senators’ statements — Tributes

The Late Honourable Judith Keating, Q.C.

November 24, 2021


Hon. Yuen Pau Woo
[14:04]

Honourable senators, on February 4, 2020, I welcomed Judith Keating to the Senate. It is with great sadness that I now bid her farewell. In my welcome, I touched on Senator Keating’s impressive career, how she was designated as a provincial chair of the All Nations and Parties Working Group on Truth and Reconciliation, how she served as Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General for New Brunswick. She was, in fact, the first woman to serve as New Brunswick’s Deputy Minister of Justice.

Senator Keating was the founder of New Brunswick’s Women in Law. In 2015, she received the Muriel Corkery-Ryan Q.C. Award of the Canadian Bar Association’s New Brunswick branch, granted to recognize the outstanding contributions of an individual to the profession as well as their significant role in the mentorship of women.

With such a distinguished track record, she could have easily coasted on her previous accomplishments after being appointed as a senator. This was not the Judith Keating we knew.

She landed in the Red Chamber and hit the ground running. As a result, her impact on the Senate far exceeds what one would expect from the short 14 months she served in the Senate, and during the disruption of COVID-19 at that.

Within weeks of joining the Senate, she co-led an ISG working group on the legislative review process of our group, resulting in the development of a new approach to the work of what we call “legislative leads” in the ISG.

She then volunteered with Senator Cotter to be the legislative lead on Bill C-7; medical assistance in dying. She modelled for her colleagues an approach to the rigorous and comprehensive review of legislation, working collaboratively with other ISG senators.

In her capacity as senator, Judith Keating was one of 38 parliamentarians who lent their support to New Brunswick’s Clinic 554, a clinic that provided access to women’s reproductive rights and services for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. She was both learned in her arguments in support of the clinic and passionate in her defence of it.

I extend my condolences on behalf of the ISG to Senator Keating’s family and friends, the people of Fredericton and New Brunswick. Her loss is felt by all of us in this chamber and it is fitting that we are paying tribute to her today.

Goodbye my friend.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate)
[14:07]

Honourable senators, Judith Keating was summoned to the Senate in January 2020. She passed away July 15, 2021, surrounded by her beloved family. Her wisdom and experience were taken from us, and from them, far too soon.

Senator Keating arrived in this chamber just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic changed how the Senate operated. Soon after her arrival, we came to know each other. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to meet with her privately just before her swearing in. In the short time that she served the people of New Brunswick in this chamber, and our country, she made an enduring impression on me, and on us, as colleagues.

Before Senator Keating arrived in the Senate, she served as chief legislative counsel and chief legal advisor to the Premier of New Brunswick. She also served as the provincial chair of the All Nations and Parties Working Group on Truth and Reconciliation.

She was a strong advocate for the equal and just treatment of women in the legal profession and for the equal status of both official languages in New Brunswick.

She had a long and impressive resumé, and her professional experience was admirable and inspiring.

Senator Keating and I had lengthy and very interesting discussions on many subjects of mutual interest. We continued those conversations from time to time when we would meet and a friendship formed out of that. She was an intelligent, hard-working, devoted senator. I will miss her as a colleague and as a friend.

New Brunswick and Canada have lost an extremely proud Canadian and the Senate has lost a powerful voice, but even more importantly, her family has lost a spouse, mother and grandmother.

May her memory be a blessing and may her family be spared further sorrows.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)
[14:09]

Honourable senators, it seems like only a short time ago that we welcomed Senator Judith Keating into the Senate of Canada; yet today, it is our sad duty to say goodbye to our colleague. Her passing in July was a terrible loss for her family, friends and staff, and for the people of her province of New Brunswick.

The passing of Senator Keating and, indeed, of Senator Forest-Niesing this past weekend, has cast a shadow over our return to the chamber. They will both be sorely missed by colleagues on all sides.

Senator Keating was a member of the Senate of Canada for just under a year and a half before she passed away. Pandemic restrictions kept us apart from each other for much of that time and as a result, we did not have many opportunities to work together with Senator Keating. However, it was evident that she always approached her work as a senator with dedication and conviction. Those are admirable traits for anyone to have, and for a parliamentarian they’re essential.

Judith Keating’s lifetime of experience in the Government of New Brunswick was the foundation for the work she did in the Senate. She was the first woman to serve as Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of New Brunswick, and she worked to promote the equal status of the English and French languages in her province. She was an advocate and a mentor for women in the legal profession in her province and worked to advance Indigenous reconciliation. Those remarkable skills and her unique perspective served Judith Keating well as she took on her duties as a senator for, sadly, too short a period of time.

On behalf of the entire Conservative caucus, and on behalf of all honourable senators, I offer sincere condolences to Senator Keating’s husband, Michael, their two children and four grandchildren. In her obituary, Senator Keating’s family stated that the titles of “mother” and “grandmother” were more important to her than any of the honours bestowed upon her. I know that my wife would second that sentiment.

May her loved ones find comfort in knowing that their loss is felt by all honourable senators and that they remain in our thoughts and prayers. Thank you.

Hon. Jane Cordy
[14:12]

Honourable senators, I am joining others in paying tribute to our late colleague Senator Judith Keating.

Senator Keating’s time with us was all too brief. Many of us did not have a chance to get to know her as well as we would have liked, since her appointment and her swearing in took place only a few short weeks before we went into the pandemic lockdown and restrictions. This drastically changed our everyday lives, including how we as senators operated and interacted with each other in the Senate.

As we adjusted to the new circumstances of how we work, it didn’t take Senator Keating very long to get her bearings. She was very active and took a lead in this place on Bill C-7, the medical assistance in dying legislation; and Bill C-3 that amended the Judges Act, which required judges to participate in continuing education on matters related to sexual assault law. Both of those pieces of legislation passed earlier this year.

Honourable senators, there will come a time when we will no longer have to say “the first woman to,” but, until that time, it is important that we recognize those who, particularly in recent history, fill those spaces. Senator Keating was one such woman. She was the first woman to serve as New Brunswick’s Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General. She was also the founder of New Brunswick’s Women in Law.

In 2020, Senator Keating was one of 36 senators to sign a letter in support of Clinic 554 in Fredericton, which was facing a threat of closure. Senator Keating argued that the Province of New Brunswick was constitutionally obligated to provide medical care for women and to ensure that those services continued. This example highlights Senator Keating’s sharp legal mind and considered approach to the application of law.

Other highlights of her legal career include time spent as editor-in-chief of the Solicitor’s Journal of the Canadian Bar Association as well as serving as chief legal adviser to several New Brunswick premiers of varied political stripes. She was widely recognized and appreciated as a leading legal and constitutional expert.

Insightful and tenacious, Senator Keating unquestionably made her mark in the Senate in a short period of time under unprecedented circumstances. We should all regret her future accomplishments that are now left unfulfilled. New Brunswickers and indeed all Canadians are poorer for her loss.

On behalf of my colleagues in the Progressive Senate Group, I extend my deepest condolences to Senator Keating’s family and friends. Thank you.

[14:15]

Honourable senators, it might be stated that a remarkable and exceptional life is one to be celebrated, not only among our colleagues or in private but in the greater public forum, and that not to do so is to commit something of an injustice to that person. No one brought home this plight of exceptional Canadians and the sometimes blasé way we cherish them more than Senator Judith Keating, who died this past July and whose life was of continuous service to her fellow women and men. Certainly, the celebration might have come sooner and certainly the plaudits might have been greater, and although I am sure she was aware that she was loved and that her life was cherished, as is often true among us, more might have been given to a fellow Canadian who was so absolutely distinguished.

A graduate of the University of Ottawa and the Université de Moncton, she was, as we know, an accomplished legal and constitutional expert with over 30 years of senior public service to our province. A chief legal adviser to the premier, a dedicated judicial expert, a chief legislative counsel, New Brunswick’s First Nations representative and a provincial chair of the All Nations and Parties Working Group on Truth and Reconciliation, she wore many hats with the common themes of justice, equality and compassion. During her career, Senator Keating worked tirelessly to promote the equal status of English and French and, as was said by her colleagues on the bench, she was so proficient in both languages that she spoke without the hint of an accent.

Her life was one of such dedication that it has few, if any, peers, and all of it was done with less fanfare than most who have done much less.

As my sister, who served with Senator Keating on the bench for years, once said to me, “She is absolutely brilliant and utterly driven.” Of that, we know there can be no doubt. So let us not be deterred in celebrating her life now or acknowledging her less. She was a fundamental force in the lives of New Brunswickers and in Canada.

Two things do come to mind that Senator Keating’s friends and relatives related to me. The first was when Senator Keating’s mother was told by doctors that she would never conceive. Her mother prayed on the many steps of Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal every day, rain or shine, for weeks to be gifted with a child. She was in 1957, and she gave birth to Senator Keating.

The world was much better off for that small miracle.

The second and last story is about a woman from Cameroon who arrived as a refugee to Canada. Although she had a master’s degree, she was unable to find a job. She mentioned this to Senator Keating after mass one day. Senator Keating not only hired her as a jurilinguist, but helped get her children to Canada where they were able to purchase a home.

These were private moments that made up a public life, and if they weren’t big things, they were certainly great things. Like so many of the great things she did in her life, they were done with an unassuming grace. We now realize that all of us are greater for it. Thank you.

Hon. René Cormier
[14:19]

Honourable senators, in our society, there are people with big personalities who are always in the spotlight and then there are those who quietly and humbly work hard behind the scenes and have a major impact on our society.

The Honourable Judith Keating was one of the latter. She represented the best of what the public service has to offer: a sense of duty and commitment.

She was a strong, reserved, generous and determined woman who dedicated her life to the service of Canadians and particularly the service of her adopted province of New Brunswick.

Prior to entering the Senate, as was mentioned, Senator Keating served for over 30 years as a legal and constitutional expert in various positions within the Government of New Brunswick: namely, that of Chief Legislative Counsel, Chief Legal Adviser to the Premier, New Brunswick’s First Nations Representative and a provincial chair of the All Nations and Parties Working Group on Truth and Reconciliation.

As the first woman to hold the position of Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of New Brunswick, she ensured fair and equitable treatment of women in the legal profession by founding New Brunswick’s Women in Law for which she assumed the presidency.

All through her brilliant career, Judith Keating helped to break quite a few glass ceilings. As a leading citizen, she was awarded numerous distinctions, including Queen’s Counsel in 2002. She also received the Muriel Corkery-Ryan Q.C. Award in 2015 in recognition of her significant role as a mentor to women and her outstanding contribution to the legal profession.

As a proud francophone with a law degree from the Université de Moncton, Judith Keating made the promotion of official languages one of her top priorities. She also played a crucial role in achieving recognition of New Brunswick’s unique status in the Canadian Constitution.

During a long and memorable road trip we took from Ottawa to New Brunswick, she spoke passionately about our legislative role, colleagues. She was appalled at the unjust treatment of Indigenous peoples and the trauma inflicted on the Acadian people.

That day, she generously made sure that I understood our constitutional obligations with respect to official languages and how crucial reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and Senate modernization are to the future of our country.

That day, while marvelling at the beauty of the St. Lawrence River, alternating between playful laughter and waves of emotion over her precarious health status, she reflected fondly and with tremendous pride on her role as a mother and grandmother.

That day I told her that she was one of New Brunswick’s greatest hidden treasures.

Judith Keating left us too soon, much too soon. She, who still had so much to offer the Senate of Canada, leaves behind a valuable legacy. It is one of a woman and dedicated citizen who loved her country deeply and would want us to continue to work hard, colleagues, to ensure that all Canadians have access to justice and true equality.

Thank you, Senator Keating.

Hon. Brian Francis
[14:23]

Honourable senators, I rise today to honour the memory of our friend and colleague the Honourable Senator Judith Keating, who will be dearly missed by all those who knew and loved her, and by the province and country she served.

During her long and distinguished career, Judith championed reconciliation. Her passion and dedication to this cause continued after her appointment to the Senate in January of 2020.

We did not know each other for long, but I will never forget when she rose to add her clear and unequivocal support for a motion I tabled with Senator Christmas, dealing with the treaty right of the Mi’kmaq to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood. That was her maiden speech.

I want to draw your attention to something Judith said then that has stayed with me:

I can only imagine what my Indigenous sisters and brothers are feeling. I don’t want to hear from my government that they take this all very seriously and that they are working on it. This must be settled now so that everyone knows what the rules are. It’s the least all Canadians should expect after more than two decades. Only this will quell the ever-present seeds of violence and anger.

To hear Judith validate the suffering that has been inflicted on my people and the calls on all levels of government to recognize and address it made me feel seen, heard and valued as a Mi’kmaq. That has not happened often in this place when it comes to Indigenous people.

This memory was made even more touching when, after the funeral, her family told me about how hard she worked on her speech. I encourage you to go back and read it in full. Her words remain poignant a year later.

Judith understood that Canada’s failure to recognize and implement the inherent and treaty rights of Indigenous people, and to uphold the decisions of its own courts, seriously undermines reconciliation efforts. She understood that political commitments without follow-through are not only empty but harmful. This is part of her illustrious life and legacy.

If we truly want to honour who Judith was and what she stood for, we must have the courage and determination to make reconciliation more than just a word but a reality.

Wela’lioq, thank you, Judith. May the Creator embrace you and hold you tight.

Hon. Brent Cotter
[14:25]

Honourable senators, others have spoken eloquently about Senator Keating’s professional talents, achievements and contributions. My remarks will mostly be personal reflections.

I had known Judith Keating by reputation prior to her coming to the Senate — her dedication to the citizens of New Brunswick, her work on official languages, her commitment to women and to Indigenous people and her distinction in senior executive positions within the Government of New Brunswick — but we had never met prior to the day on which she and I were sworn in to this place in February 2020. My impression on that day was that her family was ecstatic that Judith was being recognized by the Senate appointment, and the air was electric with joy for her.

After she passed away, her daughter Stephanie and I shared reflections on Judith in a few communications this summer. This reinforced both the love and admiration her family had for her. Stephanie wrote:

Her appointment to the Senate brought me (and her!) great joy. Mom’s life wasn’t easy. She overcame a lot of obstacles. When challenges came her way, she always pushed through, always worked harder, always put others before herself. . . . She was the toughest, smartest person I know.

Judith was also an intensely private person. While many of us got to be good friends with her, most of us were completely unaware of the health challenges she faced prior to taking her leave from the Senate and ultimately, sadly, never being able to return.

It was a small example of the gifts she extended to others, minimizing our worry and grief had we known how serious her health problems were. Indeed, at the very end of her life, she asked Stephanie to convey to me her thanks for the embroidered pillow my daughter had made for her, saying, “She loved the pillow your daughter sent her and kept it on her bed beside her until she died.” In her very last days, a gift from her to my daughter.

Her premature death is a loss to so many of us who were her friends and a deep loss to the Senate — her contributions here would have been great — but most of all to the family and friends who loved and admired her.

I would like to end this on a small personal reflection. Sometime after we’d been sworn in to this place, I asked Senator Keating why she had asked Senator Percy Mockler to be her sponsor. To be honest, I was a bit surprised because I didn’t have the sense that she and Percy were philosophical fellow travellers, if I can put it that way.

Her answer was:

Well, Percy is a friend and sometime mentor, and has had a distinguished career in public service in New Brunswick and here in the Senate, and, most importantly, he is a good, decent and principled person.

Her intention was to emulate that. In a sense, to breathe life and meaning into the title “honourable” that was bestowed on her and on all of us. Perhaps this is Judith Keating’s greatest gift to us.

Thank you, Judith Keating, for being my friend and for the message of goodness you have provided to all of us in your too short time in this place.

Hon. Mary Jane McCallum
[14:29]

Honourable senators, I hold tobacco today to thank the Creator for lending me Senator Keating.

Colleagues, I’m honoured to pay tribute to Senator Keating. Even though our budding friendship was shortened by her untimely passing, Senator Keating left an indelible mark on me. She was gentle, humble and passionate. She was a warrior. Truth and honesty were her touchstones.

Senator Keating was and remains an ally. She will always be with me now — in spirit and as a mentor.

As an ally, she never hesitated to put her words into action to address the wrongs she perceived. In the Senate, it was not enough for her to simply speak against the systemic institutional racism that she saw; she acted on it. While it might have intimidated many, she immediately saw the path forward to start dismantling this pervasive issue that exists everywhere, including within our own institution.

She was a bridge between the different worldviews. She was an ally and advocate for many before she came to the Senate: women, the marginalized and the powerless. She brought these skills, expertise and history to the Senate to teach us.

Senator Keating always made time to listen to — or to read — the issues I brought to her attention and was concerned about. She didn’t take charge of the issues but respected the boundaries that came with the request for help. She didn’t see herself as a saviour, but as a supporter. She was also aware that these were long-term commitments, and she was prepared to invest the time and energy required. She gave back more than she took away.

One of the teachings from my elder says:

From the moment we are born, life is about detachment. The first is when we leave our mother’s womb to be born in this world. The second is when we finish suckling from our mother’s breast. The last is when we leave this earth world to go to the spirit world. All along this journey we meet people and we will all have our varied experiences of detachment.

The elder continued, “When I am gone, just reach out and I will be beside you, right at the end of your fingertips.”

Today, when I miss people who have meant so much to me, I reach out and know that their spirit, love and support is right there with me.

I sorely miss our dear senator. The impact that she made has left me in a better place, that’s for sure. Thank you, Senator Keating. I will carry you with me for the rest of my time in the Senate and thereafter. Thank you.

Hon. Paula Simons
[14:32]

I am proud to rise today to say a few words about our dear colleague, Senator Judith Keating.

We had so little time to get to know Judith in person. Because of COVID restrictions, most of our friendships with her were forged over Zoom, Teams and telephones. My own relationship with her was very much shaped by the isolation of the COVID pandemic when we were all working from home and not rubbing shoulders here in the chamber.

But the woman and the senator that I came to know long-distance was such an inspiration. She had a dark and subversive sense of humour, and we bonded, if I can say so, over our shared love of irony and our shared impatience with hypocrisy. She was so smart, so serious, so no-nonsense in her work in the Senate. But privately she was wickedly funny and irreverent, and that was a side of her I really only got to know and see as we spoke and laughed via phone and video.

When we sat together on the Transport and Communications Committee, we would talk about issues that were important to her. She was deeply concerned about protecting and celebrating the French language in New Brunswick. We had many conversations about the future of the Broadcasting Act, and she fought hard to make changes to the legislation that would have ensured the future of French-language broadcasting in the province that was so dear to her.

We worked together on transportation issues, too. Senator Keating was particularly concerned about the future of air service in her province and about the plight of rural communities in New Brunswick that were cut off from bus service, too. Judith was also a vital part of our little gang of NAV CANADA agitators who lobbied together to Transport Canada to ensure that smaller Canadian airports didn’t lose their service and connections.

Her love for New Brunswick was the wellspring and the motivation of so many of the things she did. She loved the province with her whole heart.

When she first fell ill, I was touched and honoured that her office asked me to fill in for her on the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. It was a daunting task. Of course it was impossible for me, as a non-lawyer, to match in any way her extraordinary knowledge of the law and of constitutional affairs. But I was inspired by her example, and I tried my best to make her proud.

Few of us had the chance to get to know Judith Keating as well as we wanted to. I know I didn’t. We were all robbed of time we wanted to have with her, and we in the Senate were all robbed of her incisive intellect, wit, wisdom and profound legal knowledge. That makes our loss all the more poignant as we gather today to reflect on what might have been. May her memory forever be a blessing, and may she be bound up in the bond of eternal life.