Hon. Serge Joyal:
Honourable senators, Senator Maltais was known for his unique perspective on our deliberations, and when he retires next week, we will feel his absence in our debates. When Senator Maltais rose to speak in the chamber, we knew that he would be sharing his experience, based on life in what is known as “the regions.” We listened to him because he shared concerns from people working hard every day to earn a living. This perspective is essential to debates on bills, because these bills often affect the lives of millions of people who do not have anyone lobbying for their interests and do not have the same economic power as major banks or corporations.
Senator Maltais was the MNA for Saguenay, which is a region, and, as our colleague just noted, he knows the North Shore well. Nobody can match his on-the-ground experience there. He has always been close to the “real workers,” the people of the land and the forest, who earn a living by the sweat of their brow. When he speaks in this chamber, it’s their voices we hear.
That’s why I’ve always listened closely to what he says. I truly believe he speaks from a place of common sense and conveys people’s real-life concerns. We all know how easy it can be to slip into abstraction when debating political problems and how quickly the debate can become disconnected from reality. But the full force of the law applies to everyone, every day. A recent example of that was his intervention in support of Canada Post workers and their families during the debate on the back-to-work bill in December 2018.
There was another contribution that Senator Maltais made, a contribution that is incredibly important to the definition of Canada. Senator Maltais ensured that the voices of francophone Quebecers were heard. As they say, his heart is in the right place. When he rises, he speaks for Quebecers, telling the Senate all about their concerns and views. His francophone instincts serve him well. He is endowed with the wisdom and unflappable strength of the old francophones families, the ones rooted in tradition that have held on to their unassailable sense of identity throughout the centuries, secure in their ability to endure and claim their place in a united Canada. He belongs to the generation that lived through Quebec’s two independence referendums, first in 1980 and again in 1995. He was part of the group that proclaimed their attachment to this country loud and clear. He personally played a role in keeping Canada together, and for that, we owe him a debt of gratitude.
Those events have passed into history, but those who lived through them can never forget. Every day, they know that the only reason why Canada survived as a country and continues to be the envy of the world is that they had faith in our ability to resolve our differences and reaffirm what brings us together.
Debates in this chamber were always more thorough when Senator Maltais took part. Over the years, he consistently offered us an informed perspective, based on his long experience with community involvement and service to others, in a frank and objective way. As he heads into retirement, he leaves behind colleagues who are proud to have served alongside him.
Thank you, Senator Maltais.