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The Honourable Michael J. L. Kirby, O.C.—Congratulations on Distinguished Service Award

The Honourable Michael J. L. Kirby, O.C.—Congratulations on Distinguished Service Award

The Honourable Michael J. L. Kirby, O.C.—Congratulations on Distinguished Service Award

The Honourable Michael J. L. Kirby, O.C.—Congratulations on Distinguished Service Award


Published on 10 June 2014
Hansard and Statements by Senator Catherine Callbeck (retired)

Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck:

Honourable senators, yesterday our friend and former colleague, the Honourable Michael Kirby, was named as this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Service Award by the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians. This recognition cannot be more well-deserved.

From 1999 to 2006, Mike chaired the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, of which I was a member. In total, the committee released 11 health care reports with Mike Kirby as chair. I’m proud of the work that we completed under his leadership — a comprehensive study of the Canadian health care system that rivalled the Romanow report, and the first ever report on mental health, mental illness and addiction issues, entitled Out of the Shadows at Last.

The mental health report especially was important to me. We found that the state of the mental health system in this country was shocking. We heard from people living with mental disorders, who told us about the stigma they face. I’m glad that positive changes have been made as a result of that report, and the credit for seeing it through goes to Mike.

After leaving the Senate, he helped to establish the Mental Health Commission of Canada, which was the major recommendation of Out of the Shadows at Last, and he became the commission’s first chair. Their work under his direction has helped to change lives. The commission released the first-ever national mental health strategy in 2012. Its Knowledge Exchange Centre is the only national mental health knowledge exchange centre. “Opening Minds” aims to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. “At Home/Chez Soi” was a four-year project in five cities that aimed to provide real support to Canadians experiencing homelessness and mental health problems.

In 2012, Mike stepped down as head of the commission and became the first chair of Partners for Mental Health, a national charity dedicated to changing the way Canadians look at mental health and people living with mental health problems, as well as to mobilizing support for improving mental health services.

In its inaugural year, this organization developed and launched two major national campaigns, raising $1.4 million, and engaged more than 54,000 Canadians. I have no doubt they will continue that impressive work in the years to come.

Honourable senators, to say that Michael Kirby’s career has been successful would be a gross understatement. Given all of his outstanding contributions, I can think of no more deserving recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. Please join me in congratulating him on his most recent success.