The Honourable Serge Joyal, P.C.

Inquiry--Debate Concluded

December 11, 2019

Hon. Renée Dupuis

For Senator Mercer, rose pursuant to notice of earlier this day:

That he will call the attention of the Senate to the career of the Honourable Senator Joyal, P.C.

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to the Honourable Senator Serge Joyal, who is about to retire from the Senate of Canada. Senator Joyal has dedicated a good part of his career to Parliament, serving in both the House of Commons and the Senate from 1997 to 2020, to say nothing of the ministerial duties he has performed. His public engagement has been recognized throughout Canada and abroad, as evidenced by his promotion to Commander in the National Order of the Legion of Honour, commemorated earlier this month right here in Ottawa. I got to know Senator Joyal when he served as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and its steering committee, from November 22, 2017, until the dissolution of the 42nd Parliament on September 11, 2019, during which time I served as deputy chair of the same committee.

My remarks will therefore be about Senator Joyal as I first knew him, when I became a senator in November 2016. The first thing that struck me about Senator Joyal was his scholarship. He was as staunchly dedicated to upholding the reputation of the institution of the Senate as he was vigilant in his defence of parliamentary privilege. He truly cared about the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers in the Canadian legal system. His passion for all aspects of the law showed through in his interventions. Specifically, what I remember from the way Senator Joyal would conduct committee business was the following: first, his support for committee members during studies of bills, as I believe Senator Plett mentioned this afternoon; second, the explanations he would offer whenever senators’ questions or witnesses’ answers needed clarifying; third, his meticulous analysis of bills; fourth, his strenuous efforts to restrain himself when questioning witnesses; fifth, his insistence on finding solutions when committee members were deadlocked; and last, his devotion to the classical French language, including his use of the traditional formula “Madame le sénateur” whenever he gave me the floor. I also want to mention that, as chair of the steering committee of the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Senator Joyal did a superb job of guiding our work.

On a more personal note, I would like to say that I appreciate his quiet sense of humour. Senator Joyal even told me that he would be thrilled to be invited to appear as a witness before the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Senate. We know that his commitment to public life and our society will not stop when he closes the door to the Senate behind him.


I rise today to pay tribute to our friend and colleague, the Honourable Senator Joyal. Senator Joyal, through your work and advocacy, the Senate will lose one of its most dedicated allies for Indigenous peoples and Indigenous rights upon your retirement in February. I want to specifically mention and pay tribute to your Senate work on Indigenous issues. To keep this tribute brief I will mention just three that have stood out for me.

First, in 2014, before the federal government even initiated the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, Senator Joyal, you prepared the legal document that would convince the government that they had to do this. You prepared this and it was given to the Native Women’s Association of Canada and released to the public via a news release. Our entire caucus unanimously supported this manœuvre.

I was deeply touched by your dedication and work to lend you own hand and your brilliant mind to fight for justice for Indigenous women and girls and their families. It has always meant a great deal to me that you honoured the murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls and their families who led the fight to establish the national inquiry.

Second, I want to pay tribute to your tireless dedication on a bill that you introduced in the Senate three times over your Senate career. Its most recent iteration was your Senate public bill, Bill S-212, Aboriginal Languages of Canada Bill. As we all know, the core of this bill was incorporated into government Bill C-91, Indigenous languages Act that passed in our last Parliament.

In your second reading of your Bill S-212 you stated: “We owe the diversity of the country to the Aboriginal peoples and to the effort they have spent through the centuries trying to maintain the flame of their identity in such an adversarial school system.”

These words deeply spoke to me, as I, like many Indigenous people, have had to overcome a colonial-induced shame of my own Cree heritage and reclaim my self-pride and ignite the flame of my own Indigenous identity. I thank you for advocating on our collective behalf.

Third, I was reminded by Senator Day’s speech about your generosity in all the artwork you have donated to the Senate. In particular to the Aboriginal People’s Committee room in our old Senate location. It was such a beautiful, warm and welcoming room because of all the beautiful paintings you had donated that were done by Indigenous artists. It was an absolutely fantastic room.

I remember a sacred ceremony we conducted with the grandfather masks that were part of the Haudenosaunee culture — sacred items that were on the wall — and one of our audience members, Rarihokwats, who is there virtually all the time, thought those sacred masks need to be looked after. So with you and the national art commission we did a sacred ceremony to look after them. That will forever stay in my heart — with you and Senator Sinclair and former Senator Moore and people from the national arts commission — we conducted that ceremony that looked after the people and the witnesses who came before the Aboriginal People’s Committee.

I want to thank you — Kinanaskomitin. It’s a Cree word that means thank you. I honour you. It has been a great pleasure to know you and to learn from your wisdom.

Hon. Denise Batters

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to an esteemed member of our Senate, Senator Serge Joyal. Senator Joyal is the very epitome of “a gentleman and a scholar.” His accomplishments, awards and honours are simply too many to list — I only have three minutes, after all.

But Senator Joyal’s contributions to the Senate cannot be overstated. We are all richer for the wisdom and passion he has brought to parliamentary debate in this chamber. I know he has been a mentor to many senators throughout the years.

I have had the honour of serving on the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee with Senator Joyal for more than six years. I have a deep respect for his legal mind, thoughtful questions and sound judgment. On a number of occasions — and this may be a surprise to some — we have even found ourselves in agreement on points of law and legislation.

Many of my favourite moments from Legal Committee were sitting across from Senator Joyal and Senator George Baker, when Senator Baker would make some humorous comment and Senator Joyal would follow it up with a wry quip and a twinkle in his eye. Senator Joyal, I will miss your quietly mischievous nature.

Although he and I come from opposite sides of the political spectrum, I have always respected Senator Joyal’s commitment to his political ideals and values. He illustrates that partisan involvement can enhance the contribution senators make in this chamber.

Senator Joyal has a long history with the Liberal Party, serving not only for years as a Liberal MP, senator and cabinet minister, but also within the Liberal Party itself. Certainly the current Trudeau Liberal government would have benefited greatly from having Senator Joyal’s wisdom in their national caucus in recent years. Senator Joyal has a profound respect for the history and traditions of the Senate and the Westminster system, as should we all.

Senator Joyal’s influence on the Senate and Canada’s Parliament will remain long after his retirement, and not only for the many ways he has influenced the quality of parliamentary debate. He has also generously donated incredible gifts of artwork and historic artifacts to our parliamentary buildings. His legacy will live on within these very walls and inspire future generations of Canadians to contemplate the great traditions and cultural heritage that binds Canadians together.

Last week, I was honoured to be invited to share in the celebration of his promotion to Commander in the National Order of the French Legion of Honor. It was very fitting that Senator Joyal received such an honour in the French Embassy, a gorgeous building filled with beautiful artwork.

Senator Joyal, it is with definite sadness that I rise today to bid you adieu. I know I speak for all senators when I say we are thankful for your wisdom, wit and friendship. You have left an incredible legacy, not only in this Senate Chamber and in these halls of Parliament, but in the very democratic heart — and history — of this great country. Thank you.

Hon. Chantal Petitclerc

Dear Senator Joyal, today, many people have paid tribute to your enormous contribution to the Senate, the arts and France-Canada-Quebec relations. I would like to humbly acknowledge your contribution to my young career as a senator.

You know, when you go from the racing track to the upper chamber, you permanently leave your comfort zone. However, before I even arrived here, a mutual friend, the other Serge, told me, “If you have any questions, go see Senator Joyal.” That was easier said than done. I had no idea how imposing you were in this chamber.

Still, one Tuesday, I took my courage in both hands and went to see you to ask some questions. I thank you for that — for your answers, of course, but especially for the kind and generous way in which you shared your advice.

A few weeks later, the Senate was passionately debating Bill C-14. I was still a rookie. While I was very moved as a person with a disability by the debate on medical assistance in dying, there was no way I was feeling ready for a maiden speech on such an important matter. Then, on a late night, you spoke with passion, eloquence and relevance and it became clear to me — I too needed to add my voice to this debate, ready or not. And that’s how I wrote my maiden speech overnight and delivered it the next day. To this day I am still very proud of that speech and I thank you, Senator Joyal, for helping me see that my voice in this chamber was important.

Of course, Senator Joyal, how could I not talk about someone who is dear to both of us, Momar, the excellent parliamentary director that we shared for months. I never told you, but when I got his resume, I saw that he had worked for you. Right away, I thought to myself, “If he is good enough for the demanding Senator Joyal, then he is obviously good enough for me.” That is how Momar became an invaluable member of my team. On that point, I want to tell you that I really appreciated your flexibility and grace throughout that collaboration.

I could go on. When I needed advice on a constitutional or legal aspect of a bill as the chair of the Social Affairs Committee, you were always available and you helped me many times.

Senator Joyal, when paying tribute to someone, we of course have to focus on that person’s major achievements, and there is certainly no lack of them in your case. However, I also believe that the small gestures and acts of generosity that happen out of the limelight are very important and show what a wonderful person you are. Senator Joyal, I want you to know that, even without intending to, you had a big impact on my early days in the Senate and I am inspired by the qualities I admire in you. Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker

Honourable senators, it being 6 p.m., pursuant to rule 3-3(1) I must leave the chair until 8 p.m. unless it’s agreed that we not see the clock. Is it agreed, honourable senators?

Hon. René Cormier

Honourable senators, I rise today to address the senator, the politician, of course, but more specifically the engaged citizen. Behind this incredible journey is an extraordinarily sensitive man.

Honourable colleagues, as you know, I come from a linguistic minority, I am part of a sexual minority, and I am also a man of art and culture. I do not want to speak for all Canadians, but I thank you. I thank you for the incredible work you have done on official languages, not only to promote the French language, but also to express, in your own way, how official languages and Indigenous languages are more than just a means of communication in this country. They are vehicles for our culture and our shared national identity. For that, I thank you, and for that, I want to say that this approach will guide my senatorial work on official languages in this chamber.

I also want to thank you for everything you’ve done and will continue to do for arts and culture. Everybody talks about artists and their work, but nobody talks about their living conditions, the fact that some of them live in poverty, and why this country needs people like you, philanthropists who are passionate about the arts and about history and whose words, contributions and actions can illuminate the work of artists, ensuring that Canadians get to experience it, benefit from it, be transformed by it. For that, I thank you, Senator Joyal.

Lastly, I want to thank you for all the work you have done for fundamental rights, especially for the rights of sexual minorities. You know how important your actions and words are to this group of citizens, who still need to fight and work very hard today to be recognized for their contributions to this country. For that, I thank you, senator.

Lastly, I want to thank you for championing the French language throughout the Francophonie. Unlike our neighbour to the south, Canada promotes our two official languages and recognizes the importance of French around the world. I am grateful to you for your exceptional contribution in that regard. As Senator Petitclerc said, you will always be a huge inspiration to me because of your thoughtful actions, your thoughtful words, and the elegant and resolute way you speak on behalf of our society’s most vulnerable people.

I’ll end with something you probably already know: I don’t think leaving the Senate means retirement for you. Rest assured, dear senator, that we will keep listening to you wherever you are, and that we will continue to be inspired by your words and your actions. Thank you.

Hon. Diane Bellemare

Dear Senator Joyal, I will use the little time I have to speak about a few of your many and wonderful contributions by providing some personal anecdotes that I will remember for a very long time.

Our colleague, Senator Joyal, is a rather gifted orator. When Senator Joyal rises to critique a bill, he manages, most of the time, to sow doubt in the minds of his colleagues from all groups, and especially those who might vote in favour of a bill. You are a formidable debater. At one point in time, when I was a new senator, I was told several times, “above all, do not listen to him.” In fact, the courts often agreed with him.

A few weeks after I arrived in the Senate, Senator Joyal spoke to me and said: “You know, Senator Bellemare, the Senate of Canada was not always as partisan as it is today. There was a time when the senators of the two political parties enjoyed rather cordial relations.” And then you handed me your book entitled Protecting Canadian Democracy: The Senate You Never Knew.

I read and reread that book, which outlines your contribution and that of other experts who have explored the Senate as a subject. I see that book as part of the enormous contribution you’ve made to the Senate. It is a book that will continue to follow you, as it remains relevant to this day.

You’re also leaving the Senate with a number of material artistic contributions, as other senators have pointed out. Of course I’m thinking of the Salon de la Francophonie, as well as the collection of Indigenous works of art currently adorning the walls of the Senate. Those are the two most interesting collections. Every time I look at them, I can’t help but think of the special moments when you, Senator Joyal, personally presented those collections to my step-son, the artist David Altmejd, and I was lucky enough to be in attendance. That is when I saw you differently, as a passionate man who believes deeply in the influence of France and Indigenous people on our everyday lives here in our Canada.

I want to conclude by talking about your involvement in the Musée d’art de Joliette. You gave this city its very own tourist attraction, and this is dear to me because my family plot is there. Thank you, senator, for your generosity. I admire you a great deal. I know how passionate you are about the arts, culture and politics, so I’m sure that you will not be retiring any time soon. I wish you good health and, above all, I hope you continue to surprise us. I look forward to maybe having a coffee with you in the Marais, a neighbourhood of Paris that I love, just like you. Thank you.

Hon. Marty Deacon

Honourable senators, it’s an honour as I rise today to say a few short words of thanks to Senator Joyal. As a new senator, I was asked to join the Senate Modernization Committee, not quite realizing how deep in the woods that committee often found itself. Every meeting was a learning opportunity, and I learned a great deal thanks in no small part to our deputy chair, Senator Joyal. Our honourable colleague has the incredible ability to speak toward complicated issues and breaking them down into eloquent, relevant and understandable prose for the uninitiated.

To say Senator Joyal knows much about the Senate and its history is an understatement. Just two weeks ago, I picked up an article on the fantastic history of Indigenous parliamentarians, a wonderful history. As I finished the article, there it was, authored by our honourable colleague.

Another piece I picked up from listening to Senator Joyal was a great appreciation for traditions and procedures in this chamber. I was reminded that while institutions change and evolve, ritual and tradition will always have an important role to play. Thanks to Senator Joyal, I will carry this appreciation with me. I will remember every day how fortunate I am to count myself as a member of this chamber, representing all Canadians.

Senator, it goes without saying that your retirement leaves behind a sizeable hole in the institutional memory of this place. Over the past months, we have lost considerable institutional memory. It will take some time to get back up to speed, but big thanks to the example you have set, my colleagues and I will, in your honour, be up to the task. Thank you.

Hon. Julie Miville-Dechêne

Dear Senator Joyal, I won’t repeat everything that’s been said about you. I just wanted to pay tribute in a more personal way because I chose you as a sponsor. You were very generous with me when I first arrived at the Senate, excited and lost. You gave me advice, including to take my time. You know that journalists are an impatient lot. You told me to watch the committees, mull things over, and wait before making a decision.

You gave me advice and I appreciate it. I’m trying to take your advice and be patient, since that is an important trait to have in the Senate. I chose you as a sponsor because of your integrity, your passion and your discipline. I later learned that you were a workaholic. One of your friends told me that you would even bring work to the beach and work for hours — on the beach. That is unusual. Obviously, that is anecdotal.

You’re a lover of the French language and of France and I discovered — having met you in Paris when I was a diplomat — your interest in Napoleon. You taught me an entire era of history that I knew nothing about. All the little Napoleons in Quebec, named in honour of Napoleon, the objects, the reverence — it was fascinating. I discovered that you’re a passionate man. It is a side of you that I didn’t know.

I would also like to talk about your emotional side. You are a man of emotions; you show your emotions, you do not hide them. That is a rare and treasured quality, and it really struck me.

In closing, since I am talking about emotion, you gave a great speech at the French embassy. I am going to indulge in a bit of plagiarism because you talked a great deal about poetry, and that really touched me. I would like to read a passage of a very beautiful poem by Verlaine entitled Autumn Song:

The long sobs

Of violins

Of autumn

Wound my heart

With a monotone


All breathless

and pale, when

The hour sounds,

I remember

Former days

and I cry

Dear Senator Joyal, our hearts are wounded because you are leaving.

Hon. Kim Pate

Senator Joyal, in the nearly 30 years that I have had the privilege of knowing, appearing before and for the last three years working with you, I have benefited greatly from the generous gift of your time and your wise counsel. In my brief time as a senator, I have witnessed the care, focus, wisdom, and gravitas that you bring to every discussion and examination of issues that come before us.

Before I was appointed, I was fortunate to be a frequent guest of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, also known as a witness. Particularly during the times when criminal law bills were being launched fast and furiously through this and the other place, I could always rely on Senator Joyal to lead the charge in ensuring that the Senate did its utmost to uphold the Canadian Charter, particularly the rights of the most marginalized and minority groups that all of us are tasked with representing.

Before I agreed to be nominated, I consulted your book about the Senate that many others have spoken about today, as well as your submissions to the Supreme Court of Canada, in order to assess whether to seriously consider undertaking the duties, role and responsibilities of a senator.

When I arrived here, I looked to you as one of the wonderful wise ones whom I could rely upon to demonstrate sober second thought and to exude exemplary standards of dignity, decorum and intellect.

The example you have set, your ability time and again to combine complex questions of law and constitutionality with an astute understanding of how they affect people, their humanity, dignity and ability to exercise their rights to equality, fairness and justice, will stay with me throughout my career in this chamber and beyond.

Thank you for so many gifts. Most recently, during our discussions on Bill C-83, the amendments that were made here in the Senate were in large part due to your contributions. You contributed to the discourse and the interventions here that provided much of the thought and dialogue and brought concerns and issues of some of the most dispossessed and silenced Canadians to the minds and hearts of all.

It has been a great privilege to learn and benefit from your many years of experience as a lawyer, legislator, patron of the arts and as a humanitarian. Your many contributions to our communities and service to Canadians stand as unique markers, beacons to those of us invited here to help make our country a human rights leader as part of a more diverse, just, equitable and caring global community.

Thank you, meegwetch, for all that have you given of yourself in the service of so many. I look forward to being the privileged and grateful recipient of your continued guidance and friendship as you write the future chapters of your life.

Thank you for your service —

— your advice and your friendship.

Hon. Percy Mockler

I would also like to join with the senators who paid tribute to you.

When I arrived in this place in 2008, it was said that he was a very modest man, very humble, and that he had great respect for the institutions and the Parliament of Canada. As they say in the language of Shakespeare,

Senator Joyal, you are synonymous with FLPC — friendship, loyalty, principle and commitment.

I would like to share some information with you and with all Canadian senators by saying that after the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, Dany Laferrière and the great Céline Dion, Senator Joyal was invested by the French government as a Commander of the Order of the Legion of France. Congratulations!

Despite this prestigious recognition, it is always with the utmost modesty that Senator Joyal is always prepared to defend the interests of those who need it. A mighty advocate of the Francophonie, he recently intervened, honourable senators, in his humble and understated way, to plead in favour of saving the Consulate General of France in Atlantic Canada, in Moncton. I can tell you with all sincerity that Acadians and Atlantic Canada are very grateful, Commander.

I want to publicly thank you and wish you the best in your well-deserved retirement. Thank you, Commander of the Order of the Legion of France. You stood up for Acadia, you stood up for Atlantic Canada, and the Acadian people thank you for it.