opening of first session — New Senators

Congratulations on Appointments

November 22, 2021

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate)

Honourable senators, it gives me great pleasure to welcome the second group of new senators today. They represent Quebec and Alberta. Allow me to say a few words about our latest additions to the chamber.

Senator Michèle Audette is an Indigenous leader from Quebec. At 27, she was elected president of the Quebec Native Women association. In 2004, she was appointed Associate Deputy Minister for Quebec’s Secrétariat à la condition féminine and later served as president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. She also helped create an innovative graduate program in Indigenous public administration for the École nationale d’administration publique. As many of you know, Senator Audette was one of the five commissioners responsible for conducting the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

From 2012 until his appointment as a senator from Quebec, Senator Clément Gignac held the position of Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist at iA Financial Group. He was the group’s spokesperson on economic matters and chaired the Asset Allocation Committee. Prior to joining iA Financial Group, Senator Gignac worked as an economist in the Quebec government and strategist including as Vice-President and Chief Economist for National Bank Financial from 2000 to 2008.

In 2009, Senator Gignac was elected as a member of the Quebec National Assembly. He was named Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade and went on to serve as Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife. Senator Gignac also chaired the World Economic Forum’s council on competitiveness in 2012, and he is a long-standing member of the Conference of Business Economists, a group of distinguished global economists based in Washington, D.C.

Senator Amina Gerba, who represents Quebec, is an entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience. She has acted as an economic link between Canada and Africa for many years. In 1995, she started her own consulting firm, Afrique Expansion Inc., in order to build bridges between Canada and Africa, and encourage business opportunities. From February 2018 until her appointment, Senator Gerba was chair of the board of directors of Entreprendre Ici, an organization established as part of Quebec’s 2017-2022 entrepreneurship action plan to support entrepreneurs from cultural communities. Senator Gerba has served on several public and private boards, including the Université du Québec à Montréal and its executive committee, the organization ENSEMBLE for the respect of diversity, in which I have also been involved and which is very close to my heart. Senator Gerba also sat on the boards of the Canadian Council on Africa, the African Business Roundtable and CPCS Solutions for Growing Economies. She is a member and former president of the Rotary Club of Old Montreal and a mentor for the Réseau des entrepreneurs et professionnels africains.

Senator Karen Sorensen comes to us from Alberta, where she served three terms as the Mayor of Banff. She is an accomplished community leader with experience working with all orders of government and the private sector. She previously served as a municipal councillor for six years and as a school board trustee for four.

After a successful 25-year career in the hotel industry in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta, she founded Catalyst Enterprises consulting in 2000, providing customer service and sales training in the hospitality industry. At the municipal level, Senator Sorensen served as Chair of the Town of Banff’s Governance and Finance Committee and on the Banff & Lake Louise Tourism Board. She also contributed to the town’s Environmental Master Plan, community plan and participated in the creation of the Bow Valley Regional Transit Services Commission. She supported her community through the Alberta flood of 2013, the wildfires across the province in 2017 and the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Colleagues, this chamber and, indeed, Canada are fortunate to welcome these accomplished and committed individuals. To our new colleagues, your experience and enthusiasm are appreciated and welcome additions to the work we do and to the modernization of this institution going forward. Welcome to the Senate of Canada.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Honourable senators, on behalf of the Senate Conservative caucus, I am also pleased to rise in this chamber and welcome our new colleagues who were sworn in just moments ago.

Senators Audette, Gerba, Gignac and Sorensen, welcome to the Senate of Canada. It is an honour to call you our colleagues and we look forward to working with you.

Of these four, and indeed the eight senators sworn in today, the only one I have met personally is Senator Audette, and I had a wonderful meeting with her just a few days ago.

I hope Senator Audette won’t mind when I say she asked me to do something, and I’m not sure whether we can do this as a private member’s bill or not, Senator Audette, but I will allow you to, at some time, share with our colleagues what it is. It is a private matter. But I would certainly support our doing this via a private member’s bill, and you can suggest to your spouse that I might be taking on this assignment.

So that will leave all of you wondering. I’m sure, Senator Audette, that everybody will be beating down your door to find out what that was. I will let them wonder for a bit and allow you to explain that.

As all of you take your seats for the first time, it can be a bit surreal as you adjust to your new surroundings; I know it was for me, some 12 years ago. It seems like a long time ago. On the one hand, you feel proud to have such an incredible opportunity to serve your country, yet at the same time you feel humbled to have been chosen.

Each of you has your own story about how you arrived in this place. Each of you brings your own areas of expertise and has particular aspects of public policy that interest you the most. But you will quickly find that the range of issues you will need to consider in this chamber will not stay within those parameters. At times this can be overwhelming.

However, the simple fact is that your voice and perspective are needed. No one in this chamber has the complete picture and no one has all the answers. It is by working together through debate and discussion — which will sometimes be cordial and sometimes contentious — that we will determine the best path to take in order to ensure a better tomorrow for all Canadians.

I should also mention that over time — and, as a matter of fact, quite often — you will come to learn about the word “proportionality.” It is quite important to certain leaders in the Senate to talk about proportionality, and I want to point out that, under proportionality, two of you will need to join the Conservative caucus.

Senator Plett

My door, of course, is open to you anytime you want to set the numbers straight.

Once again, colleagues, I want to warmly welcome you as you embark on that journey with us. On behalf of the Senate Conservative caucus, welcome to the Senate of Canada.

Hon. Raymonde Saint-Germain

Dear colleagues, on behalf of the Independent Senators Group, I am pleased to welcome four distinguished new senators.

[Editor’s Note: Senator Saint-Germain spoke in Innu.]

Senator Saint-Germain

Honourable Senator Michèle Audette, with help from your family, I just said, or tried to say, in the Innu-aimun language how impressed I am with what you have accomplished since 2004, the year our paths crossed for the first time.

Honourable senators, our new colleague is a trailblazer who has always proudly blended her Innu, Quebec and Canadian roots together.

A proud member of the Montagnais Innu, she has truly climbed mountains and broken the glass ceiling on more than one occasion, including as the highest-ranking Indigenous woman in the government, in her capacity as the Associate Deputy Minister to the Secrétariat à la condition féminine of Quebec.

As a proud Quebecer who is equally fluent in French and English, she knows and understands what marginalized groups and vulnerable people are going through. She has played and continues to play a key role in developing relations between Indigenous peoples and Quebec society. As a proud Canadian woman, she has also made a significant contribution to this development, both as the President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada and as a commissioner for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Her respect for others, her knack for negotiating with a smile, and her legendary good humour will certainly contribute to the quality of our work environment.

Honourable Senator Amina Gerba, the diversity you represent shines through in your dual Cameroonian and Canadian citizenship, but also through your remarkable accomplishments. You are evidently a born entrepreneur with interests in many areas.

Your social and civic involvement with your alma mater, the Université du Québec à Montréal, various business associations, cultural communities and charitable organizations clearly demonstrates your generosity and sense of inclusive citizenship.

In times such as these, when negativity, disinformation and pessimism all too often dominate the public space, you have chosen to be an “ambassador for Afro-optimism,” and you have dedicated yourself to building bridges between Canada and Africa.

This bodes well for the success of the public service to which you now turn your attention.

Honourable Senator Clément Gignac, your arrival in the upper chamber of the Parliament of Canada is the continuation of your public service in Quebec as a member of the National Assembly from 2009 to 2012, when, as I recall, you served as Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade and then as Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife.

You have the definite advantage of being well versed in parliamentary procedure in Quebec, which will help you master the rules and practices of the Senate. Believe me, that is no small advantage.

Before and after serving as a Quebec parliamentarian, you had a successful career as an economist, at financial institutions and at a national insurance company with an international presence.

You are well placed to enrich our debates on these matters as you work with our colleagues who also come from the vast world of business and finance.

I am sure that your affinity for providing sober second thought and your ability to explain complex issues in plain language will help enhance the Senate’s credibility.

Honourable Senator Sorensen, with your remarkable record of public service, combined with your decades of business experience, there is no doubt that you will make significant contributions to our decision-making process. By serving as mayor for more than 10 years for three consecutive terms, you know the challenges and complexity of municipal management. Your longevity is an undeniable sign of your skill as an administrator, as well as your determination and, most important, the esteem in which you are held by your fellow citizens.

Your many areas of expertise in the fields of commerce, finance, tourism, transportation, school management, sustainable development and historical conservation will certainly present you with a challenge: namely, choosing a committee to which you will bring your wealth of knowledge and real-world experience. One of the most challenging aspects of our work is to balance the interests of our respective provinces and territories with the national interest, while always ensuring that the voices of minorities and vulnerable groups are considered. In this respect, your professional experience beyond the frontiers of Alberta, notably in British Columbia and Ontario, will be of great help in the years to come.

To you, Senator Sorensen, and to all the colleagues we welcome today, I wish you a mandate rich in accomplishment and satisfaction. Thank you, tshinashkumitin.

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond

On behalf of my Progressive Senate Group colleagues, today, I am delighted to welcome Senators Audette, Gerba, Sorensen and Gignac.

Honourable senators, with these four new members and the four others who were sworn in earlier today, we are welcoming eight people who will enrich our work and our discussions.

Senator Karen Sorensen, born and raised in Ontario and now a proud Albertan, spent many years working as a civil servant and at the community level in Alberta. She held multiple elected positions — no longer — including three terms as mayor of the beautiful town of Banff. In her work in this chamber, she will be able to apply her experience in managing conflicting ideas and various expectations, especially in relation to environmental protection and climate change.

I now want to talk about our new colleagues from Quebec.

Senator Michèle Audette played a key role in challenging and transforming the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Quebecers, both in her past work with the Government of Quebec and the work I believe she is still doing at Laval University.

She was recently a leading participant in the debates on systemic discrimination in the Quebec health care system.

I also want to point out her outstanding contribution to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Interestingly enough, in an interview with Radio-Canada shortly after her appointment, she said that becoming a senator was a dream come true for her. That is not something very many people dream about.

Senator Clément Gignac is a renowned economist who served as the head of major financial institutions, a Quebec government minister and an adviser to several finance ministers, including the late Jim Flaherty.

He is known for his ability to explain complex issues and the ways to address them in simple terms, and his experience will help us to understand and assess the challenges associated with the socioeconomic transition resulting from the pandemic and the climate crisis.

We are delighted to have his expertise in the Progressive Senate Group.

Senator Amina Gerba, who grew up in Cameroon and later made Quebec her home, established herself as a businesswoman and entrepreneur by taking an approach based on the principles of a fair economy.

Furthermore, she has been a champion for strengthening business ties between Canada and Africa. She brings a macro perspective that will be an asset to our work here, especially with respect to Canada’s relations with emerging economies. The progressives are pleased to have her among our ranks.

The fact that we have people from all across the country who have varied life experiences and different political backgrounds is a plus and contributes to the work we do in this chamber on behalf of Canadians.

To our new colleagues, I’m sure your previous work experience has shown that there is nothing to lose and only something to gain when people work together and keep an open mind.

I suggest that all of you reach out and work with all senators from all groups.

I want to add that all members of the Progressive Senate Group look forward to working with you and getting to know you better.

In closing, I want to reiterate the advice that my colleague, Senator Cordy, said earlier this morning. Never lose your sense of humour. It will be particularly helpful on those days we sit until midnight or when we are suspended for an hour before a recorded vote.

Thank you very much. Tshinashkumitin.

Hon. Scott Tannas

On behalf of the Canadian Senators Group, I’m delighted to say a few words of welcome to our four newest honourable senators. Before I do so, let me acknowledge and welcome their guests in the gallery. Notwithstanding the limitations brought about by COVID-19, this is a special day. We hope you enjoy being a part of this special occasion.

The four senators who arrived in this chamber and were sworn in a few minutes ago provide, each in their own way, much inspiration to Canadians.

Senator Karen Sorensen, a fellow Albertan, a popular and transformative mayor of Banff — Canada’s most magnificent community set inside a UNESCO World Heritage site — combines tourism expertise with top-flight consensus-building skills. Senator Sorensen’s leadership provides a permanent and positive legacy for the citizens of Banff and a record of real, tangible environmental initiatives worthy of that special place in Canada.

Senator Amina Gerba, a celebrated entrepreneur who has leveraged her incredible business success to build bridges of commerce between Canada and Africa, is a proud Quebecer born and raised in Cameroon. She has served her community in many endeavours, including as a member and President of the Rotary Club of Old Montreal. With her distinguished work in commerce and the community, Senator Gerba epitomizes the core Rotary principle of “Service Above Self.”

Senator Michèle Audette, a distinguished and much loved Indigenous Canadian leader, rose to early prominence as a young adult and has served her community, her province and her country ever since. All Canadians owe a debt of gratitude for her role in the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Senator Clément Gignac, one of Canada’s most respected financial experts, having enjoyed a stellar career in the banking and life insurance sectors, is an honoured alumnus of Laval University and also a former MNA and minister in the Government of Quebec. This unique combination of financial expertise and political acumen will no doubt serve him well in his new role.

Senators, you are joining a strong institution of committed Canadians here to serve the country that we all love. Now this may be a surprise to you, but not all of Canada’s citizens are aware of the incredible group of people working hard to serve them in the Senate of Canada.

In the eight years I have served in this place, I have had the honour to work with so many talented senators: physicians; surgeons; scientists; judges; lawyers; academics; mayors; ministers; premiers; former political advisers of all partisan stripes; community activists; sports heroes — oh, the sports heroes — journalists; authors; actors; artists and business people; police chiefs; Indigenous chiefs and other inspirational First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders; an Auditor General and a Lieutenant General — a wide and varied collection of talent, experience and perspectives.

You are in good company. We do not all agree on issues and policies of the day, but there is no denying the respect we have for one another.

Senators Gerba, Sorensen, Gignac and Audette, it is my honour, on behalf of the CSG, to welcome you to the Senate family. We look forward to working with you in the Forty-fourth Parliament.