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Speech in Senate Chamber: Senator Cools extends her sympathy to the People's Republic of China after the earthquake in Sichuan Province on May 12, 2008.

Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, the People's Republic of China is a land of antiquity. The Chinese now number 1.3 billion souls. They are known for their brilliance, their industriousness and their tenacity. In recent years, they have been forging ahead in every sphere of human endeavour, seeking their rightful place among the nations and peoples of the world.

For two weeks now, we have been hearing their voices and their pain. On May 12, 2008, a natural disaster, a massive earthquake, struck China in and around its Sichuan province. Daily, our consciousness has been filled with reports of the enormous rescue and relief efforts as the Chinese government and its Armed Forces respond to the Chinese people and these terrible circumstances. The devastation and suffering are great. More than 60,000 are dead, over 360,000 are injured and 5 million are homeless. Further, there are continuing aftershocks,182 to date.

Honourable senators, the government and the people of China have recently completed three days of national mourning. Such suffering is a call to prayer and action; a call to expressions of sympathy, support and universal humanity from us to the people of China.

In so doing, I call upon the memory and work of a great Canadian from my home province of Ontario, Dr. Norman Bethune, called Beth by his close friends and associates. This physician — this great Canadian humanitarian — served the Chinese people and China as a doctor and surgeon attending the wounded during the trying Sino-Japanese War. He died in China in 1939.

Honourable senators, we are reminded that natural disasters represent the story of finite and frail humankind pitted against infinite nature in all its fierce omnipotence. Nature in its disasters, particularly an earthquake, is a stern and merciless taskmaster. It is a dead reckoning, an uneven encounter between humans and natural forces.

Honourable senators, I extend to the people of China my personal sympathies in this time of unspeakable sorrow, particularly to the families of those who have perished. I also extend my sympathies to all those injured and to all those rendered homeless. I thank the President of China, Hu Jintao, and the Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, and the brave, enduring military forces. The President's and the Prime Minister's sensitivity and steadfastness in the face of incalculable difficulties have given new meaning to the term ''leadership.'' I laud all those Canadians who are assisting China's extraordinary and colossal relief efforts and I also praise the international community's efforts, and pledges, now at about $5 billion.

Honourable senators, I uphold the people of China. My prayers are with them in this adversity.

 

The remainder of this day's Senate Debates are available here.