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Speech in Senate Chamber: Tributes to the Honourable Anne C. Cools—Expression of Thanks

Expression of Thanks

Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I must tell you that I too have been wondering for quite some time how I would handle today, myself. I would like perhaps to begin with my own expression of affection for some women sitting in the gallery. I can see them very clearly: Senator Carstairs and Senator Fraser. I see young Kornelia holding up the side, as she always does.


I have deep affection for Senator Carstairs and think of her as my dearest friend.

My other dearest friend, Mari Retek, is from Montreal. We went to high school together at Thomas D’Arcy McGee High School in Montreal. Perhaps I will begin on that note — Thomas D’Arcy McGee High School. I came to Canada in 1957. Some may know of the family I came from and its preoccupation with education, success and public service. My parents made sure that I was placed in school within days of arriving in Montreal.

Senators all know who Thomas D’Arcy McGee was. However, on my second day at this high school, I enquired as to who he was. No one knew. Not a single person in that classroom knew. I could not understand how students could be in a school with such a clearly Irish name and not know who he was.

But one of the school teachers said, “No, no, no. I know one school teacher who knows.” That knowledgeable teacher came to our class later to explain who Thomas D’Arcy McGee was. Of course, she told us that he was a Father of Confederation, he was assassinated and so on and so forth.

Therefore, colleagues, for those who believe that my study of the Constitution of Canada came about with my arrival to the Senate, they are mistaken. I began my study of Canada’s Constitution when I began my investigation and my study of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, 60 years ago.

Honourable senators, I must tell you that D’Arcy McGee’s restaurant, a little pub down the road, is my favourite place for lunch, because it reminds me of my Thomas D’Arcy McGee school, which was a Roman Catholic school as D’Arcy McGee was.

Honourable senators, I must tell you that the school had a large connection to the church — and I am trying to remember the exact name of the church — it was St. Patrick’s Church, now Basilica, in Montreal. Thomas D’Arcy McGee was buried out of that school. Interestingly, Thomas D’Arcy McGee was able to fashion great coalitions of unity, alliance and cooperation between the French and the Irish Roman Catholics in Montreal.

I only learned to understand the significance of all of that in later years. I know that when we graduated from high school, we graduated out of St. Patrick’s Church. The walls are all decorated with signs of the Irish shamrock and, of course, the French fleur-de-lis.

Honourable senators, I thank my dear friend Mari Retek for being here today. Marie is my oldest friend. We both graduated from Thomas D’Arcy McGee High School in 1961, and that is now many years ago. Then both of us went to McGill University and we have been friends ever since.

Colleagues, you should know that I was informed about a year ago that I have over 350 speeches recorded in the Debates of the Senate. I thought at first that the student working in my office informing me of this was making a mistake, but apparently it is no mistake. So I have quite a plethora of speeches in the official report of this place.

Honourable senators, because I do not want you to think of me as a boring person, I shall try hard not to bore you in the next few minutes. I have listened carefully to the uplifting and revealing tributes I have just heard. Colleagues with whom I have worked in the Senate of Canada have praised and upheld me.

I view the Senate of Canada as a glorious enterprise that is the upper and royal house of the one Parliament for Canada consisting of its three constituent parts, which are Canada’s sovereign monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the Senate and the House of Commons. I note that this grand and majestic chamber, wherein senators strive daily in their varied labours, is in itself an uplifting work of art. This is revealed clearly in the skillful craftsmanship in the exquisitely fashioned wood and stone carvings that surround us and which are so prepossessing.

I see retired member of Parliament Roger Gallaway in the Senate Gallery, too. I love you all.

Colleagues, these unique carvings signal and reveal the glory that is this Senate Chamber, the place wherein we debate, deliberate and decide the many questions, measures and bills that the other place, the House of Commons, puts before us here in our place, the Senate, for senators’ consideration and vote. In this Senate, our deliberations begin as bills and end as enacted statutes, receiving the force of law by the Royal Assent given by the Governor General of Canada, Her Majesty’s representative.

Today, I draw the attention of colleagues and visitors to the powerful paintings on the walls of our Senate, which paintings reveal and express the destruction and devastation that was World War I. Robert Burns got it right in his poem Man was Made to Mourn. Burns said:

Man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn.

Honourable senators, I dedicate my speech today to the young men of Canada who served and fell in the two world wars. I know Canada sent 165,000 young men to World War I, of whom 60,000 were killed and rest in Flanders Fields. Many Canadian boys do rest in Flanders Fields, where the poppies blow.

Today, I also uphold the young Canadian and British Commonwealth men who served in the famous and dangerous Bomber Command Campaign of World War II, in which 55,000 British Commonwealth young airmen fell in this battle in the skies. Of these fallen, 10,000 were Canadians. It is not well enough known that Canadian boys performed exceptionally well in the World War II Bomber Command Campaign. For a long time, I have faithfully supported and upheld the memory of these young men who made these profound sacrifices, fighting on our behalf in their battles in the skies. I uphold the countless volunteers of the small town of Nanton, Alberta, the home to the Bomber Command Museum that celebrates and memorializes these young men’s sacrifices. This museum includes a memorial wall wherein the names of these 10,000 brave Canadian Bomber Boys have been carefully engraved. Lest We Forget.

I note that Karl Kjarsgaard and Marylou Slumskie from Nanton, Alberta, are here with us today in the gallery. I thank them personally for their tireless labours in upholding and remembering our Canadian Bomber Boys at their spectacular Bomber Command Museum in Nanton.

I often say, colleagues, that a faithful heart is a mighty fortress against a formidable foe, which the Nazis clearly were. These brave and outstanding young men of Bomber Command were most faithful to God and country as they fought the formidable Nazi foe. We will remember them.

Honourable senators, I shall recite the fitting lyrics to the famous hymn I Vow to Thee My Country, with lyrics by Sir Cecil Spring Rice and melody by Gustav Holst:

I vow to thee, my country all earthly things above

Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;

The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,

That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;

The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,

The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago

Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;

We may not count her armies, we may not see her King.

Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;

And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,

And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

Honourable senators, some 35 years ago, in December 1983, most of us in Canadian politics were well aware that our then beloved but now late Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau was fast approaching the close of his political career and was then contemplating his actual end date. I had the privilege of knowing Mr. Trudeau Senior very well and hold his respect very deeply.


Most Liberals had been bracing themselves for this difficult but inevitable moment. Well aware of this, the great Liberal Senator Keith Davey and his team organized a spectacular and lovely celebration on December 13, 1983, in honour of Mr. Trudeau. That was exactly one month before Mr. Trudeau’s telephone call to me respecting my appointment to the Senate.

This fantastic event was appropriately and fondly named “An Evening with Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.” I attended that celebration in all of its glory and excitement. I well recall that the head table was the largest and longest that I had ever seen. Senator Keith Davey made sure that the brightest and the best of Canada were there. The well-chosen Canadian head table guests included Gordon Lightfoot — it was the first time I met him — comedians Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster, and hordes of other guests. It was well done. That evening was glorious for those of us, like myself, who had deep respect and affection for the great Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, the Right Honourable Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. I note that at that time, Pierre Elliott Trudeau was also held in high regard the world over.

Honourable senators, one month later, on January 13, 1984, Prime Minister Trudeau called me at the social service agency that I had founded, and where I had worked for years in the challenging and difficult business that was assisting families afflicted by domestic and family violence. Mr. Trudeau had long admired my labours in this cause and in the relief that I brought to these families. On the phone that day, Mr. Trudeau told me, as he had before, that he deeply admired my personal moral courage, noting that personal moral courage is a necessary prerequisite to life in politics.

In that brief telephone conversation, he also invited me to join the Senate, and informed me that I was being appointed that very day. I am now hovering on age 75. That day that Mr. Trudeau called, I was then 40 years old.

Colleagues, three days later, on January 16, 1984, I was sworn into the Senate of Canada with seven other new senators, including our dear Inuit friend Senator Charlie Watt, that fine human being whom I now miss very much and who was my dear friend for many years, during which he and I sat as seatmates over there and over here. The Debates of the Senate of that day, January 16, record the great Ontario Liberal senator, the Honourable Senator Royce Frith — and I do this so that we can have a remembrance of some of these great senators who have served in this place. And these people were very important to me and to this Senate.

Colleagues, Senator Royce Frith, the then Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate, welcomed the eight new senators. He said:

Honourable senators, on behalf of the government, I welcome as new senators eight outstanding Canadians who have made notable contributions to our nation, each in his or her own way. They now add lustre and distinction to our institution.

I note the then Liberal Leader of the Government in the Senate, the Alberta senator, the Honourable Andrew (Bud) Olson, was away. I think that some of us remember Bud. Bud and I once had our offices downstairs on the first floor. We shared the hallway admirably.

Honourable senators, I also note that the Acting Leader of the Opposition then was Progressive Conservative senator, the Honourable Senator Duff Roblin, who had been Premier of Manitoba from 1958 to 1967. He was the grandson of Sir Rodmond Roblin, Premier of Manitoba from 1900 to 1915. That day Senator Roblin also welcomed us, the eight new senators. He said:

Honourable senators, having witnessed this interesting and historic ceremony of taking the oath of allegiance, it is clear to us all that the long drought has been broken and that the Senate is now beginning to receive the reinforcements of quality and character we have long awaited.

I am so pleased that Senator Roblin thought that the eight of us were going to reinforce the Senate. That was great news.

I note that the then Deputy Leader of the Progressive Conservative Opposition was Quebec Senator Jacques Flynn, the grandson of Edmund James Flynn, Premier of Quebec from 1896 to 1897. Edmund James Flynn was the last Conservative Premier of Quebec. His grandson served here, and I had the privilege of serving with him.

Colleagues, shortly thereafter, on February 29, 1984, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau notified Iona Campagnolo, then the President of the Liberal Party of Canada, that he planned to step down as Liberal Party Leader and Prime Minister in the coming months, and that the Liberal Party Executive should call a leadership convention to choose a new leader. I note that at the convention Mr. Trudeau mentioned me in his farewell speech to the party faithful.

I will always remember that speech. I have long held Mr. Trudeau in high regard. I remember this memorable Liberal Party convention because we were not just choosing a leader; we were also choosing a Prime Minister. John Napier Turner was elected the new leader and Canada’s new Liberal Prime Minister.

On June 29, 1984, Mr. Turner appointed the gifted Nova Scotia Liberal Senator, Senator Allan Joseph MacEachen, to the Senate, and a day later made him the Liberal Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Sadly, John Turner’s time as Prime Minister was brief. Weeks later, on September 4, 1984, the federal general election returned Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his Progressive Conservatives with a large majority in the House of Commons.

Colleagues, I think we have to know that this era was a great time in Canadian politics. It was also a great time of transformation and change that we should uphold. It was a time when the nature of the appointments and commissions to the Senate and other governmental institutions began to see a distinct change. In 1984, when I was appointed to this place, we began to see a diversity of positions appearing for the first time. I think many called it diversity.

Colleagues, as we know, in 1987, the proposed constitutional amendment, the Meech Lake Accord had failed. In 1992, Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Mulroney had put another constitutional amendment, the Charlottetown Accord, before the country. That accord also failed, largely because Pierre Elliott Trudeau spoke against it eloquently, with the full force of his mighty intellect and his mastery of constitutions and constitutional law.

I must tell colleagues that I was there on October 1, 1992.

It was on October 1, 1992, that Mr. Trudeau spoke at a meeting of Cité Libre, held at a Montreal restaurant called La Maison Egg Roll. My friend and colleague, Liberal Senator Jacques Hebert organized this event. I was present that night when former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau carried the day with his unmatched intellect.

The fact is that the Charlottetown Accord sank like a stone.

Colleagues, I recall that sad fall day, September 28, 2000, now 18 years ago, when Mr. Trudeau breathed his last. It was a long and sad day for Canadians. Mr. Trudeau had laid in state here in Centre Block of these Parliament Buildings, where thousands upon thousands visited him to pay their last respects.

Days later on October 3, 2000, a busload of senators, myself included, left Ottawa to attend Montreal’s Notre Dame Basilica for the funeral of the great Canadian, Pierre Elliot Trudeau. He was carried out of Centre Block for the last time, never to return. In that sad moment of that sad day, Mr. Trudeau was headed for Notre Dame Basilica for a memorable and distinguished state funeral, complete with its 19-gun salute. As I watched this departure with great sorrow in my heart — and as we stood to watch him being borne away — I well recall saying to a journalist who was standing next to me that, “Mr. Trudeau had come to and had gone from Parliament for the last time.”

End. Over. It was the hardest thing in the world for us to really grasp.

Honourable senators, I come now to my work on child custody and access post-divorce. For years, my work on this large and difficult file was the most challenging but by far the most personally satisfying of my political career. I was a member of the 1998 Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access.


The joint chairs of this committee were the Honourable Senator Landon Pearson and the Honourable Roger Gallaway, M.P., who is present in the gallery today. I was involved in this great cause for fairness and balance for fathers in divorce, who were regularly maltreated in many ways, including the frequent and malicious use of false allegations of abuse as ways of alienating them from their children.

Colleagues, I shall quote my speech delivered in the Senate on December 10, 1998. Speaking to the final report of the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access, titled For the Sake of the Children, as presented in the Senate on December 9, I said:

Honourable senators, in 1996 and 1997 during Senate debate here on Bill C-41 amending the Divorce Act to implement the federal child support guidelines, I drew a line in the sand.

I asserted that the children of divorce deserve the financial, emotional and psychological support of both their parents, both mother and father, and that it is the duty of Parliament to vindicate the need of the children of divorce for both their parents.

Honourable senators, my point of view is well supported by the public. This was ably demonstrated by the Southam News, Compas Poll conducted in October and reported in the Ottawa Citizen’s front page article, November 23, 1998, headlined “Public backs fathers’ rights: ’Astonishing’ majority wants change to laws on access to children, Compas poll shows.”

The pollster Dr. Conrad Winn is quoted that “I can’t find an adjective to describe the intensity of public dismay over family issues and the unfulfilled rights of fathers and children. . . . I am surprised because these issues haven’t been on the agenda of Canadian politics for a very long time. The most astonishing thing is the absolute consensus among men and women about how the rights and obligations of fathers and children are being ignored.”

Colleagues, I knew I had won that battle, victoriously and definitively, the day that headline appeared in the Ottawa Citizen. I continue to cite my speech of that day:

That same poll told us that, of the respondents, 70 per cent of Canadians believe that children of divorce receive too little attention, and 62 per cent said that fathers receive too little attention. Eighty per cent of those surveyed felt it was very important for children of divorced parents to maintain an ongoing relationship with the non-custodial parent. When one looked at younger Canadians, those 30 years and under that number rose to 86 per cent.

That poll very clearly told us that there is a growing commitment among younger Canadians to parenting and family life.

These poll results show very clearly that Canadian public opinion is in tune with the finest of this joint committee’s recommendations, which are the recommendations for shared parenting. Canadians care, and care passionately, about the children of divorce.

It was clear that the children of divorce were themselves under the old divorce regime.

Honourable senators, I should like to recite the great hymn “Jerusalem,” the lyrics by William Blake, and music by Sir Hubert Parry. I grew up hearing these great hymns. I see myself as a Canadian but also a British person.

I now read:

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon England’s mountains green?

And was the holy Lamb of God

On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the countenance divine

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!

Bring me my arrows of desire!

Bring me my Spear! O clouds, unfold!

Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,

Till we have built Jerusalem

In this our green and pleasant land.

Colleagues, as I approach the end of my response to colleagues’ tributes, I wish to speak now about my parents for a few moments. Then I also want to thank every senator who paid tribute to me. I must tell you that I was very touched by some of their words. It is always nice for a senator to discover what his or her colleagues real thoughts are. I had a wonderful several minutes of marvellous revelations about myself of which I had no knowledge. I thank you for them in every way.

I wish to speak now about my mother, my upbringing and my childhood. A particular past staff member, Christine Sentongo-Andersen, who heard me tell this story, asked if I would share this particular story.

I shall relate one poignant story of a little girl — myself — with the nickname “Peter,” and a box of chocolates. I had siblings who died as young children. One of them, who died when he was 8, had named me “Peter” because he wanted a brother. That name stayed with me all my life.

This encounter took place shortly after Easter, when I had received a large box of Easter chocolates. It is between my mother, myself, and some young persons who had been working on our property, cleaning up the grass and other unwanted growth. I have 72 rose bushes in my garden, so I know how gardens work.

That day, my mother called me, saying, “Peter, I want you to do me a favour. I want you to do something for me.” I replied, “Oh, yes, Mummy.”

From my recollection, I think I could have been no more than five years old. I don’t think I could have been six, because I would have been in school that day. I was then going to a Montessori school. I believe I was five.

My mother said, “Pete, you know that nice box of chocolates that you have, that you got at Easter? I want you to bring that box of chocolates. Then I want you to call each one of these people out there working on our land. Then I want you to call each one by name and offer them a chocolate.”

I remember this as if it were yesterday. My response was remarkable. I ran off and fetched the box and returned with it. Then I called each one of these young people by name and said to each of them, “I wish to offer you a chocolate.”

There was no stinginess in my heart. There was no thought in my mind as to why my mother was asking me to give away my chocolates. It was just the right thing to do. My mother was a remarkable woman in many different ways.

Each one of them took a chocolate and clearly enjoyed it. On observing this, my mother said, “Pete, they have never tasted chocolates. You have so much more than they do. When you grow up, Peter, remember that you must work hard to make these people’s lives better. You have a duty to make their lives better.”

Therefore, dear colleagues, it is no surprise that my mother introduced me to the concepts that are the public good and public service. My family was active in politics and through them I learned that I have a duty as a political being to make other people’s lives better. I hope I have done that in my time here.

I thank you, honourable senators, very much, from the bottom of my heart. I thank you all for coming out. It is a new day for me because it is an ending day, and a day that will end one more stage of my life. But it is a good day for all of us, senators. It is wonderful to visit every incarnation and every life change and to adapt to life changes. We have so many changes as life goes by.

I think I am now commanded to investigate and discover the imminent state that is retirement. I look forward to discovering it. Individuals like Senator Fraser and Senator Carstairs, whom I both love, now you we will have no excuses about being able to make lunch more often.

I thank you very much, colleagues, for everything, and for your brilliant statements. I think you all know how I feel about all of you. For me, serving in this place has been a major part of my life — not a small part but a major part. And out there on the record, there are over 350 speeches by yours truly.


Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!