of the justice minister to countries with the death penalty and which specifically targeted the United States, where capital punishment is still today in effect in 29 states. We argued that this clause of the bill went against section 7 of the Charter because it effectively restored the death penalty. That issue completely escaped the attention of members of the House of Commons. The government once again did everything in its power to defeat the amendment, despite the fact that we called for a free vote, like we had before when the death penalty was abolished in 1976, because this was first and foremost a personal moral issue. The government even went so far as to inform Senator and Sister “Peggy” Butts that her charities would lose their federal subsidies if she did not vote as the government wanted. The Speaker of the Senate at the time, the Honourable Gildas Molgat, was ordered by the government to vote against the amendment, but he went against that order and voted in favour of the amendment, affirming his personal beliefs, his independence and his responsibility as a senator. A while later, he was removed from his position and reclaimed his seat among the senators. Unfortunately, as fate would have it, he died a few months later, in January 2001. I went to Winnipeg with Governor General Adrienne Clarkson to attend his funeral.

The amendment was defeated in the Senate after some unbelievable arm-twisting. However, that defeat was not the end of the debate. One year later, in 2001, the Supreme Court in United States v. Burns and Rafay deemed this provision in the extradition legislation to be unconstitutional. By the way, the court remarked in its ruling that it had taken note of the debate that was held in Parliament.

Honourable senators, history always remembers the courageous, exemplary and the inspiring and forgets those who yield to circumstances. It is hard to imagine a clearer and more challenging expression of independence than that. As you can see, independence is more than just a label people use to make themselves feel good. There has certainly been a great show of independence within our institution.

However, a debate that continues to this day concerns an amendment to broaden the protection established by Part VII of the Official Languages Act, which was introduced several times by the late Senator Jean-Robert Gauthier between 2001 and 2004. The government at the time, which insisted on opposing better protection for francophones and anglophones in a minority situation, continually adjourned the debate in order to drag it out knowing that Senator Gauthier would have to retire in the not-too-distant future. The government always publicly declared its support for the Official Languages Act and would point out its many financial commitments in support of the act’s objectives. Senator Gauthier had to resign himself to leaving the Senate without the amendment being adopted. It was Senator Claudette Tardif and I who took up the cause and backed the government into a corner and forced it not to shirk its constitutional obligation. The amendment was finally adopted in 2005, but the regulations that were to follow never materialized, thus making the provision almost unenforceable, as the Federal Court ruled in 2018. All of Acadia and minority communities still bear the burden of this decision. Unfortunately, I will not be with you to contribute to the debate and the adoption of legislation to modernize the Official Languages Act, which has become imperative.

Hon. Senators: Hear, Hear!

Senator Joyal: Honourable senators, the list of amendments and bills I’ve introduced or initiated over the past 23 years is long, and I would be testing your patience if I were to recall all of them. However, I’d like to look back at few of them.

Let me simply recall the amendments proposed to the Anti-terrorism Act during the national security crisis that occurred following the events of September 11, 2001, to give real status to the special advocate, a notion that Senator Gold will understand well, to protect the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial, amendments that were rejected at the urging of the government representatives in the Senate. Their substance was restored, however, following a Supreme Court ruling.

There were also the amendments presented in 2016, to which some of you referred earlier, amendments supported by Senator Cowan, to remove the “reasonably foreseeable death” criterion from the medical assistance in dying bill, amendments that were adopted by the Senate but rejected by the government in the House of Commons. We all know what happened. Last September, in the middle of the election campaign, the Quebec Superior Court ruled it as unconstitutional and in violation of the Charter, and gave Parliament six months to amend the legislation.


I unfortunately will not have the satisfaction of voting in the new year to restore the amendment we proposed. The majority of the senate unfortunately yielded to the government and did not want to insist on this amendment to protect the dignity of those suffering from intolerable and irremediable pain.

I could also remind senators of the amendment proposed in 2018 to the Canada Corporations Act, with the support of several of you, to provide for real progress on achieving gender parity on the boards of directors of major corporations, in accordance with the principle of gender equality recognized in the Charter. The amendment was defeated, but the problem still exists. According to recently released figures from the Diversity Institute at Ryerson University in Toronto, women hold just 24.9 per cent of senior leadership positions.

I could also remind senators of the 2018 amendment to combat tax havens proposed by Senator Carignan, which I strongly supported during the debate on the Cannabis Act. The amendment was defeated, but the facts are undeniable. The Montreal police specialized investigation unit into proceeds of crime recently reported that organized crime has now invaded the licensed medical cannabis cultivation industry.

The proliferation of tax havens is undermining the principle of equal treatment for all, which is crucial to maintaining the democratic social order. Combatting this social ill is vital if we want to prevent populism from spreading and rotting the foundations of our freedom.

Last spring, Senator Dalphond also presented amendments that I, as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, strongly supported. I felt they were necessary to protect the principle of judicial independence, which was at issue in Bill C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, and Bill C-337, An Act to amend the Judges Act and the Criminal Code (sexual assault). In a rule-of-law society like Canada, we cannot weaken this principle without also compromising the entire structure that protects our rights and freedoms.

Several amendments to Harper-era bills and to the Criminal Code were defeated and then reinstated following Supreme Court rulings.

I would like to remind you, honourable senators, that the courts regularly review our chamber’s debates when ruling on a question of law that calls into question an act of Parliament. The courts have often specifically mentioned the arguments raised during our debates and, as former Senator George Baker liked to remind us, the Senate is quoted “seven times more than the House of Commons.”

Then, there are those special moments where one has the opportunity to directly help change the bases of social relationships in Canada to make them more egalitarian, for instance when I sponsored the Civil Marriage Act in the Senate in 2005. That law now has the support of over 80 per cent of Canadians.

There was also the bill that I introduced in 2008, seconded by Senator Andreychuk, to establish a regulatory system to better protect the human rights of employees of Parliament who are victims of abuse.

There were also the three successive bills that I introduced in 2009, 2012 and 2015 to recognize and promote Indigenous languages, bills that the government ended up making its own and that we proudly passed in June 2019, thereby giving Indigenous people the dignity of their identity, of which they had been robbed for over 150 years. That changed the course of Canada’s history.

Lastly, there are the last few bills I tabled yesterday in this chamber. One was to prohibit conversion therapy for minors, which had already been tabled in April 2019. The other amends the National Capital Act to protect the heritage integrity of Parliament Hill and national historic sites and monuments.

Honourable senators, the reason I wanted to remind you about all the amendments and bills that I presented or introduced over the years was to tell you about a few of the lessons I learned, which I would like you to mull over.

First of all, belonging to a political party does not, in and of itself, make a senator less independent. I think I illustrated that by reminding you of those past debates that I took part in directly or was personally associated with.

Honourable senators, independence is first and foremost a scale of personal values that each senator establishes for themselves based on their life experience, the meaning that they give to their lives, the values that they choose to defend, their personal vision of a freer society, and the initiatives that each of us is willing to take in order to advocate for those things in studies on bills, in debates on public policy or in tabling private bills, which is an option available to every senator.

Such independence is also a matter of will. Are we prepared to take the personal risk that comes with opposing the will of the government, the Prime Minister who recommended you and in some cases — as in mine — may be your close friend? There were a number of occasions over the years when I had a debate with Prime Minister Chrétien, who recommended me to the Senate and to whom I remain personally and deeply grateful for taking the risk of recommending me to the Governor General of the day. Honourable senators, are you prepared to oppose a government that wants to pass its legislation at all costs as quickly as possible, or do you simply express your point of view and vote against your values or deeply held personal convictions?

This independence can also be defended and rationalized from a purely democratic perspective. The biggest weakness afflicting Canadian democratic institutions, as Donald J. Savoie recently illustrated in his book that was published on November 30, has to do with the excessive concentration of executive and legislative powers in the hands of the Prime Minister alone and a few of his immediate associates. This is the greatest blight affecting our system and it tends to grow no matter all the commitments to undertake reforms. The Senate has real legislative powers to first guarantee the federal principle and respect for the rights of minorities. Should it choose to become a simple chamber that gives advice, no matter how good the advice, without defending fundamental rights or respect for the country’s Constitution, it will not fulfill its fundamental role. The Senate will then be easily manipulated, particularly if senators isolate themselves and act as individuals and not as groups that have a defined political orientation to offset the omnipotence of the Prime Minister and the government machinery at his service and the control and impact he has on the administration.

Honourable senators, you would do well to reflect before amending the rules on the duration of debate in this chamber. The government, no matter which one, will always find a stratagem to take the utmost advantage of a particular situation or of a breach that could weaken the powers or the independence of this chamber.

I truly believe that the Senate can also be a powerful forum to embody the motto of the Order of Canada, “They desire a better country,” or desiderantes meliorem patriam. This is absolutely possible, and I can attest to that. Inspired by the principles and values of culture I’ve embraced over the years, I am convinced that a senator is what he or she does.

Better is always possible. It is up to each one of us to decide what we want to take on. In our presumed age of wisdom, to quote popular theatre director Enrico Casagrande:

I [personally] prefer life in a tempest to a life of rest. By choice, by duty [by culture], I seek the tempest.

I have always believed that art, reflection and a life of thought are this “tempest,” leading us to better ourselves. Art is political because it affects the world, and this idea is important to me because it changes us deep down inside.


I have always been a little bit skeptical, not to say fearful, of men and women in politics who stay aloof from history, from culture, from cinema, literature, theatre and museums. The Roman senator Cicero felt the same way, over 2,000 years ago. These people are not engaging in what my mother called the “science of doubt,” meaning the realization that life did not start with us and will not end when we pass on. Reflecting on what we are and what freedom means in our times and in today’s world requires us to engage with cultural works. Besides the entertainment factor, since they can certainly lighten our spirits, we also have a responsibility to expand our memories and the horizons of our freedoms.

Unless we understand what happened in history before our time, in all its triumphs and horrors, how can we truly understand and appreciate the magnitude of the actions we are responsible for taking? For instance, in this very country, there is the idea of the superiority of one particular civilization that invented Indigenous residential schools. That was a horrific chapter in our history that we must never forget, and it is the reason we must choose the path to reconciliation and better governance for Canada. Yet it was our human solidarity that led us to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees in 2015 who were fleeing from destruction and certain death. That solidarity leads us to open our hearts and our homes to other people who are suffering.

It truly is art and culture that give us a glimpse of the best and brightest aspects of humanity, what connects us to our shared humanity, what gives full meaning to our public engagement and can help us grasp a broader scope of our liberty.

Thus, with the support of the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association, the Library of Parliament, the Internal Economy Committee and the Speakers of the Senate — including the Honourable Senator Furey, whom I want to thank personally, as well as Senators Housakos, Pierre Nolin, Kinsella, Hays and Molgat — I was able to organize five different symposiums in the Senate. The first, in 2008, had to do with our exceptional relationship with France. The second, with Senator Hugh Segal in 2010, had to do with Canada’s constitutional monarchy. The third, on the one hundredth anniversary of the First World War in 2014-15, had to do with the political transformation process that launched the war for Canada. The fourth, in 2015, with the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa, had to do with Senate reform outside of an amendment to the Constitution. Finally, the fifth, in 2017, marked the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of Confederation and helped us to reflect on where we are as a country. I sincerely thank the Honourable Senator Seidman for agreeing to co-chair the fifth symposium.

As senators know, this initiative was accompanied by the striking of medals to commemorate the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Senate, a very successful project that was carried out thanks to the unwavering support and goodwill of my colleague and friend Senator David Wells. Thousands of Canadians were proudly awarded this medal in recognition of their volunteer work. Perhaps the Senate should make this a permanent annual project to help maintain its ongoing relationship with Canadians who do volunteer work to help improve living conditions in their communities.

An important book was published following each of these five symposiums, and some of them were given prominent awards. They will remain as tangible evidence of our reflection on our maturity as a country and the unique character of our national identity.

I will never forget the project I undertook with Senators Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis and Wilfred Moore to produce a calendar in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, a calendar placed in the centre of the Clerks’ table, the cost of which was covered by donations from every senator and senior staff member of this chamber.


This will remain, honourable senators, as testimony to our respect for the head of state and Her Majesty. I’m deeply grateful to the other senators who have been involved and, singularly, to Senator Noël Kinsella who brought his patronage to this initiative.


However, that which brought me some of the greatest satisfaction and joy was to work closely, again thanks to the Canada-France Interparliamentary Association, with the different ambassadors of France to Canada since my election in 1974. There were 16 in all, from Jacques Viot to the current ambassador, Ms. Kareen Rispal. That experience helped deepen the unique bond between Canada and France and to better understand and support our countries’ shared values. This also went a long way in supporting the defence by Canada and France of the rule of law and human rights in international forums such as the UN, the G7, G20, the OECD, the WTO, and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.

I was also able to advance, first with Senator Jerry Grafstein and then with Senators Linda Frum and Patricia Bovey, a plan to have a national portrait gallery in the former U.S. Embassy, across the street from Parliament, and convince the then Prime Minister, Jean Chrétien, to move forward with it. Sadly, that project was abandoned midstream by successive governments.

I also had the opportunity to publish many articles in specialized publications such as the Supreme Court Law Report and the Canadian Parliamentary Review, as well as in academic literature. Finally, I have published historical essays, given specialized lectures at universities and places of learning and given speeches to professional associations. All these contributions illustrate that a senator can really be the impetus for reflection, studies and debates that advance the ideals underlying the vitality of Canada and the type of society it has.

I was not away from the chamber more than necessary because, at some point, it was felt that I was perhaps collecting too many allowances for being the chair or deputy chair of standing or special committees, as if one can work too much!

I leave this place knowing that I tried to help improve this institution and protect its reputation and integrity. In 2004, I started working on the code of ethics with Senator Andreychuk and on appointing an independent ethics officer. This was to ensure that the Senate would not have to go through the House of Commons ethics commissioner, as two previous successive governments wanted. This battle lasted three years. This did not stop me from standing up for senators’ privileges and promoting better understanding of their roles and responsibilities when the auditor general spoke in this chamber without truly understanding the role and responsibilities of a senator.

For 15 years I served, in turn, as chair and vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators because I firmly believed that public confidence in the Senate was fundamentally connected to the how strictly senators apply the principles and rules of the code. Inaction on the part of just one senator has an impact on all senators, and we all suffer.

I urge you to continue reviewing the code of ethics in response to the report tabled in August. This chamber must maintain a high level of responsibility for our integrity and honour.

For the edification of future generations, I have gifted you all these works of Indigenous art, which will now be part of the everyday fabric of the Senate, these nine portraits of French kings who reigned during the French regime in Canada, and these three portraits of English kings, which will soon be displayed in the foyer of the Senate. These works give us a better understanding and appreciation of our political, legal and cultural origins. Most importantly, I am leaving you the imposing chair of Speaker Sir Alexandre Lacoste, as a reminder of the authority and primacy of the Speaker in the institution of the Senate.

Honourable senators, I cannot leave you without thanking the Speaker and his staff, the Clerk of the Senate and his staff, the Chamber Operations and Procedure Office, the Committees Directorate, the Usher of the Black Rod and his team, the International and Interparliamentary Affairs Directorate, the Communications Directorate, the Office of the Law Clerk, Human Resources Directorate and the Information Services Directorate. All of these groups provide us with neutral, objective, independent and impressively efficient service.


Everything I talked about earlier, and so much more, could not have been accomplished without the love and affection of my immediate family and the person with whom I share my life and my passion for thinking, writing, history and works of art, or without the team of devoted, loyal, efficient, task-oriented collaborators who make sure everything is always impeccable and exemplary. The people in the gallery today — I see Alain Landry; Norman Villegas; my friend, Momar Diagne; Aram Adjemian, for whom I have so much admiration because of his book about the roots of the Armenian genocide and who is still deeply involved in advocating for a community that history has not done right by; and of course, honourable senators, Sébastien Payet, who has been by my side here in Parliament every day for over 15 years now — these people are all paragons of steadfast loyalty and true, sincere friendship. I will be eternally grateful to them. They know that they can count on my affection for them, for their children, for their partners and for their families.


Commitment to public life is not limited to standing up for fundamental values when they are being challenged directly. It is also being engaged through the vigilant defence of these values when they are compromised through measures that are motivated by convenience. The nobility of public service is a reward in itself. It does not need to be sustained, praised or recognized, but is simply a self-awareness that the cause of public service is good in itself.


I have truly enjoyed the Senate, honourable senators. I leave this place feeling personally indebted to each and every one of you. I was happy here. I benefited from your sincere consideration and, with many of you, a warm friendship that always kept me on my toes. I really appreciated our debates, which are central to the democratic exercise. Our ideas should clash at times; the co-existence of discordant voices, diverse voices, is at the heart of a healthy and vibrant democracy, as Senator Plett mentioned. I thank everyone who expressed opinions that differed from mine, as they helped expand my own reflection.

I hope our paths cross again one day, honourable senators, so that we may always answer “present,” if ever our country’s destiny is challenged and the liberty we care about as an ideal also calls on us to march on together.

Long live Canada!

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

The Honourable Serge Joyal, P.C.

Inquiry—Debate Concluded

Hon. Renée Dupuis, for Senator Mercer, rose pursuant to notice of earlier this day:

That he will call the attention of the Senate to the career of the Honourable Senator Joyal, P.C.

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to the Honourable Senator Serge Joyal, who is about to retire from the Senate of Canada. Senator Joyal has dedicated a good part of his career to Parliament, serving in both the House of Commons and the Senate from 1997 to 2020, to say nothing of the ministerial duties he has performed. His public engagement has been recognized throughout Canada and abroad, as evidenced by his promotion to Commander in the National Order of the Legion of Honour, commemorated earlier this month right here in Ottawa. I got to know Senator Joyal when he served as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and its steering committee, from November 22, 2017, until the dissolution of the 42nd Parliament on September 11, 2019, during which time I served as deputy chair of the same committee.

My remarks will therefore be about Senator Joyal as I first knew him, when I became a senator in November 2016. The first thing that struck me about Senator Joyal was his scholarship. He was as staunchly dedicated to upholding the reputation of the institution of the Senate as he was vigilant in his defence of parliamentary privilege. He truly cared about the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers in the Canadian legal system. His passion for all aspects of the law showed through in his interventions. Specifically, what I remember from the way Senator Joyal would conduct committee business was the following: first, his support for committee members during studies of bills, as I believe Senator Plett mentioned this afternoon; second, the explanations he would offer whenever senators’ questions or witnesses’ answers needed clarifying; third, his meticulous analysis of bills; fourth, his strenuous efforts to restrain himself when questioning witnesses; fifth, his insistence on finding solutions when committee members were deadlocked; and last, his devotion to the classical French language, including his use of the traditional formula “Madame le sénateur” whenever he gave me the floor. I also want to mention that, as chair of the steering committee of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Senator Joyal did a superb job of guiding our work.

On a more personal note, I would like to say that I appreciate his quiet sense of humour. Senator Joyal even told me that he would be thrilled to be invited to appear as a witness before the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Senate. We know that his commitment to public life and our society will not stop when he closes the door to the Senate behind him.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!



Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: I rise today to pay tribute to our friend and colleague, the Honourable Senator Joyal. Senator Joyal, through your work and advocacy, the Senate will lose one of its most dedicated allies for Indigenous peoples and Indigenous rights upon your retirement in February. I want to specifically mention and pay tribute to your Senate work on Indigenous issues. To keep this tribute brief I will mention just three that have stood out for me.

First, in 2014, before the federal government even initiated the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Senator Joyal, you prepared the legal document that would convince the government that they had to do this. You prepared this and it was given to the Native Women’s Association of Canada and released to the public via a news release. Our entire caucus unanimously supported this manœuvre.

I was deeply touched by your dedication and work to lend you own hand and your brilliant mind to fight for justice for Indigenous women and girls and their families. It has always meant a great deal to me that you honoured the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and their families who led the fight to establish the national inquiry.

Second, I want to pay tribute to your tireless dedication on a bill that you introduced in the Senate three times over your Senate career. Its most recent iteration was your Senate public bill, Bill S-212, Aboriginal Languages of Canada Bill. As we all know, the core of this bill was incorporated into government Bill C-91, Indigenous languages Act that passed in our last Parliament.

In your second reading of your Bill S-212 you stated: “We owe the diversity of the country to the Aboriginal peoples and to the effort they have spent through the centuries trying to maintain the flame of their identity in such an adversarial school system.”

These words deeply spoke to me, as I, like many Indigenous people, have had to overcome a colonial-induced shame of my own Cree heritage and reclaim my self-pride and ignite the flame of my own Indigenous identity. I thank you for advocating on our collective behalf.

Third, I was reminded by Senator Day’s speech about your generosity in all the artwork you have donated to the Senate. In particular to the Aboriginal People’s Committee room in our old Senate location. It was such a beautiful, warm and welcoming room because of all the beautiful paintings you had donated that were done by Indigenous artists. It was an absolutely fantastic room.

I remember a sacred ceremony we conducted with the grandfather masks that were part of the Haudenosaunee culture — sacred items that were on the wall — and one of our audience members, Rarihokwats, who is there virtually all the time, thought those sacred masks need to be looked after. So with you and the national art commission we did a sacred ceremony to look after them. That will forever stay in my heart — with you and Senator Sinclair and former Senator Moore and people from the national arts commission — we conducted that ceremony that looked after the people and the witnesses who came before the Aboriginal People’s Committee.

I want to thank you — Kinanaskomitin. It’s a Cree word that means thank you. I honour you. It has been a great pleasure to know you and to learn from your wisdom.

Hon. Denise Batters: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to an esteemed member of our Senate, Senator Serge Joyal. Senator Joyal is the very epitome of “a gentleman and a scholar.” His accomplishments, awards and honours are simply too many to list — I only have three minutes, after all.

But Senator Joyal’s contributions to the Senate cannot be overstated. We are all richer for the wisdom and passion he has brought to parliamentary debate in this chamber. I know he has been a mentor to many senators throughout the years.

I have had the honour of serving on the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee with Senator Joyal for more than six years. I have a deep respect for his legal mind, thoughtful questions and sound judgment. On a number of occasions — and this may be a surprise to some — we have even found ourselves in agreement on points of law and legislation.

Many of my favourite moments from Legal Committee were sitting across from Senator Joyal and Senator George Baker, when Senator Baker would make some humorous comment and Senator Joyal would follow it up with a wry quip and a twinkle in his eye. Senator Joyal, I will miss your quietly mischievous nature.

Although he and I come from opposite sides of the political spectrum, I have always respected Senator Joyal’s commitment to his political ideals and values. He illustrates that partisan involvement can enhance the contribution senators make in this chamber.

Senator Joyal has a long history with the Liberal Party, serving not only for years as a Liberal MP, senator and cabinet minister, but also within the Liberal Party itself. Certainly the current Trudeau Liberal government would have benefited greatly from having Senator Joyal’s wisdom in their national caucus in recent years. Senator Joyal has a profound respect for the history and traditions of the Senate and the Westminster system, as should we all.

Senator Joyal’s influence on the Senate and Canada’s Parliament will remain long after his retirement, and not only for the many ways he has influenced the quality of parliamentary debate. He has also generously donated incredible gifts of artwork and historic artifacts to our parliamentary buildings. His legacy will live on within these very walls and inspire future generations of Canadians to contemplate the great traditions and cultural heritage that binds Canadians together.

Last week, I was honoured to be invited to share in the celebration of his promotion to Commander in the National Order of the French Legion of Honor. It was very fitting that Senator Joyal received such an honour in the French Embassy, a gorgeous building filled with beautiful artwork.

Senator Joyal, it is with definite sadness that I rise today to bid you adieu. I know I speak for all senators when I say we are thankful for your wisdom, wit and friendship. You have left an incredible legacy, not only in this Senate Chamber and in these halls of Parliament, but in the very democratic heart — and history — of this great country. Thank you.


Hon. Chantal Petitclerc: Dear Senator Joyal, today, many people have paid tribute to your enormous contribution to the Senate, the arts and France-Canada-Quebec relations. I would like to humbly acknowledge your contribution to my young career as a senator.

You know, when you go from the racing track to the upper chamber, you permanently leave your comfort zone. However, before I even arrived here, a mutual friend, the other Serge, told me, “If you have any questions, go see Senator Joyal.” That was easier said than done. I had no idea how imposing you were in this chamber.

Still, one Tuesday, I took my courage in both hands and went to see you to ask some questions. I thank you for that — for your answers, of course, but especially for the kind and generous way in which you shared your advice.


A few weeks later, the Senate was passionately debating Bill C-14. I was still a rookie. While I was very moved as a person with a disability by the debate on medical assistance in dying, there was no way I was feeling ready for a maiden speech on such an important matter. Then, on a late night, you spoke with passion, eloquence and relevance and it became clear to me — I too needed to add my voice to this debate, ready or not. And that’s how I wrote my maiden speech overnight and delivered it the next day. To this day I am still very proud of that speech and I thank you, Senator Joyal, for helping me see that my voice in this chamber was important.


Of course, Senator Joyal, how could I not talk about someone who is dear to both of us, Momar, the excellent parliamentary director that we shared for months. I never told you, but when I got his resume, I saw that he had worked for you. Right away, I thought to myself, “If he is good enough for the demanding Senator Joyal, then he is obviously good enough for me.” That is how Momar became an invaluable member of my team. On that point, I want to tell you that I really appreciated your flexibility and grace throughout that collaboration.

I could go on. When I needed advice on a constitutional or legal aspect of a bill as the chair of the Social Affairs Committee, you were always available and you helped me many times.

Senator Joyal, when paying tribute to someone, we of course have to focus on that person’s major achievements, and there is certainly no lack of them in your case. However, I also believe that the small gestures and acts of generosity that happen out of the limelight are very important and show what a wonderful person you are. Senator Joyal, I want you to know that, even without intending to, you had a big impact on my early days in the Senate and I am inspired by the qualities I admire in you. Thank you.



The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, it being 6 p.m., pursuant to rule 3-3(1) I must leave the chair until 8 p.m. unless it’s agreed that we not see the clock. Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.


Hon. René Cormier: Honourable senators, I rise today to address the senator, the politician, of course, but more specifically the engaged citizen. Behind this incredible journey is an extraordinarily sensitive man.

Honourable colleagues, as you know, I come from a linguistic minority, I am part of a sexual minority, and I am also a man of art and culture. I do not want to speak for all Canadians, but I thank you. I thank you for the incredible work you have done on official languages, not only to promote the French language, but also to express, in your own way, how official languages and Indigenous languages are more than just a means of communication in this country. They are vehicles for our culture and our shared national identity. For that, I thank you, and for that, I want to say that this approach will guide my senatorial work on official languages in this chamber.

I also want to thank you for everything you’ve done and will continue to do for arts and culture. Everybody talks about artists and their work, but nobody talks about their living conditions, the fact that some of them live in poverty, and why this country needs people like you, philanthropists who are passionate about the arts and about history and whose words, contributions and actions can illuminate the work of artists, ensuring that Canadians get to experience it, benefit from it, be transformed by it. For that, I thank you, Senator Joyal.

Lastly, I want to thank you for all the work you have done for fundamental rights, especially for the rights of sexual minorities. You know how important your actions and words are to this group of citizens, who still need to fight and work very hard today to be recognized for their contributions to this country. For that, I thank you, senator.

Lastly, I want to thank you for championing the French language throughout the Francophonie. Unlike our neighbour to the south, Canada promotes our two official languages and recognizes the importance of French around the world. I am grateful to you for your exceptional contribution in that regard. As Senator Petitclerc said, you will always be a huge inspiration to me because of your thoughtful actions, your thoughtful words, and the elegant and resolute way you speak on behalf of our society’s most vulnerable people.

I’ll end with something you probably already know: I don’t think leaving the Senate means retirement for you. Rest assured, dear senator, that we will keep listening to you wherever you are, and that we will continue to be inspired by your words and your actions. Thank you.

Hon. Diane Bellemare: Dear Senator Joyal, I will use the little time I have to speak about a few of your many and wonderful contributions by providing some personal anecdotes that I will remember for a very long time.

Our colleague, Senator Joyal, is a rather gifted orator. When Senator Joyal rises to critique a bill, he manages, most of the time, to sow doubt in the minds of his colleagues from all groups, and especially those who might vote in favour of a bill. You are a formidable debater. At one point in time, when I was a new senator, I was told several times, “above all, do not listen to him.” In fact, the courts often agreed with him.

A few weeks after I arrived in the Senate, Senator Joyal spoke to me and said: “You know, Senator Bellemare, the Senate of Canada was not always as partisan as it is today. There was a time when the senators of the two political parties enjoyed rather cordial relations.” And then you handed me your book entitled Protecting Canadian Democracy: The Senate You Never Knew.

I read and reread that book, which outlines your contribution and that of other experts who have explored the Senate as a subject. I see that book as part of the enormous contribution you’ve made to the Senate. It is a book that will continue to follow you, as it remains relevant to this day.

You’re also leaving the Senate with a number of material artistic contributions, as other senators have pointed out. Of course I’m thinking of the Salon de la Francophonie, as well as the collection of Indigenous works of art currently adorning the walls of the Senate. Those are the two most interesting collections. Every time I look at them, I can’t help but think of the special moments when you, Senator Joyal, personally presented those collections to my step-son, the artist David Altmejd, and I was lucky enough to be in attendance. That is when I saw you differently, as a passionate man who believes deeply in the influence of France and Indigenous people on our everyday lives here in our Canada.

I want to conclude by talking about your involvement in the Musée d’art de Joliette. You gave this city its very own tourist attraction, and this is dear to me because my family plot is there. Thank you, senator, for your generosity. I admire you a great deal. I know how passionate you are about the arts, culture and politics, so I’m sure that you will not be retiring any time soon. I wish you good health and, above all, I hope you continue to surprise us. I look forward to maybe having a coffee with you in the Marais, a neighbourhood of Paris that I love, just like you. Thank you.


Hon. Marty Deacon: Honourable senators, it’s an honour as I rise today to say a few short words of thanks to Senator Joyal. As a new senator, I was asked to join the Senate Modernization Committee, not quite realizing how deep in the woods that committee often found itself. Every meeting was a learning opportunity, and I learned a great deal thanks in no small part to our deputy chair, Senator Joyal. Our honourable colleague has the incredible ability to speak toward complicated issues and breaking them down into eloquent, relevant and understandable prose for the uninitiated.

To say Senator Joyal knows much about the Senate and its history is an understatement. Just two weeks ago, I picked up an article on the fantastic history of Indigenous parliamentarians, a wonderful history. As I finished the article, there it was, authored by our honourable colleague.

Another piece I picked up from listening to Senator Joyal was a great appreciation for traditions and procedures in this chamber. I was reminded that while institutions change and evolve, ritual and tradition will always have an important role to play. Thanks to Senator Joyal, I will carry this appreciation with me. I will remember every day how fortunate I am to count myself as a member of this chamber, representing all Canadians.


Senator, it goes without saying that your retirement leaves behind a sizeable hole in the institutional memory of this place. Over the past months, we have lost considerable institutional memory. It will take some time to get back up to speed, but big thanks to the example you have set, my colleagues and I will, in your honour, be up to the task. Thank you.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!


Hon. Julie Miville-Dechêne: Dear Senator Joyal, I won’t repeat everything that’s been said about you. I just wanted to pay tribute in a more personal way because I chose you as a sponsor. You were very generous with me when I first arrived at the Senate, excited and lost. You gave me advice, including to take my time. You know that journalists are an impatient lot. You told me to watch the committees, mull things over, and wait before making a decision.

You gave me advice and I appreciate it. I’m trying to take your advice and be patient, since that is an important trait to have in the Senate. I chose you as a sponsor because of your integrity, your passion and your discipline. I later learned that you were a workaholic. One of your friends told me that you would even bring work to the beach and work for hours — on the beach. That is unusual. Obviously, that is anecdotal.

You’re a lover of the French language and of France and I discovered — having met you in Paris when I was a diplomat — your interest in Napoleon. You taught me an entire era of history that I knew nothing about. All the little Napoleons in Quebec, named in honour of Napoleon, the objects, the reverence — it was fascinating. I discovered that you’re a passionate man. It is a side of you that I didn’t know.

I would also like to talk about your emotional side. You are a man of emotions; you show your emotions, you do not hide them. That is a rare and treasured quality, and it really struck me.

In closing, since I am talking about emotion, you gave a great speech at the French embassy. I am going to indulge in a bit of plagiarism because you talked a great deal about poetry, and that really touched me. I would like to read a passage of a very beautiful poem by Verlaine entitled Autumn Song:

The long sobs

Of violins

Of autumn

Wound my heart

With a monotone


All breathless

and pale, when

The hour sounds,

I remember

Former days and

I cry

Dear Senator Joyal, our hearts are wounded because you are leaving.


Hon. Kim Pate: Senator Joyal, in the nearly 30 years that I have had the privilege of knowing, appearing before and for the last three years working with you, I have benefited greatly from the generous gift of your time and your wise counsel. In my brief time as a senator, I have witnessed the care, focus, wisdom, and gravitas that you bring to every discussion and examination of issues that come before us.

Before I was appointed, I was fortunate to be a frequent guest of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, also known as a witness. Particularly during the times when criminal law bills were being launched fast and furiously through this and the other place, I could always rely on Senator Joyal to lead the charge in ensuring that the Senate did its utmost to uphold the Canadian Charter, particularly the rights of the most marginalized and minority groups that all of us are tasked with representing.

Before I agreed to be nominated, I consulted your book about the Senate that many others have spoken about today, as well as your submissions to the Supreme Court of Canada, in order to assess whether to seriously consider undertaking the duties, role and responsibilities of a senator.

When I arrived here, I looked to you as one of the wonderful wise ones whom I could rely upon to demonstrate sober second thought and to exude exemplary standards of dignity, decorum and intellect.

The example you have set, your ability time and again to combine complex questions of law and constitutionality with an astute understanding of how they affect people, their humanity, dignity and ability to exercise their rights to equality, fairness and justice, will stay with me throughout my career in this chamber and beyond.

Thank you for so many gifts. Most recently, during our discussions on Bill C-83, the amendments that were made here in the Senate were in large part due to your contributions. You contributed to the discourse and the interventions here that provided much of the thought and dialogue and brought concerns and issues of some of the most dispossessed and silenced Canadians to the minds and hearts of all.

It has been a great privilege to learn and benefit from your many years of experience as a lawyer, legislator, patron of the arts and as a humanitarian. Your many contributions to our communities and service to Canadians stand as unique markers, beacons to those of us invited here to help make our country a human rights leader as part of a more diverse, just, equitable and caring global community.

Thank you, meegwetch, for all that have you given of yourself in the service of so many. I look forward to being the privileged and grateful recipient of your continued guidance and friendship as you write the future chapters of your life.

Thank you for your service —


— your advice and your friendship.

Hon. Percy Mockler: I would also like to join with the senators who paid tribute to you.

When I arrived in this place in 2008, it was said that he was a very modest man, very humble, and that he had great respect for the institutions and the Parliament of Canada. As they say in the language of Shakespeare,


Senator Joyal, you are synonymous with FLPC — friendship, loyalty, principle and commitment.


I would like to share some information with you and with all Canadian senators by saying that after the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, Dany Laferrière and the great Céline Dion, Senator Joyal was invested by the French government as a Commander of the Order of the Legion of France. Congratulations!

Despite this prestigious recognition, it is always with the utmost modesty that Senator Joyal is always prepared to defend the interests of those who need it. A mighty advocate of the Francophonie, he recently intervened, honourable senators, in his humble and understated way, to plead in favour of saving the Consulate General of France in Atlantic Canada, in Moncton. I can tell you with all sincerity that Acadians and Atlantic Canada are very grateful, Commander.

I want to publicly thank you and wish you the best in your well-deserved retirement. Thank you, Commander of the Order of the Legion of France. You stood up for Acadia, you stood up for Atlantic Canada, and the Acadian people thank you for it.

(Debate concluded.)