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Tribute in Senate Chamber: Dr. Gary O'Brien, Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments



Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw to your attention the presence in our gallery of Dr. Gary O'Brien's family: his wife Colette and his daughter Émilie.

On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear! 

Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments—Tributes on Retirement


Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I rise to honour the Toronto boy, Gary O'Brien, our dear Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments, who was called to this high office on September 16, 2009. Then, after retiring in 2006 following 26 years of service to the Senate in several related positions, he was persuaded to return and accept the Clerk of the Senate mantle, which he lays down today. This is a memorable day for him and for us. It is a rite of passage as he embarks on the next phase of his life's journey, his pilgrimage. Our Clerk, Gary O'Brien, served the Senate, senators and Canada with distinction. He is endeared to many of us for his selflessness, generous spirit and his fair-, balanced- and even-handedness.

Honourable senators, it is said that public service engages not only the devotion of the public person but also that of his whole family. I note that our Senate Clerk's beloved wife, Colette O'Brien, and his daughter, Émilie, are in the gallery today to share this special moment. His son, Kevin, could not be present today. I thank them for their great love and care of this special human being, Gary O'Brien, whom I have known and admired for my 31 years as a senator here.

Honourable senators, early in his career, Gary was able to learn that the key to successful leadership is to understand that the leader is the servant of those he leads. The chief is the servant of those he leads. I thank his devoted staff, Lucie Lavoie, Mireille Bonnerot, Maria Hernandez and Jimmy Manigat, for their good work and great service to him and to all senators.

When Gary was called back here in 2009, he was called by the following commission and Letters Patent, which I shall record here today:

Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories QUEEN, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

Gary William O'Brien,
of the City of Ottawa, in the Province of Ontario,


KNOW YOU that, reposing special trust and confidence in your loyalty, integrity and ability, We, by and with the advice of Our Privy Council for Canada, did, on the ninth day of September in the year of Our Lord two thousand and nine and in the fifty-eighth year of Our Reign, constitute and appoint you,


TO HAVE, hold, exercise and enjoy the office of Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments unto you, Gary William O'Brien, with all the powers, rights, authority, privileges, profits, emoluments and advantages unto that office of right and by law appertaining during Our Pleasure for a term of seven years, effective the sixteenth day of September in the year of Our Lord two thousand and nine.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, We have caused these Our Letters to be made Patent and the Great Seal of Canada to be hereunto affixed.

Honourable senators, the following, the Senate Clerk's Oath of office, was sworn to by Gary, and was administered by then Speaker Kinsella. It reads as follows:

Ye shall be true and faithful, and troth ye shall bear to Our Sovereign Lady Queen Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom, Canada and Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, and to Her Heirs and Successors; Ye shall nothing know that shall be prejudicial to Her Highness, the Crown, Estate, and Dignity Royal, but that you shall resist it to your power, and with all speed you shall advertise Her Excellency the Governor General thereof, or at least some of Her Council, in such wise as the same may come to Her Knowledge. Ye shall also well and truly serve Her Highness in the Office of Clerk of the Senate of Canada, to attend upon the Senate of Canada, making true entries and records of the things done and passed in the same. Ye shall keep secret all such matters as shall be treated in the said Senate, and not disclose the same before they shall be published, but to such as they ought to be disclosed unto; and generally Ye shall well and truly do and execute all things belonging to you to be done appertaining to the Office of Clerk of the said Senate. As God you help.

Honourable senators, I note that in 1988, then Liberal Deputy Leader, Senator Royce Frith, under then Senate Liberal Leader Allan MacEachen, recognized Gary O'Brien's great achievement, his Ph.D. from Carleton University. His thesis was titled Pre-Confederation Parliamentary Procedure: The Evolution of Legislative Practice in the Lower Houses of Central Canada, 1792-1866. Gary's love of parliament, its law, procedures and practices is abounding, as is his love of humanity. I close now with the first and last stanzas of Robert Frost's famous poem The Road Not Taken, about life choices, journey, pilgrimage and passages. Frost wrote:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; . . .
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I wish Gary and the loves of his life the very best in their future, which begins today.

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