Hon. Dennis Dawson:
Pierre De Bané or “Pierre De Bane de Matane” as he was affectionately referred to by some people in the 1970s, had a great deal of influence in my life. In the 1970s, Senator De Bané toured CEGEPs in PQ strongholds to convince young people that it was possible to be federalist and liberal and still be a nationalist. That is a battle he fought his entire life, just like his battle to defend the regions, as several people have pointed out. He was instrumental in defending eastern Quebec and I thank him for his contribution.
These young MPs wanted to prove that we could be nationalists and Senator De Bané was just that. I had the opportunity to see him in action. That is one topic that has not been raised. A number of things have been said that I will not repeat, but he defended the “gens de l’air” with Senator Joyal, who waged an epic battle in Quebec to ensure that the French fact was recognized not only in Quebec and on Radio-Canada in Quebec, but also in the aviation sector.
After I arrived in Ottawa, I got to know him during the “gens de l’air” years. I met up with him again when I returned to Ottawa as an MP in 1977. Senator De Bané helped me with my election campaign by telling me that there was room for Quebec nationalists in a caucus that perhaps was perceived as being centralist.
Senator De Bané and I had many mutual PQ friends in Quebec City. Senator De Bané often came to Quebec City — I see my friend Elisabeth in the gallery — to visit his friend Clément Richard, who was the Speaker of the National Assembly, and to tell him that, as a Quebecer, he still had a role to play on the national stage because he could focus on issues that matter to Quebec.
I pointed out Elisabeth’s presence because I was there when they began dating. She was a political assistant before joining the federal public service. It was something to see Pierre’s passion, which he passed on to Elisabeth and showed on all these occasions.
He was here when I arrived in this chamber in 2005, and he really helped me adapt to my new environment. He introduced me, as Senator Harder already pointed out, to using computers for our work and forced me to get with the times by familiarizing myself with these tools that were not widely used back then. The Speaker of the Senate at the time sometimes called me out for bringing a BlackBerry into the Senate, since that was not allowed. However, Senator De Bané explained to me that senators did it anyway and that using this technology gave him an edge over those who, like me, were younger than him.
It was a real pleasure to work with him. When he left the Association des parlementaires francophones, he recruited me to take over for him. I tried but was not successful. He was considered by the APF to have played a key role in the association. Governments did not create the Francophonie; parliamentarians in the Association des parlementaires francophones forced governments to recognize the role of francophones around the world. The Francophonie extended far beyond just France, Quebec and Canada.
Senator De Bané and I held opposing positions on many subjects, likely on every Liberal Party team over the past 40 years. We disagreed, but we always did so respectfully. I always thanked him. At one point, he hired my young daughter as an assistant in his office. I always appreciated his friendship.
My last conversation with Pierre, which Senator Harder mentioned, had to do with the future of this chamber. In November and December, he called me because he wanted his message to be shared. He believed in the future of this institution. Let’s pay tribute to him by making sure that we live up to his vision for us.