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The Honourable Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu

February 8, 2024

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition) [ - ]

Honourable senators, today, we are saying goodbye to a man who has demonstrated great courage and great determination in making Canada a better place.

Colleagues, I don’t say this lightly. Senator Boisvenu is a man who has suffered tremendous loss with the deaths of both his daughters. Yet, he is a man who has found the strength to turn his suffering into a lifelong drive and determination to help others who have faced similar horrors.

While most of us become emotionally paralyzed in the face of criminal human tragedy, our colleague Senator Boisvenu somehow becomes an unfathomable pillar of strength for those who are suffering. While we freeze up, he instinctively has the ability and the compassion to reach out and support families who are grieving due to monstrous crime. I can’t think of any better thing to say but that his actions are truly honourable.

Senator Boisvenu has demonstrated great humanity and vulnerability in this chamber. We will always remember his poignant statements, but what is remarkable is that his words were followed by action. He took on the responsibility to make a difference by introducing, writing and sponsoring legislation — legislation that we as Conservatives proudly stand and support, legislation based on common sense, legislation that has and will be beneficial for generations to come.

Senator Boisvenu was appointed as a Conservative senator and, contrary to some others in this chamber, he remained and served our country as a devoted Conservative until his retirement.

Colleagues, regrettably, I won’t have sufficient time today to enumerate the impressive list of legislative work accomplished by Senator Boisvenu. I will simply summarize it as follows.

Under the Harper government, Senator Boisvenu took part in writing and sponsoring more than 20 tough-on-crime bills that aimed to better protect Canadians while keeping criminals behind bars. This list includes the Victims Bill of Rights, Bill C-32, which is an incredible accomplishment and which has a very personal meaning. He has also introduced eight substantial Senate public bills, one of them being Bill S-206, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (disclosure of information by jurors), which received Royal Assent on October 18, 2022.

Prior to being appointed to the Senate, Senator Boisvenu founded the Murdered or Missing Persons’ Families Association, which is the force behind the legislation on compensation for victims of crime, Bill 25, in Quebec.

Colleagues, although Senator Boisvenu is about to retire from this chamber, he is leaving an incredible legacy, one that will be valued and treasured, one that has great meaning, especially for Canadians who have found in him an ally, a champion, a mentor and a strong, powerful voice.

Senator Boisvenu, on behalf of the Conservative team — and, furthermore, on behalf of all Canadians — thank you for all that you have done. While we will miss you in the Senate, I have no doubt that you will continue working to make our country a better place to live.

Happy retirement, my friend.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ - ]

Honourable senators, I rise today on behalf of the Senate Government Representative Office to bid farewell to our distinguished colleague, Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu.

Senator Boisvenu was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper 14 years ago. Since his arrival in the Senate, he has mainly focused on defending victims’ rights. The tragedies that he and his loved ones have experienced, as mentioned by our colleague, have influenced all of his work for over 20 years.

I have known Senator Boisvenu for a long time, even before I was appointed to the Senate. We may not agree on everything, and some may be surprised that I am admitting that, but we do care about each other when the discussion isn’t about politics.

Regardless of our differences on the issues of concern here, it is impossible not to respect his passion and determination when he fights for the causes that he cares so much about. His focus on victims’ rights and the creation of the Murdered or Missing Persons Families’ Association and Le Nid, a shelter for abused women, are the result of Senator Boisvenu’s painful, personal experiences.

His tenacity was rewarded when, in 2015, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights became law.

During his 14 years in the Senate, Senator Boisvenu sat on several committees, including the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, the Transport and Communications Committee, and the National Security and Defence Committee. He has sponsored government bills and introduced several of his own, as mentioned by our colleague, Senator Plett.

It goes without saying that his contributions are numerous and varied and that his retirement is well deserved. I have no doubt, however, that Senator Boisvenu will continue to champion the causes he holds dear.

We will miss you. Happy retirement!

Hon. Raymonde Saint-Germain [ - ]

Honourable senators, and most importantly, dear Pierre-Hugues, life sometimes forces us down paths that we wish we had never had to tread. You know them well, these painful paths that we are sometimes forced to walk. And walk them you did, not once but twice, when the cruellest of fates first took one of your two daughters away from you and then took the other.

If sympathy and compassion were the first emotions that stirred in each and every person who understood and shared your pain and sorrow, today, after your almost 14-year tenure in the Senate, admiration is what we feel — admiration for the courage and steadfastness of a grief-stricken father who found a way to reclaim his life and make sure that these tragedies are never forgotten and that we all learn from them so that they don’t happen again.

This admiration that we have for you is accompanied by a duty to acknowledge the impact of your work as a senator, a hard-working senator who made advocating for victims’ rights and improving the criminal justice system his mission in this chamber. You have had resounding successes, including the enactment of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which will have a long-lasting impact.

Senator Boisvenu — Pierre-Hughes — many of our fellow Canadians across the country and beyond have experienced to some degree the human hardships that you had to endure. To them and to all of us, you are a shining example of courage and resilience.

In 2008, you published a book that has now become a reference for victims of crime, their loved ones and all those interested in this subject: Survivre à l’innommable et reprendre le pouvoir sur sa vie or surviving the unspeakable and reclaiming control of your life. Not only have you conveyed through this book the hope that, alone, leads to survival, but you also have been and continue to be a role model and an inspiration for this hope.

“Continuation” is the word that comes to mind when I think of the next chapter of your life after the Senate. Pierre-Hugues, I have known you to be so serious and so dedicated, that I cannot even imagine you taking your retirement. You have devoted your entire career to the public service. I have no doubt that you will continue to be present in the public arena.

Honourable Senator Boisvenu, on behalf of the Independent Senators Group, I wish to express all the esteem and appreciation we have for you. It is our hope that you will finally take more time for yourself. Goodbye and thank you.

Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais [ - ]

I would like to take a few minutes to honour, in my own way, the retirement of my friend, the Honourable Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu.

I knew Pierre-Hugues long before the Honourable Stephen Harper appointed him to the Senate in 2010. He was already a Quebec media personality known for fighting for victims of crime. That battle is not over yet.

I remember when you came to the offices of the Association des policières et policiers provinciaux du Québec, book in hand, to seek funding for the Murdered or Missing Persons’ Families Association, which you co-founded with other relatives of missing and murdered victims.

I also remember those times when you came to Saint-Hyacinthe in 2011 to support my federal election campaign.

I also remember our reunion when I was appointed to the Senate in 2012 and joined you as a member of the Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. There’s no doubt about it, time flies.

In a way, I was there at the beginning of your long and arduous battle for the rights of victims of crime.

At the time, resources for victims and victims’ families were virtually nonexistent. Their rights were not recognized, and the legal system typically excluded them from the process on the grounds that it should be free of emotion. You thought that was unacceptable, as did the many victims’ relatives who supported you.

You met Stephen Harper through your activities and ongoing media presence. He was not yet prime minister, but he showed some openness to your demands.

By appointing you to the Senate after he took office, Mr. Harper gave you the opportunity to work at a political level on many bills that would ultimately advance a cause that meant the world to you.

Overly lenient sentences for criminals, nonsensical releases on parole, paltry financial compensation for the families of victims, a lack of empathy for victims: All of these legislative matters kept you busy from the time you first arrived in this chamber.

Of course, your crowning achievement was securing the passage, in 2015, of Bill S-265, the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.

In a country like Canada, which affords criminals so many rights, privileges and attention, this piece of Senate legislation was an absolute necessity.

My dear Pierre-Hugues, although you may be retiring from the Senate, I am certain that your fight is not over. The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights is not a cure-all, as you know. Murders are on the rise, femicides are on the rise and domestic violence is on the rise. In the meantime, our laws and our justice system no longer deter anyone.

Truth be told, I don’t want to wish you a happy retirement, because this is not the end. I know full well that we will see you again and that you will keep fighting for the rights of victims.

Oh, I almost forgot: Senator Michèle Audette asked me to thank you in her stead. On behalf of the Canadian Senators Group, happy retirement, my friend. I’m sure we will see each other again.

Hon. Jane Cordy [ - ]

Honourable senators, I rise to add my voice to the tributes to our departing colleague Senator Boisvenu. Senator Plett, I guess I should say, “Conservative Senator Boisvenu.”

This place demands much of our energy, as we strive to do our utmost in service to Canadians. Honourable senators, we can consider ourselves lucky when we reach our retirement and still be lit and fuelled with the same passion as when we first set foot on the Senate floor. Pierre, you have never lost your passion for your work.

Often, there is a personal experience or connection that inspires the work we do as senators. Senator Boisvenu, you have certainly felt deeply the calling and the fire that turns overwhelming pain into real action and — more important still — real change.

I would argue, Pierre, that your passion for victims’ rights, and the rights of their families, is stronger today than it was when you joined the Senate 14 years ago. You should be very proud of your accomplishments. In that time, you have sponsored 24 pieces of legislation that have received Royal Assent and have, without doubt, strengthened the rights of victims and their families in Canada. You championed the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights — Bill C-32 — through to its adoption in 2015, ensuring victims had access to information about their cases, protection, participation and financial compensation.

It has been my pleasure working with you and travelling with you, particularly with the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association. You worked very hard in the association, but you always had fun as well. For anyone who has travelled with Pierre, you know that he finds the very best restaurants wherever you happen to be in the world, and he loves to walk around the cities to get to know each city better. You will walk for miles every evening after the meetings. I’ve been in Lithuania where you actually rented a bicycle in the rain to explore the city.

Pierre, I know your advocacy goes far beyond these walls. I know you will continue your work with Le Nid in Val-d’Or, and with the Association des familles de personnes assassinées ou disparues. We will miss your voice in this chamber, but we know that you will not be far away. You will still be stoking the fires. On behalf of the Progressive Senate Group, we wish you all the very best in your retirement. It has truly been a pleasure working with you.

Thank you.

Hon. Leo Housakos [ - ]

Colleagues, sorry for repeating some of what we have already heard, but I sincerely believe that Pierre‑Hugues Boisvenu’s tireless work for victims and families fully deserves to be highlighted again.

Senator Boisvenu’s dedication and engagement were born of unimaginable pain and sorrow. He found a way to transform his personal loss into a relentless determination to help others. He spared no effort to make sure that no parent or family would have to suffer the indignity of re-victimization that his own family suffered because of a justice system that only takes onto account the rights of offenders. He was the driving force behind the 2006 provincial legislation that recognized the rights of victims of crime, and he sponsored several Parliament bills to strengthen our justice system through the recognition of victims’ rights. Notably, he was the architect of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.

His fight for victims of crime goes beyond legislation. He is a published author and has sat on the boards of numerous non‑profit organizations. He also co-founded a shelter for women fleeing violence and created the Isabelle Boisvenu Fund, which provides scholarships to students in the field of victimology.

Senator Boisvenu was always completely consistent. I have always had and will always have the utmost respect for him as a man and parliamentarian of principle.

Senator Boisvenu has been a strong voice for our province of Quebec and Canadians from coast to coast to coast, particularly for victims, women victims who face crime. He has been a man of principle. Unlike some Conservatives who have come through and been Conservatives of convenience, he has been a steadfast Conservative of conviction. That’s who Pierre Boisvenu is. He has left an enduring mark on the Senate of Canada.

My dear friend, you leave behind huge shoes to fill.

I’ll say this: I know Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, and I believe that the chapters of his work are still not finished. I look forward to the continued work that he plans to do and will be doing in the years ahead for those same people he has been advocating for.

On behalf of Quebecers, Canadians, Conservatives and victims —

 — to my friend Pierre-Hugues, thank you very much for your work.

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond [ - ]

Colleagues, before I joined the Senate, like many Quebecers, I knew that Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu had been a champion for victims of crime ever since the terrible murder of his daughter in 2002 by a dangerous offender and that he, along with three other bereaved fathers, had founded the Murdered or Missing Persons’ Families Association.

I also knew that he could occasionally be the target of criticism. Some have described his ideas as right-wing, which is not a crime. As a senator, he supported all of the Harper government’s law-and-order policies. He even became an important spokesperson for these policies in Quebec.

He’s known to enjoy answering questions from journalists and has never hesitated to use shock phrases that make his message stick. This has sometimes caused him some embarrassment.

In his 2008 book, entitled Survivre à l’innommable et reprendre le pouvoir sur sa vie, or surviving the unspeakable and reclaiming control of your life, he said that his two daughters, so tragically lost, guide him every day and sometimes even tell him when he’s gone too far.

For me, personally, the man I came to know in the Senate, whether at the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee or on parliamentary trips, is sincere, polite and, yes, partisan.

I can honestly say that we have enjoyed warm relations, even when we don’t share the same point of view.

Today, I want to applaud his outstanding contribution to getting the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights passed in 2015, as well as his active support for initiatives to protect female victims of violence.

It may be time for him to leave the Senate, but I do not believe it is time for him to retire. Last Sunday, he told a Radio-Canada reporter that he would miss the media, but there seemed to be a twinkle in his eye. When asked about the next chapter of his life, he said he wanted to continue advocating for victims’ rights, either as a volunteer with the association he co-founded, which now includes over 700 families, or as a Conservative MP in the House of Commons. Anyone who thinks that Pierre-Hugues’s departure from the upper chamber means the end of his parliamentary career would be mistaken. On the contrary, his time here could very well vault him into the other place where, just like in the United States, men over 75 have a bright future.

All the best, my friend!

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [ - ]

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to a remarkable Canadian, a great defender of victims’ rights, a dear colleague and friend, the Honourable Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu.

Dear colleague, it is with honour and sadness that I rise today to pay tribute to you as you prepare for your official retirement from the Senate of Canada on February 12, 2024.

He is truly an inspiration to all of us. His strength of character and determination are unparalleled. He has dedicated a lifetime fighting for victims’ rights, protecting our most vulnerable and supporting victims of violence.

As a senator, our colleague worked tirelessly to strengthen victim legislation and victims’ rights in Canada’s judicial system. He has been an integral member of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, serving as deputy chair, and has served on many other committees.

He was a sponsor or critic of numerous government and private members’ bills and succeeded in passing not only the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights but a record number of Senate public bills during his time as a senator.

Through his many impassioned speeches, statements, Question Period questions and interventions, Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu gave a resounding voice to victims across Canada and ensured that they were respected and not forgotten.

Dear colleague, you have experienced such unimaginable loss as a parent. I cannot fully comprehend. I am truly honoured to have served and stood with you in this chamber with our Conservative caucus, to honour the memories of your late daughters. Your commitment and action to protect and help so many women and families are truly remarkable.

You are leaving an incredible legacy, one that I know you will continue to uphold and build, as your work and fight will not end with your retirement. I know your passion for helping others will continue, and your retirement is merely a transition.

Dear colleague, you will be sorely missed. I thank you for being one of my most trusted colleagues and a valued member of the Conservative caucus.

We wish you all the best as you embark on this next chapter with your loved ones. Rest assured that your work and legacy as a senator will long be remembered.

Bravo and best wishes.

I want to join my colleagues in paying tribute to Senator Boisvenu.

Pierre-Hugues has an outstanding quality for a parliamentarian, and that is his sensitivity. He is one of the most sensitive men I know. I think that sensitivity is an essential quality in politics, because it gives you empathy and helps you stay attuned to people’s needs, which will then help you take action. A politician who lacks sensitivity is unable to pick up on the little things that make a big difference.

Pierre-Hugues, this week, we had a small gathering, and you were accompanied by members of victims’ groups. They all paid tribute to you and talked about what you meant to them. One of them said, “Pierre-Hugues is my angel.” Another one said, “Pierre-Hugues is my superhero.” I found that particularly touching because it alluded to your sensitivity towards people and their needs, as well as the strength with which you have waged your battles during your time in the Senate — and even before that. That’s a powerful tribute, Pierre-Hugues. Having someone call me their superhero would be a dream come true. Perhaps my grandchildren will call me that someday, but when words like these come from people for whom you have fought, it’s a real tribute, and I wanted to repeat them here today.

I also want to thank you for sharing that great sensitivity with us, and sometimes with people you didn’t know. I have lost loved ones, like many people, and who would show up at the funeral home? Who would show up at the funeral service? Pierre‑Hugues. You knew what it was like to lose a loved one, you knew that your presence could bring warmth and comfort, and you never missed an opportunity to comfort those who needed it.

Pierre-Hugues, we will miss you. Another group who will definitely miss you is the Barreau du Québec. There are debates during election campaigns, on occasion. I was asked if I wanted to take part in a debate at the Barreau — since I’m a lawyer, obviously — but I said, “No, no way, I’m not going there. Send Pierre-Hugues instead.” Because he can and because the law must serve the cause, Pierre-Hugues is the ultimate champion, and he will run circles around those lawyers.

Congratulations, Pierre-Hugues, and thank you. I am glad to hear that you want to keep going in the other place!

Hon. Lucie Moncion [ - ]

Honourable colleagues, I rise today to pay tribute to my colleague, Senator Boisvenu. I want to honour our colleague and his extraordinary journey. I feel fortunate to have forged a special connection with him.

In recent years, we’ve been united by a common goal, one that has brought to the fore the importance of building relationships with senators from diverse backgrounds. Our work together to support jurors and win recognition for this civic duty bore fruit. I can’t thank you enough. I couldn’t have done it without your support, sensitivity and compassion for the current and former jurors who advanced this cause.

You have devoted your career in the Senate to amplifying the voices of victims of crime, including women who are victims of domestic violence and femicide, and murdered and missing persons. Your dedication, your passion and your compassion helped move our society forward.

Your condemnation of violence against women, a subject too often ignored, hidden or even trivialized, helped us understand that these things happen far too often and see that certain individuals in our society are capable of depraved and cowardly acts.

Your support for families coping with the tragedy of losing their children in unimaginable circumstances allows us to recognize the lack of support offered to the victims’ loved ones. You understand their confusion, their pain and their suffering. You give them a voice and lend an attentive ear.

I have enormous admiration and respect for you, and I find it moving. That is why I am having trouble today. Senator Boisvenu, I have great admiration for what you have done, what you have been through and the way you have survived the unspeakable and turned your personal tragedies into a life mission.

Your book, entitled Survivre à l’innommable et reprendre le pouvoir sur sa vie, or surviving the unspeakable and reclaiming control of your life, is emblematic of your resilience. Allow me to quote one of the passages from the book that touched me enormously and that appears on the first page:

When we lose a parent, we mourn our memories. When we lose a child, we mourn our dreams.

That says so much. I am so moved. I want to share a secret with you. I began reading your book yesterday. I didn’t know that you had written a book, but I should have read it many years ago. I also want to recognize the fact that the book contains a preface by Martin Gray, and I also think that it is incredible to read your book because you met Martin Gray. I know that I am going over time, Madam Speaker. I hope that — It will not be much longer, honourable colleagues.

Before I came to the Senate, I knew you only through your tragedies. I now know you as a devoted father, a resilient and caring man, and a remarkable politician. The work you’ve steered on important issues has left a significant and inspiring mark on the Canadian legal landscape.

Your departure from the Senate does not signal the end of your work, since you will continue to work to bring about reforms that will make the criminal justice system fairer and more attentive to the needs of victims and their families.

Senator Boisvenu, I wish you every success in your future endeavours, and I sincerely thank you for your vision, your passion and your dedication to the common good of our country. I am honoured to have had the privilege of getting to know you and to have worked with you.

I want to respectfully and sincerely say that I look forward to seeing you again, Senator Boisvenu.

Hon. Julie Miville-Dechêne [ - ]

I too want to acknowledge Senator Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu’s political contribution.

Beyond his many bills, our colleague is a caring, complex man, whose anger sometimes takes him to extremes, but who is also capable of crying, of making me cry, of making us cry.

Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu welcomed me with open arms to the Senate, because we had a common cause, that of denouncing violence against women, which I did very publicly at the head of the Conseil du statut de la femme du Québec.

I have long said that we will not achieve gender equality if men do not participate in deconstructing stereotypes, in talking to boys. Men’s public discourse is essential for ending this violence. In that way, Senator Boisvenu is another exception. He made women’s rights his life’s mission, his fight for 14 years in the Senate; in fact, since the murder of his daughter, Julie, on June 23, 2002.

The honourable senator has often spoken to us about his daughter Julie. I watched the profile that journalist Isabelle Richer did of her. Ms. Richer followed the entire trial of Julie’s killer. Julie Boisvenu was only 27 years old. She was beautiful, outgoing, and had lots of friends. She was independent and a little quirky too, according to the journalist, a free-spirited young woman who lost her life simply for walking through a Sherbrooke parking lot in the middle of the night to get to her car and go home.

That should have never happened. Women should be able to walk in safety, day or night.

No one gets over the loss of a child. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. I’ve often noticed the hint of sadness in my colleague’s eyes.

The honourable senator is absolutely right in saying that we need to show more concern for victims. He has done that brilliantly. He has named them, told their stories, invited them to the Senate, and held them close in his arms. He consulted them and listened to them before he presented his many initiatives, including the well-known Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.

Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu devoted his years in the Senate to seeking justice and trying to protect other victims. His determination never wavered, even when faced with obstacles and opposition. He never gave up. I appreciated his commitment and perseverance, even when I disagreed with him. Longer, harsher punishments for offenders are not the magic solution, and neither is filling up our prisons, but the system’s failings and the crimes committed by repeat offenders on release often give us cause for doubt.

Like Senator Boisvenu, I harbour a lot of anger towards offenders, but I also have plenty of doubts, lots of doubts about the way forward. Senator Boisvenu has never wavered. I know you may go elsewhere. I am not going to repeat what everyone else has said, but who knows? An MP?

Whatever you choose, I wish you well, dear Pierre-Hugues.

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