The Honourable Noël A. KinsellaPublished on 26 November 2014 Hansard and Statements by Senator James Cowan (retired)
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable colleagues, I want to join my friend Senator Carignan in paying tribute to our Speaker, the truly honourable Senator Noël Kinsella, on the occasion of his determinedly voluntary retirement from this chamber.
According to my calculations, Senator Kinsella is the second longest-serving Speaker in this chamber’s history. Another four months, and he would have been the longest-serving Speaker in our nation’s history.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear! Four more months!
Senator Cowan: Knowing Senator Kinsella’s quiet competitive streak, perhaps this casts a slightly different light on why he was so adamantly opposed to mandatory retirement.
But a record of longevity is just a statistic. The true measure is not how long a person has served in a position, but how well. And by this measure, Senator Kinsella has few rivals.
His knowledge of the rules and traditions of the Senate is encyclopedic. But, as impressive and essential as that is, what I valued even more is that Senator Kinsella’s application of this knowledge was always informed by his profound respect for the institution of the Senate, and his appreciation of its role in our bicameral Westminster-style parliamentary system.
Senator Kinsella has always been impeccably fair in presiding over this house. He understands the critical roles that each of us, on both sides of this chamber, must fulfill for the Senate to do its job within our parliamentary system. Of course, it has never been a matter of simply theory for him. Senator Kinsella has served, as Senator Carignan has pointed out, in a number of roles in this place, as a member of a long list of committees, as chair and deputy chair of some of them, Opposition Whip, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and then, of course, Leader of the Opposition, before becoming Speaker of the Senate. Undoubtedly, it was his time as opposition leader that led him to genuinely appreciate the fundamental importance of our rules in ensuring that both the government and the opposition are able to participate fully in our national proceedings, because only then can the Senate live up to its full potential as one of the Canadian Parliament’s two legislative chambers.
It was not only his experience in opposition leadership that Senator Kinsella brought to his role as our Speaker but also his lifelong and well-known commitment to human rights. He served for 22 years as Chair of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission, and as President of the Canadian Human Rights Foundation. It was not mere coincidence that Senator Kinsella chose to deliver his maiden speech in this place on December 19, 1990, to move second reading of the bill that established the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. He spoke that day about the struggle to eliminate all forms of discrimination. He said this:
Today, and every day, we must never forget that we are all citizens of the first nation in the world to enshrine the multicultural character of its society in law.
Colleagues, it’s almost 24 years to the day since those words were spoken, and they’re as true and relevant today as they were in 1990.
The Speaker of the Senate ranks fourth in the table of precedence in Canada, after the Governor General, the Prime Minister, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Consequently, the Speaker is often called upon to fulfill a diplomatic role, representing our country, the Parliament of Canada and, of course, the Senate. This is something that Senator Kinsella has taken very seriously. He has always believed in the importance of parliamentary diplomacy, of the value that results from the interaction of parliamentarians from different countries. I have had the honour of seeing our Speaker in action, both at home and abroad. I have always been impressed and proud to see the professionalism and the warmth with which he has acquitted himself in that role. He always represented the Parliament of Canada and our chamber with dignity and to great effect.
I must also add one other point before I conclude. Colleagues, in this chamber we have always enjoyed the company of eminent Canadians, but I can never recall having a colleague with as long a list of degrees and honorifics following his name as Senator Kinsella. I know I would run severely over my allotted time if I were to read them all out to you, but let me share just this: Did you know that our Speaker is a knight, not just once but twice over? He’s a Knight of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta and a Knight of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem.
Senator Kinsella, your friendship, your voice and your calm presence will be missed in this place. We wish you and Ann much happiness as you enter the next stage of your life.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!