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Tribute in Senate Chamber: The Late Honourable Allan J. MacEachen

The Late Honourable Allan J. MacEachen

Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I join colleagues to pay tribute to Senator Allan J. MacEachen, who passed away on September 12 last, age 96. On June 19, 1996, here, we paid tribute to him, Nova Scotia’s great son. MacEachen served for 31 years in the House of Commons and 12 years in this Senate. He retired on July 6, 1996, his seventy-fifth birthday.

This Liberal titan was born in Inverness, the small mining town of 3,000 people on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island. A child during the Great Depression, his father was a coal miner. On March 2, 1996, here, Allan spoke about his dad. He said, at page 103 of the Debates of the Senate:

My father worked in the coal mines for 46 years. When he left the mines, he left with nothing. He had no pension.

Honourable senators, he spoke about the hardship of coal miners’ lives and the significance of the whistle and its signals, in the daily life of these miners and these towns. He said, also at page 103:

The whistle was also the voice of tragedy, because every time the whistle blew in a certain pattern, the people would rush to the colliery to determine who had been killed or injured.

Inverness gave Canada one of its greatest political leaders. This child of Scottish heritage, who spoke Gaelic, made a large and profound contribution to the social and political life of Canada. Honourable senators, I note that often, small insignificant little communities like Inverness give remarkable men and women to this country. This man came from a community that was merely a dot on the map.

Colleagues, in his honour, Allan’s alma mater, St. Francis Xavier University, organized a conference, titled “The Public Good: Lessons for the Third Millennium.” I was invited to and attended this event. Lifelong friends Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Gérard Pelletier and Senator Jacques Hébert also attended this magnificent learned event. They had driven together from Montreal. I was very sad; I knew that day that I would never see them alive together again.

Honourable senators, Senator MacEachen was most endeared to me. As Senate Liberal leader, he often thanked me for my faithfulness. All leaders need reliability in their flocks. In our years here and later, I always held Allan J. MacEachen in my great affection. On this Senate floor, this resourceful Liberal leader, this political being, moved with terrific force on the life and politics of this country. MacEachen well understood the need for the sacred in the human soul. This need is best described by St. Augustine who, in his famous work The Confessions of St. Augustine, wrote:

Yet man, this part of your creation, wishes to praise you. You arouse him to take joy in praising you, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.

In every dimension of his work for the public good, a deeply spiritual man, MacEachen was devoted to the service of Canada and Canadians. I close with the traditional Gaelic Blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

The rains fall soft upon your fields, and until we meet again,

May God hold you in the palm of His hand.


May he rest in peace.