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Tributes to the Late Honourable Wilbert J. Keon, O.C.

Tributes to the Late Honourable Wilbert J. Keon, O.C.

Tributes to the Late Honourable Wilbert J. Keon, O.C.

Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals): 

Honourable senators, when we’re called to this place we all take a moment, after being thankful for the call, to have a look at the list of those who will be joining when we come here. When I came, I knew a lot of people who were already here. I knew all the Liberals who were here because of my previous life involved in the party. However, as I looked at the other people who were here, there was one person I really wanted to meet, and that was Wilbert Keon. He was among the superstars in this place. We may have bragged about having Frank Mahovlich in our caucus, but the Conservatives had Wilbert Keon in theirs and no man was a bigger superstar.

Wilbert Keon — a doctor, surgeon, senator, and we all need to remember that politically he was a GST senator, appointed at the time when the Conservatives needed some extra senators to get the GST passed.

Senator Keon was a community leader and an extraordinary one. As my colleague said, he was a visionary. He changed Ottawa. He changed medicine. He changed surgery in this country. He changed the treatment of heart patients in this community and country.

I am a patient at the Ottawa Heart Institute. I don’t seem to have a heart problem but I have had a stroke and have received great advice from the team that Wilbert Keon assembled at the Ottawa Heart Institute. But I want to talk, very briefly, about the time I spent with him in this place.

The Senate put together a Special Committee on Aging, and Dr. Keon was on that committee. It was chaired by Senator Carstairs. I had the pleasure to sit on the committee. It was my first time to work with Wilbert. As always, he was a teacher.

As things went along, it became a little more complicated with respect to aging, and in particular with respect to the heart. He was always there to give us some background and help us understand what might be going on in some people’s lives, but he was always willing to do that. And he was always willing to talk in a nonpartisan way. I appreciated that because we need to get our work done here. There are times when we need to be partisan in here, but there are also many times when we don’t need to be partisan. We need to get the work done. He was a good guy to work with, especially on the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee.

It was interesting when we learned later on that his son was the Liberal candidate in Nepean-Carleton in a federal election and that Wilbert didn’t bat an eye about the fact that he was sitting here as a Conservative and his son was running as a Liberal candidate. I think it says a lot about him as a Canadian that he was in support of his son trying to serve Canadians.

The lasting memory of Wilbert Keon rests out in the west end of the City of Ottawa — the Ottawa Heart Institute. It’s a monument to him and his hard work. It’s a monument to the work that he did on behalf of tens of thousands of Canadians.

It would be really interesting if we could invite all of his patients to sit in the gallery today. Number one, the gallery is not big enough. Number two, the chamber is not big enough. Number three, this building is not big enough to welcome the patients who Wilbert Keon took care of.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve lost a great Canadian. We’ve lost a great senator. I extend my best wishes and warm condolences to his family.