senators’ statements — The Late J. Trevor Eyton, O.C.

March 19, 2019


Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition)
[14:03]

Honourable senators, it is with sadness that I rise today to pay tribute to the Honourable J. Trevor Eyton, who passed away last month. Senator Eyton served almost 19 years as a member of the Senate of Canada, representing the province of Ontario. He was a straight-talking, hardworking and thoughtful man, who served his fellow citizens with dedication. He will be greatly missed.

As a young man, Trevor Eyton exhibited leadership as a captain of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues football team. He was drafted into the CFL by the Saskatchewan Roughriders and then traded to the Toronto Argonauts. He attended just one day of training camp before deciding that the legal profession was his true calling, but his connection to sport never faded. Trevor Eyton served for many years as governor and chair of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in Calgary and as the governor of the Canadian Olympic Foundation helping our athletes reach their full potential.

Upon graduating from the University of Toronto Law School in 1960, Trevor Eyton joined Torys law firm upon the advice of Bora Laskin, who would later become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

From there he went on to make his mark in business. For many years he was a president and CEO of Brookfield Asset Management, and he also served on the board of such corporations as Coca-Cola Enterprises and John Labatt Incorporated.

In 1986 he was invested as an officer of the Order of Canada. The citation noted not just his considerable accomplishments as a businessman and lawyer, but for his charitable and community work as chair of the board of governors of the University of Waterloo and his involvement with Sunnybrook Hospital and the Arthritis Society. Five years later, he was named to the Senate of Canada upon the recommendation of the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney.

Senator Eyton was immediately thrust into political life during the infamous GST debate in the Senate at that time.

Over the years that followed, Trevor Eyton threw himself into his work as a senator with the enthusiasm and dedication he showed in every aspect of his life.

At one point or another, Senator Eyton was a member of most of our standing Senate committees, notably serving as co-chair of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations of the Senate and the House of Commons, and as deputy chair of Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Senator Eyton also helped shepherd government legislation through the Senate, including a bill in 2007 to provide greater consumer protection to users of the payday lending industry.

In May 2009, during his last speech in the Senate before retirement, Senator Eyton paid tribute to his family for their love and support, saying:

I recognize they are much of the reason for all the good things that have happened to me. It is something that I keep in mind all the time.

In their time of sorrow, I wish to assure his loved ones that Senator Eyton’s service to Canadians will never be forgotten. On behalf of his friends in the Conservative caucus, and indeed on behalf of all Honourable Senators, I extend sincere condolences to his children Debbie, Susie, Adam, Christopher and Sarah, to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and to his many friends across our great country. Thank you.

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate)
[14:07]

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to the former Honourable Senator Trevor Eyton. He will be remembered in this chamber for his business acumen and his collegiality. Those of us who had the pleasure to know him personally will remember his wicked sense of humour and talent as a raconteur. Some stories of which I would not bear repeating in this session.

His life was the classic small-town boy makes good. From law school he entered Torys, then a small firm, and he grew with that firm to become one of Canada’s most prestigious legal firms. From there he went into the world of business where his ability to make deals, to connect people and make companies successful became legendary.

He gave back to communities and to institutions he cherished, including the University of Waterloo, my alma mater, and the University of King’s College at Dalhousie in Halifax. Let us not forget the work he did to build the SkyDome in Toronto and bringing the Blue Jays to glory, fleetingly.

He was a bon vivant who appreciated the good things in life and liked nothing better than to share them with his friends and family.

He never took himself too seriously, but he took his work and the work of this place very seriously. As a senator, he contributed his business ability while continuing to serve on the board of some of Canada’s largest and most prestigious corporations.

It was my honour to serve with him on the Magna International board of directors and see his dedication to the role of an independent director on a publicly traded company educate me. He was also on the selection committee to choose Canada’s CEO of the year. I think honourable senators would agree he knows how to choose them, and he did.

My honourable colleagues may have talked to Trevor at the Centre Block closing ceremony.

Those of us who attended the event to bid Centre Block farewell may have had the chance to speak with Senator Eyton as he made what was likely his last appearance on the hill in December.

His dedication to this place — and I dare say the Centre Block — was enduring, and I appreciate some of the last advice he would give to us as a senator in his departing remarks upon his retirement. I would like to quote from that speech, which has already been referenced. He said:

. . . the Senate would operate more effectively if it were less partisan and more collegial, especially in its role as the chamber of sober second thought.

I could not think of more fitting words as we approach our work here in the coming months, and I hope that in so doing we honour Trevor by living by them.

[14:10]

Honourable colleagues, I would like to add my voice in tribute to the former Senator John Trevor Eyton.

Senator Eyton was appointed by former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to the Senate of Canada in 1990, where he served until his retirement in 2009.

A native of Quebec City, Senator Eyton was a renowned lawyer and entrepreneur before starting his career in the Senate.

Before this happened, he almost had a career in the Canadian Football League. Senator Eyton was drafted by the Saskatchewan Roughriders and then was traded to the Toronto Argonauts. After the first day of training, however, he realized that a career in law would better serve his passions in the future. That led him to obtain his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto in 1957 and go further to earn his Bachelor of Laws degree, also from the University of Toronto, in 1960.

Senator Eyton devoted his life to public service, including serving as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the University of Waterloo and as Chancellor of Dalhousie University, and he was involved with a number of charities, including the Arthritis Society, The Olympic Trust and Sunnybrook Research Institute.

In recognition of his life’s work, he was awarded honorary Doctor of Laws degrees by both the University of Waterloo and the University of King’s College at Dalhousie.

Senator Eyton recognized the importance of international relations and trade, especially in North America. He was awarded Mexico’s highest civilian award, the Order of the Aztec Eagle. He was also honoured for his dedication to promoting trade and investment between Canada and Mexico. In fact, he co-founded the Canada-Mexico retreat where business leaders and government officials leaders from both countries could meet, discuss and deepen their relationships.

On behalf of the Independent Senators Group, I would like to offer condolences to the family and loved ones of Trevor Eyton — athlete, lawyer, corporate titan, community leader and distinguished senator.

Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Acting Leader of the Senate Liberals)
[14:13]

Honourable senators, on behalf of the independent Senate Liberals, I would like to join in paying tribute to our former colleague, the late Trevor Eyton.

Senator Eyton served in this place with distinction for more than 19 years. He had an innate ability to get to the heart of the issue — in asking excellent questions and in carefully weighing everything he heard in this chamber and in committee.

Outside Ottawa, he was involved in countless community organizations: Junior Achievement, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program and the Canadian Olympic Foundation.

He was an officer in the Order of Canada, a fitting honour for a career and life lived for the betterment of all Canadians.

Though he identified as a Conservative senator and donor, he had friends all around — so much so that he was also a member of the Liberal Party of Canada’s Laurier Club and attended its events on a number of occasions. He was the original non-partisan in this place.

As a Nova Scotian, I must also mention that he had a connection with my home province in that he served as chancellor of one of the oldest educational institutions in the country, King’s College in Halifax, from 1996 to 2001.

Honourable senators, Trevor Eyton was a success in law and in business, and left a strong legacy here in the Senate.

I would like to express condolences on behalf of the independent Senate Liberals to his children — Debbie, Susie, Adam, Christopher and Sarah — his beloved grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and to all his loved ones and friends. Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker
[14:14]

Honourable senators, I would ask that you join me and rise in a minute of silence for our late colleague.