Marc Gold was appointed to the Senate of Canada on November 25, 2016. In his early career as a law professor, Senator Gold published extensively, lectured throughout Canada and abroad, and provided constitutional law training for federally-appointed judges. Since leaving academia, Senator Gold has held major leadership roles in the Jewish community at the Quebec, national and international levels.
Who inspired you to get involved in public life?
The first person who inspired me was my late father who, as a lawyer, always championed the importance of public service. Even before there was a legal aid system in Quebec, he used to give one day a week to meet with people who couldn’t afford legal services. He later became one of the founders of the Legal Aid Bureau of Montreal.
Another is Irwin Cotler, a long-standing friend and former colleague. What he has contributed to the cause of human rights is well known to us all. But what inspired me is how he combined his political roles with his relentless pursuit of justice, never sacrificing his personal integrity in the process.
What do you think are the biggest public policy issues facing Canada today?
I worry a lot about education. This naturally includes ensuring Canadians are equipped with the technical skills to flourish in a rapidly transforming economy.
But I am even more concerned about the undervaluing of the humanities today. We simply are not doing enough to help young Canadians become well-rounded citizens. Fluency in the liberal arts drives creativity and equips us to engage thoughtfully as citizens in a democratic society.
I am worried that with the explosion of social media and our embrace of ‘consumer sovereignty,’ people are increasingly living in their own, self-constructed echo-chambers. Reinforcing ourselves daily with only those ideas that are comfortable to us degrades our ability to interact with people whose views are different, aside from in a shouting match. This leads to both radicalization and fragmentation — and that’s a serious threat to our democracy.
Why should more Canadians care about what happens in the Senate?
The Senate plays an important part in ensuring that our laws reflect Canada’s fundamental values, including respect for individual rights and our regional diversity.
The Senate is also a place where important and neglected public policy issues can be identified and explored, such as the work on poverty by Senator David Croll or on mental illness by Senator Michael Kirby.
And today, the Senate serves as an important laboratory in the evolution of our Parliamentary democracy. With the arrival of so many senators appointed without political party affiliation, we are forced to rethink many aspects of how Parliament operates. Ironically, as we work to modernise the Senate, we’re actually bringing it closer to its historical and constitutional mission - that of a Chamber that is complementary to and truly independent of the House of Commons.
What legislative or committee work are you most proud of participating in to date?
I’m proud to have sponsored Bill C-305, which extends protection against hate-based mischief or vandalism to places used by religious groups, ethnic groups or other targeted groups.
I am also pleased to have contributed to the debate on proposed changes to the Banking Act, which I believed impinged on provincial jurisdiction over consumer protections, as well as the debate on extending human rights protections to the transgender community.
What is a hidden gem in your region that more Canadians need to know about?
I represent the electoral division of Stadacona, which is in the old city of Quebec. Everybody who’s visited falls in love with the place. There’s nothing hidden about this gem!
But I would say what’s really special is not a question of the places you visit. What is special are the people you will meet. Wherever you go throughout Quebec, you will discover interesting, friendly, and welcoming people. They are the true gems of my region!
Can you name a guilty pleasure song / album that always makes you smile and why?
My first career was as a guitar player, and music has always played an enormous role in my life. I grew up on classical music, cut my teeth on rock and roll, and eventually took a deep dive into the blues and jazz.
You know the question about which one record you would take with you on a desert island? I could never answer that question! You’ve got B.B. King’s Live at the Regal, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, Schubert’s String Quintet in C major, or everything ever recorded by John Hiatt. The list goes on and on and on. I love them all, with no guilt whatsoever!
What is the last book you read or movie you saw which you recommended to someone else and why?
I recently read #Republic by Cass Sunstein. It’s a serious analysis about how information technology and our consumer-oriented conception of free speech poses both opportunities and threats to the foundations of our deliberative democracy.
Another book is Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny. It’s a small book — succinct, easy to read, but very sophisticated. It lists what we need to do as citizens to maintain our democratic institutions in the face of challenges posed by the rise of authoritarian tendencies in the West.
What sports team (amateur/professional) do you support?
This one is easy. I’m a Montreal Canadiens fan, and hope to root for the Montreal Expos again soon!
Why are you proud to be Canadian?
More than proud, I feel privileged to be Canadian. We live in a peaceful, decent and prosperous country. It’s a country that welcomed my grandfather and his family as immigrants. It gave them an opportunity for a new and better life, and continues to welcome people from around the world.
I’m also proud to live in a country that is now, however belatedly, dealing with the most troubling aspect of its history — our relationship with our indigenous peoples. We need to commit ourselves to the moral imperative of reconciliation. I know that there is no easy fix and it won’t be fully realized in my lifetime. But as my tradition teaches me, you are not obliged to complete the work — but nor are you at liberty to desist from it.