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The Honourable Jerahmiel S. Grafstein, Q.C. – Tributes

The Honourable Jerahmiel S. Grafstein, Q.C. – Tributes

The Honourable Jerahmiel S. Grafstein, Q.C. – Tributes

The Honourable Jerahmiel S. Grafstein, Q.C. – Tributes


Published on 10 December 2009
Hansard and Statements by Senator Art Eggleton, David Smith (retired), James Cowan (retired), Jerahmiel S. Grafstein (retired), Jim Munson, Joyce Fairbairn (retired), Peter A. Stollery (retired), Serge Joyal, Terry Mercer, Tommy Banks (retired)

Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition):

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to our colleague, Senator Grafstein. However, I will admit to you that the prospect is a little daunting. How do you pay tribute to a force of nature disguised as a person?

Some of you may remember the old film Zelig, about a character who just happened to be everywhere anything important was happening, anywhere in the world. Senator Grafstein has been rather like that. However, instead of a hapless Woody Allen character, Senator Grafstein has usually been a moving force behind whatever it is that everyone else was clamouring to be a part of.

The great CHUM empire was started by Jerry Grafstein and Allan Waters when, in 1954, they bought a small struggling radio station in Toronto called 1050 CHUM. It grew to some 33 radio stations, 12 television stations and 21 specialty channels.

Industry Canada, the department established to be a powerhouse for Canadian innovation policy, began as the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs in 1967, established under Prime Minister Trudeau. Yes, Jerry Grafstein was there, as a special adviser during its founding period.

In Washington, everyone knows Jerry Grafstein. The inauguration of President Obama? Absolutely; he was there.

Even the Pope famously referred to the fact that there were only two people he knew in Toronto — two people in our nation’s largest city — and, yes, one of them was Jerry Grafstein. As we learned a few weeks ago, they happened to meet a number of years before, through the good graces of our former Senate colleague, Senator Stanley Haidasz.

As we in this chamber all know, Senator Grafstein is just like that. If something needs to be done, he is there and ready with a plan before most people even realize a problem exists.

Senator Grafstein was born in London, Ontario, where he attended the University of Western Ontario. He then went on to study law at the University of Toronto. He was called to the bar of Ontario in 1960.

From a very early age, Jerry was a dedicated Liberal. Over the years, he has held various positions in the Liberal Party of Canada, from the riding level to the national one. However, titles do not begin to convey the depth of his commitment to Liberal ideals, principles and a vision for Canada.

In 1966, Jerry founded and edited the Journal of Liberal Thought. He was executive assistant to the Right Honourable John Turner when he was Registrar General of Canada. He served as an adviser to the Ministry of Transport and the Canadian International Development Agency, and was a member of the Department of Justice Advisory Committee. Senator Grafstein co-founded and was President of Red Leaf Communications Company, the advertising consortium that served the Liberal Party so well for so many years. Senator Grafstein also found time to practise law with the well-known Toronto firm of Minden Gross, which he joined in the 1960s and helped to build to its current status as one of the leading firms in the country.

In 1984, he was summoned to the Senate by Prime Minister Trudeau. Some people like to present the Senate as a sleepy chamber, filled with people who do not do much of anything. I invite those people to meet Jerry Grafstein. Here are just a few of the highlights of projects he has been involved in while with us.

Senator Grafstein has been an active member of numerous inter-parliamentary groups and associations in Europe, Asia and Latin America, including the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association.

He served for more than a decade as Co-chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group. In July 2007, he was elected Vice-president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the largest governmental human rights organization in the world.

His community involvement is legendary. He was co-chair of the 1988 Toronto Economic Summit Preparation Committee; he was a member of the executive of the 2008 Toronto Olympic Bid Committee; he spearheaded the 2001 ‘Canada Loves New York’ Weekend to help New York in the aftermath of 9/11, the Rolling Stones concert in Toronto in 2003 to help that city recover from the SARS crisis, and the Canada for Asia telethon in December 2004 that raised $15 million to help victims of the 2004 tsunami. He was named an honorary commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and an honorary fire chief of New York City.

Senator Grafstein has served on just about every standing Senate committee over the course of his 25 years. He chaired the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, and is the longest serving member of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Senator Grafstein has introduced a long list of private members’ bills — including, of course, Bill S-201, to establish a national portrait gallery; but that is only one. He introduced a private member’s bill that established the Parliamentary Poet Laureate, and co-sponsored one that established Holocaust Memorial Day. He introduced a bill to add suicide bombing to the Criminal Code, Bill S-205, which has now passed second reading in the other place. His bill on clean drinking water is now also in the other place, and there remains a long list of his private member’s bills on the Order Paper here.

Our distinguished colleague may be leaving this chamber, but he has made sure that the rest of us have plenty of work to do after he is gone.

He is a member of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs. He has published articles, given lectures, appeared on panels and led conferences on technology, television, cable, film, broadcasting and finance.

Senator Grafstein is a patron of many arts and health organizations. He served as a governor of the Canadian Opera Company and on the board of the Shaw Festival, the Stratford Festival, the Toronto Film Festival and the Festival of Festivals. I guess where else can one go after working with all these other prominent festivals but to something called the Festival of Festivals?

Honourable senators see what I mean; Senator Grafstein must be a force of nature. No mere human being could ever pack so much into one lifetime.

Senator Grafstein, I know that for you, retirement from the Senate just means one more milestone has passed and it is time to look to the next. It is impossible to believe that you will ever lead a quiet life.

We all look forward to watching in admiration as you alight on your next project — the Grafstein tornado begins to move again.

Senator Grafstein, I extend our warmest wishes to you, your wife, Carole, and your sons, Laurence and Michael.


Hon. Serge Joyal:

Honourable senators, it is a privilege to be able to pay tribute today to Senator Jerry Grafstein upon his retirement from the Senate. Although we are losing an esteemed colleague, we will be keeping a close friend.

I will not speak today of the bonds that cement our friendship; there are other more appropriate venues for that. Rather, I will remind honourable senators of the principled positions that Senator Grafstein defended during his 26 years in the Senate.

The most important was the recognition of the value of human life as the fundamental principle at the heart of our rights and freedoms. He fought for such rights 10 years ago in this chamber when an extradition bill introduced by the government of the day allowed the Minister of Justice to permit the death penalty to be applied against a Canadian citizen abroad. Senator Grafstein thought there could never be two sets of principles for Canadian citizens, one for protecting them at home and another discretionary one abroad. He believes in the fundamental principle of the sanctity of life, equal everywhere and at all times.

We lost that amendment here; but a year later, the Supreme Court vindicated that principle in the case of United States v. Burns, and last year, the Federal Court reaffirmed that point in the case of Ronald Smith.

The second principle that Senator Grafstein holds as part of his commitment to action is the protection of minorities and the defence of the vulnerable in our society. By the mere fact of their greater weight, majorities tend to disregard the condition and plight of persons or groups who are less influential or powerful. At the top of those who must fight for recognition are the Aboriginal peoples. Senator Grafstein has introduced or supported amendments, motions and inquiries to support their right to self-government, their right to live in dignity and in decent health, as well as their right to speak their language.

Senator Grafstein is also concerned with the plight of youth and the rights of the child. He has supported the opportunity for a second chance for those youth caught in the web of criminal justice, especially those from a poor and violent family background. At one point, he got removed from the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for his point of view.

The senator believes in the role of government — not necessarily of more government, but of better and smarter government. As Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, Senator Grafstein launched and had a study completed to enhance the protection of consumers in the financial service sector. He opposed the mergers of banks, as ultimately the risk generated by bad investment decisions would have been borne by taxpayers.

He does not believe that equal opportunity can be left solely to the interplay of market forces. He is what I would call a ‘liberal democrat.’ He is convinced of the value of a free market, but with an eye to the strategic redistribution of wealth to those living under the accepted standard in an affluent society.

He is also a committed Canadian. He has always seen his initiatives as those of a nation builder, of an effective central government working toward binding the various regions, groups and communities of our country. His support of a portrait gallery for Canada is just such an example.

He remains attentive to the cultural richness and contribution of French Canadians throughout the country. An active participant in the debate involving our constitutional future, he is preoccupied with the way institutions of Parliament are defined in our Westminster system of government. He did just that in defending the role of the Senate as an essential house of Parliament during the Clarity Act debate.

He also kept an eye on the challenges of protecting the environment, regarding access to clean water in particular — a global preoccupation.

At the international level, his initiatives were also directed toward peace in regions where neighbouring nations have not yet been able to define the terms of peaceful cohabitation. The Middle East, the fight against anti-Semitism, the development of international institutions to better mediate the settlement of conflicts, in particular at the OSCE, have all been objects of his everlasting commitment.

Honourable senators, do you have any idea how many bills, motions, inquiries, questions, amendments, interventions and speeches Senator Grafstein has given or made during his 26 years in the Senate Chamber? It is quite a few.

Today, I thought it would be appropriate to review some the principles and values that Senator Grafstein has stood for. They are at the heart of his commitment to action and offer a stronger description of the stature of the person we are saluting today as he leaves the Senate. Thank you, Senator Grafstein.


Hon. David P. Smith:

Honourable senators, I rise to pay tribute to my friend Jerry Grafstein, whom I have known for over 45 years. I even knew him in his twenties, if you can believe it. I was somewhat younger or you would be paying tribute to me today.

Those were the young Liberal days. When we look back on that period, we think of Lester Pearson, Walter Gordon, Keith Davey and the song with the lines, ‘Those were the days, my friend. We thought they’d never end.’ However, they did and we moved on.

We worked together on countless campaigns. In fact, I cannot resist mentioning one of them, the 1964 provincial leadership campaign. A man by the name of Andrew Thompson won; some honourable senators may have known him, though maybe not as well as you should have. In any event, those were the days.

Senator Cowan spoke about Senator Grafstein’s legal career and Senate accomplishments. I want to touch on how he helped to make democracy work at the party level. If it does not work at the party level, then it does not work. There are people on both sides of the house, such as Senators Meighen, Finley, Nolin and Angus — whom have I left out? — who have all helped to make the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party work. Those two national parties are a form of glue that helps to keep the country together, and I believe that.

Senator Grafstien has done that work at all levels. At the riding level and then, in the 1968 leadership campaign, we had both been John Turner’s executive assistants. Jerry came before me and then I worked for Turner. Many people do not realize that in the 1968 convention, Turner had the largest portion of the youth vote. Many people assumed that Trudeau did. It was a friendly convention with a good ending and everyone got behind Mr. Trudeau, however we had rounded up most of those young people to support John Turner.

Jerry has also been involved in the Red Leaf group that creates imaging, advertising and things like that.

Jerry gives new meaning to the word ‘energy.’ I do not need to explain that. All honourable senators know that. It is just simply there.

Another role I want to reference is the way in which he has somewhat filled the shoes of someone like David Croll, who was a patriarch of the Jewish community. Jerry has represented that community in a fair, balanced and, I think, objective way on lively issues. I fully and totally respect that. Those will be very hard shoes to fill.

Jerry has also been a friend. It is hard to believe now, but when he was appointed to the Senate in January 1984, I was in the other place. I hosted a dinner for him upstairs at Café Henry Burger with a dozen of his friends. We had another dinner for him last week and there were 25 times that number. The place was packed; it was a sell out; it was an extravaganza. You do not see too many shows like that — it was an incredibly tremendous tribute. None of us who were there will forget it.

Jerry, you will be missed. Yes, someone will succeed you and fill the seat, but they will not really fill it because you are irreplaceable. Some of your causes and issues have been addressed but there are still motions and private members’ bills that have not yet come to fruition. The seeds have been planted, watered and will be harvested. As time goes by, your legacy will be even stronger.

It will be on the record that Jerry’s family was snowed out today. Carole will still kick him out of the house most days because he will have many other things to do.

All the best to the family and to you, Jerry. You will be missed. You are irreplaceable.


Hon. Joyce Fairbairn:

Honourable senators, it is with both sadness and pride that I say farewell to a longtime friend and colleague, Senator Jerry Grafstein, who has energized the Senate. Certainly, he has energized our caucus ever since he entered this chamber in January 1984. He brought with him his skill as a lawyer and as a longtime political adviser for the Liberal Party in Toronto. He has been an icon in Parliament and in this chamber.

I first met Jerry in 1966 when he came to work with a vigorous new cabinet minister, the Right Honourable John Turner. He was a first-class assistant in helping to set up the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. He was a young Liberal and full of advice. He is still a young Liberal. Not only was he full of advice and a great fundraiser, he was also profoundly admired by all of us. His passion for his city and his country is deeply rooted. His friendship with, and knowledge of our neighbour, the United States, has grown tremendously over the years. He is the longest-serving co-chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group, with 15 years in that capacity. He is recognized not only as a senator but as a respected representative of this country, determined to maintain an open door when discussion and help are needed. When he is not deep in politics, he is an invaluable community organizer.

He spearheaded the slogan, ‘Canada Loves New York.’ Almost 30,000 Canadians heeded that slogan and went to New York to offer assistance after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He is also well known for his work to bring the Rolling Stones to Toronto on July 30, 2003, as the disaster of SARS moved across our country. The concert had an attendance of about 500,000, including me. It was recognized as the largest outdoor ticketed event in world history. The concert was also noteworthy in my view because I saw, as I rolled in from Lethbridge, Alberta, that they were selling Alberta beef in support of the Canadian beef industry, which had been suffering because of mad cow disease.

All in all, Jerry has had a great life on the Hill. I remember how young we were — and still are — on the other side of this building, as were the Leader of the Government in the Senate and others. We were friends and we are still friends. In every sense, it has been a great opportunity for us to serve with him in Parliament, not to mention all the rest that he has done for the place he cares so much about, Toronto.

I thank you, Jerry, for everything you have contributed in the Senate for the last 26 years. We will miss you. I will miss you. I will miss watching the wonderful shirts that you wear, in particular the pink one. I remember that shirt and will think of you. All of us will miss you.

As you go, I hope that one day there will be a portrait gallery. I will be ready to support you in any way and anything that you wish to do, and to find your special events in the future, because you will have another great future. I tell you, Jerry, your presence here will never be forgotten.


Hon. Art Eggleton:

Honourable senators, I hope you will not consider this a prop, but I have in my hand the Order Paper and Notice Paper that is before the house today. With the departure of Senator Grafstein, it is about to become a lot thinner because more than half the pages are taken up with motions introduced by Senator Grafstein. While some honourable senators might welcome that reduction, I think the chamber will be the poorer for not having all these contributions from Senator Grafstein. As is evident by reading this paper, he has done a great deal of research on the issues and commits to them with a great deal of conviction and passion. He has made an outstanding contribution to Canada in doing so.

As was pointed out, he made contributions outside the chamber in many of his organizations where he represented the Senate in Europe and in the United States with the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group. He has contributed outstanding work.

I cannot help but think that he quickly grasped the idea that someone with a title of ‘senator’ would do well in relations with the United States where the title of senator carries much weight and opens many doors. He has been able to open many doors and meet and become acquainted with many people. He has used that strength to the benefit of this country in its relationship with the United States. We are so much better off because of the kind of contribution he has made.

I must mention Toronto, of course. Jerry was a strong supporter and adviser to me during my 11 years as Mayor of Toronto from 1980 to 1991. No mayor could have a better citizen of their city than Jerry Grafstein. No mayor could have a better builder, booster and promoter of a city than Jerry Grafstein. I was pleased to have been a mayor of a city that had him as its citizen.

Of course, his many contributions to Toronto have been cited by some of my colleagues this afternoon. I cannot help but mention, once again, the Rolling Stones concert in July 2003. By that time, of course, I was not mayor; I was here and was chair of the Toronto caucus. I was happy to lend my support. All kinds of people said to me: It cannot be done! They cannot organize a concert in 30 days with stars like that and expect 500,000 people to come. It is impossible.

Never tell Jerry Grafstein that anything is impossible, because he can do the impossible. That was another great contribution to Toronto in helping us to recover from SARS and to tell the world that Toronto was, indeed, a safe place to come.

Thanks to Jerry Grafstein’s enormous effort, we are in the Guinness Book of World Records, as Senator Fairbairn said, for having the largest ticketed concert ever, and all organized in a short period of time.

Jerry, thank you for all those contributions to Canada, to international affairs and to human rights issues, which I know are close to you. I, above all, thank you for your contribution to Toronto. I look forward to a continuing friendship with you, Carole and your family.


Hon. Tommy Banks:

Jerry, I will break ranks here and speak directly and personally to you, and briefly. You have heard from others and you will hear from others who are better equipped than I to articulate the ways in which you have made this place better. The Senate of Canada will be a different place without you. We will save a lot of trees, as Senator Eggleton pointed out.

I thank you personally because of the fact that, as we have heard, you have been moving at 200 miles an hour in every direction all the time, and despite that peripatetic nature, you have always been there to answer questions. You have been a valuable mentor to all of us, but to me in particular, throughout the past years that I have been here. I thank you for that.

In particular I thank you for your prescient understanding and grasp of the water problem. You alone, among all of us here in this place and in the other place, understand what is at stake here, and have tried to do something about this problem. I hope that we will be able to continue that valuable work for the good of our country. Thank you, Jerry.


Hon. Peter A. Stollery:

Honourable senators, I will say a couple of words about Jerry, my old friend and sometimes seatmate, on a slightly different and brief note.

Jerry and I have been here for a long time. We have known each other for more years than I care to mention. Over those years, we have occasionally had disagreements, as people do. The characteristic of Jerry that I want to impart is that he has a great gift of never holding it against you when you have a disagreement. He is the most charming and easy-to-get-along-with guy after you have had a disagreement, of which we have had a few over these many years.

Jerry, I thank you for your company and your good humour.


Hon. Terry M. Mercer:

Honourable senators, it is a pleasure to take part in a tribute to my friend Jerry Grafstein. I have known Jerry for much longer than I have been in the Senate. I knew him, obviously, when I was national director of the Liberal Party, and back in the days when I lived in Toronto and was a party activist there.

The description of Jerry being everywhere is absolutely true. We could spend the entire afternoon telling interesting and funny stories about Jerry. Some of them might be embarrassing, so we will leave those out.

I remember one specific day when I was in the Senate. Jerry and I met and talked about what I thought was an important problem. He agreed with me. He said, You know, we have to do something about this. I said, Yes, we will talk about this again.

The next day I came to the chamber ready to talk to Jerry. The Order Paper process was ongoing, and the next thing I knew, Jerry was standing up introducing a bill on the subject that we had discussed. I was still discussing what to do and Jerry was doing it. That, indeed, was Bill S-217, to establish a national philanthropy day, which is now in committee in the other place and hopefully, will eventually become law.

Jerry, you have set such high standards for us, both for your energy and for knowing what to do. Senator Angus and Senator Fairbairn have talked about the standards you have set in the dress code here. The one good thing about your not being here is that we will not be measured against your sartorial standard.

I have been to Washington once with Jerry. I was travelling with the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, under the then chair, Senator Fairbairn. Senator Len Gustafson — a Conservative senator from Saskatchewan, a great guy — and I were there, and Senator Tkachuk might have been there as well. There were two Canadian committees in town, so someone organized a reception for the Canadians with American senators and congressmen.

When we walked into the room, most of us did not know anyone, or we recognized a few faces that we had seen on television. However, when Jerry walked into the room, not only did he know everyone, but everyone knew Jerry. I am told a number of great stories about Jerry’s ability not only to be known on Capitol Hill in Washington but also being known, or at least purporting to be known, in various good restaurants around the city of Washington.

You are a hard act to follow, Jerry. All of us in this chamber, on both sides, will miss your energy on the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group. The work that you have undertaken and the standards you have set, with which others are trying to keep up, will be long lasting. Also, much of the legislation that you have introduced has passed, or is in the process now.

As someone who has been in the Senate only six years, I hope that when my time is finished here, I can accomplish at least 10 per cent of what you have been able to do. Thank you, Jerry.


Hon. Jim Munson:

Honourable senators, I asked this serious question this morning of the senator, and I will leave this question with you, Senator Grafstein. It is an extremely important historical question, and there is always a set-up guy in politics: What was Sir Wilfrid Laurier really like?

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