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THE SENATE — The Senate

Gérald Lafrenière--Tributes

May 2, 2024

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

Honourable senators, I want to join with my colleagues in thanking Gérald Lafrenière for his many years of service, especially those dedicated to the Senate.

His career on the Hill began 30 years ago as a legal analyst in the Library of Parliament, where he put his bachelor’s degree in law from the University of Ottawa to excellent use. He then joined the Senate 20 years ago as a procedural clerk and went on to work within various directorates.

Mr. Lafrenière has served as deputy principal clerk at the Committees Directorate, principal clerk at the International and Interparliamentary Affairs Directorate, and director of Governance and Strategic Planning. He became a table officer in 2008 and was subsequently appointed as the sixteenth Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments on an interim basis in December 2020, in which capacity he has served us admirably for over three years.

This position is one of three executive positions that oversee the overall management of Senate administration, supports all aspects of the legislative process and oversees the legislative services provided by the Senate — no simple task.

Mr. Lafrenière has provided procedural advice to the Speaker of the Senate and her predecessor, the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, other standing committees, as well as several individual senators. His 30-plus years of experience have always been apparent, and he has been a real source of support in the Red Chamber.

We senators often take for granted how this chamber operates and we have come to expect everything to run smoothly — whether at 2:00 p.m. or at midnight. The fact that we take this for granted is testament to the skill and professionalism of Mr. Lafrenière and his staff.

On behalf of the Government Representative Office, Gerry, I want to thank you for your dedication, for your advice and for always setting an example of the highest professionalism as is befitting the Senate of Canada. We wish you every success in your future endeavours.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Honourable senators, as has already been said, today we are honouring and thanking Gérald Lafrenière, the Interim Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments and Chief Legislative Services Officer, for his dedication to this institution.

Gérald was appointed, as was said, on an interim basis on December 31, 2020, to serve as the sixteenth Clerk of the Senate of Canada. Although the position was meant to be on an interim basis, this did not mean that his term was going to be a walk in the park. Amongst the various challenges he faced, one in particular comes to mind as the most dominant and unexpected: the global pandemic.

I am grateful to you, Gérald, for having steered this institution through those difficult times as you always had the best intention and vision while we faced uncharted waters, which is expected from a guy from rural Manitoba.

Colleagues, I want to share with you that Gérald and I share a personal connection. First of all, Gérald’s father, Dr. Lafrenière, was my personal physician and that of my father-in-law. But although Dr. Lafrenière cared about my well-being, his son along with some of his friends — the Chaputs and the Simards of Ste. Anne — are responsible for many of the back and neck problems that I have due to the many cross-checks and elbows I got. I think there were days Dr. Lafrenière asked me when I went to see him, “Did my son do this to you?”

It may be hard to believe when you look at us today, but several decades ago, we were fierce competitors on local rinks back home. And for young men who lived just eight miles apart between the communities of Ste. Anne and Landmark, our rivalry was tremendous. Little did we know that although we fought hard back then we would find ourselves working together in the Senate of Canada.

Gérald, I have tremendously enjoyed working with you, much more than having played hockey against you. I look forward to our continued relationship, and congratulations on all you’ve done for us. Thank you very much.

Hon. Raymonde Saint-Germain [ + ]

Interim Clerk, my colleagues, the Government Representative and the Leader of the Opposition spoke eloquently about your expertise and professionalism. I wholeheartedly agree with them, and I want to thank you for your wise and thoughtful advice, your unstinting generosity with your time, and your strong sense of duty.

I want to pay tribute to you as a manager, one who was very attentive to senators, our teams and his employees. I know that you were and still are very proud of the team that you managed, and with good reason. Every member of that team, at all levels, thinks very highly of you. By way of evidence, I want to tell you about an interaction I had with Ms. Francine, who is a maintenance worker on the fourth floor of this building. One morning, not too long ago, she came into my office and said, “Mr. Lafrenière’s frames aren’t there anymore. What’s happening?”

I said, “He’s changing jobs, so he’s moving out of his office.”

Then she said to me:

He’s such a great guy. He gave me a gift card to thank me for dusting his frames. I’m really going to miss him.

I wanted to share that story because I think it’s a wonderful example of what a considerate manager you are and how you care about recognizing all employees and expressing gratitude to them.

These frames she was telling me about also include the ones that hold photos of your family, the five women in your life. I know that you are very proud of them. It’s another one of your great accomplishments.

As a professional, as a manager, as the person who was at the helm of this institution during the pandemic and who successfully ensured that the Senate could continue to operate, as well as from a family perspective, you are the pride of the five women in your life: your four daughters, Mélanie, Katrina, Gabrielle and Annika, and your wife, Danièle.

Today you are leaving this chair, but you are not leaving the Senate. On behalf of all the members of the Independent Senators Group, I congratulate you, I thank you and I want to tell you how happy we are to continue working with you under a different title. Thank you very much.

Hon. Scott Tannas [ + ]

Honourable senators, I rise to mark the departure of Gerry Lafrenière as our Interim Clerk of the Senate and the sixteenth individual to hold the title.

My leadership colleagues have mentioned your accomplishments, both here in the Senate, the Library of Parliament — all the achievements. I want to focus a little more closely on one important trait that I certainly have observed that Gerry has and which has been of enormous benefit to the Senate.

Throughout his career on Parliament Hill, Gerry exhibited this really uncanny ability to gather people and find solutions to complex problems. During the four years he was here, we had the pandemic. He kept the chamber running through the pandemic; hybrid sittings; a return to normal operations, more or less; the ever-changing sizes of caucuses and groups and how they needed to be dealt with. So, Gerry, we’re grateful for the hard work you did and the way in which you reassured us during often uncertain times.

Colleagues, I want to share something that many of you may not know, but in the Clerk’s office you will find a framed piece of sandpaper. You may wonder, as I did, why he has a framed piece of sandpaper in the Clerk’s office, and the reason is simple. To be successful in Senate management, which Gerry excelled at, you need the ability to put a square peg in a round hole, and you definitely need sandpaper for that.

To our chief problem solver with sandpaper, Gerry, we’re glad you’re not going away, at least not yet. There are still many more square pegs to be smoothed, no doubt. From your Senate family, we also thank your family for sharing you with us. On behalf of the members of the Canadian Senators Group, I thank you for your long service, and we are grateful that it will continue. We wish you the best.

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond [ + ]

Honourable senators, on behalf of the Progressive Senate Group, I’m pleased to join my colleagues to thank Gérald — we call him Gerry during in camera meetings — and to pay tribute to Gérald Lafrenière who has been serving as the sixteenth Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments on an interim basis since 2020. It almost became a permanent basis.

Thank you, Gérald.

A permanent appointee will be officially starting full time on Monday, so Gérald will be occupying a different seat, but he’ll still be at our table, and that’s what matters. He’ll still be part of the Senate family.

Our institution is best able to succeed when we have the steady and capable work and advice of professionals, such as Mr. Lafrenière, functioning both behind the scenes and also directly in front of us during our time in the chamber.

I, personally, have benefited from his sage advice, and I know we all have. What I admire about Mr. Lafrenière, and have always admired, is his poise. He’s always smiling, even in the face of the worst crises. He looks us in the eye, smiles, lays out the options and reassures us, and we carry on.

Gérald, thank you for your opinions, your comments and your experience. You’re a wise person in a chamber full of wise people, but even those wise people benefit from time to time from the wisdom of those who have been here longer.

In closing, I, like my fellow leaders, am very glad to know that he’ll just be moving to a different seat at the table. To his family members who are here today, know that we’re happy he’ll be staying with us. He won’t be with you full time next week.

We’re happy. At the subcommittee of the Internal Economy Committee this morning, we made the necessary decisions to ensure that he’ll be sitting comfortably at our table with his new hat and in his new chair on Monday morning. Thank you.

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