House of Commons Hansard #170 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was report.



10 a.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, we have with us on this sad day members of Shaughnessy Cohen's family in the gallery, her staff and her very close friends throughout her life.

Today our procedure will be as follows. We will have tributes from the spokespersons of each party. Then I will be giving more information. There is no need to remind us that this day is a unique day in the history of this parliament.


10:05 a.m.



Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of members of my party and on behalf of all members of the House, I wish to pay tribute to the member for Windsor—St. Clair.

It is a great family that we belong to. The member for Windsor—St. Clair was the best. She was a very dedicated person, committed to all the social causes in her home town of Windsor. She came here with the same preoccupations. She was chair of the justice committee and she spent all her life ensuring that those most in need in society could have a little better life. That was her preoccupation every day, in committees, in the House of Commons and in caucus.

As everyone knows, she was a very outspoken person. She was absolutely not shy to tell me as it was, as she saw it. She had a great sense of humour. She became everyone's friend.

It is amazing the deep sorrow I felt last night when I learned of her passing and when I saw my colleagues crying. A sister had left us.

What people do not understand is that we might have our political differences but we all want to do the best to make sure we have a better society. Shaughnessy was like that. She was a dynamo. She got things moving; she pushed. She was very partisan in many ways. Shaughnessy believed in the party and the values of our party. She could also be very critical of moves that were made because at times she was not completely happy. It happens once in a while.

Shaughnessy was what is best about parliament. She represented her riding and she felt strongly that the views she gathered every weekend when she went back to her constituency should be expressed here in the House of Commons and on Wednesdays in our caucus. She did this very forcefully.

For me and my colleagues, we have lost a great sister and a great parliamentarian.

I had the occasion a minute ago to speak with her husband and her daughter to express my sympathies. It must be a terrible shock and an unbelievable loss for them.

But they know that the time she spent in parliament did not go unnoticed. She was a person of strong convictions but she also knew how to make friends. Although her work was very important to her, she knew there was more to life, like sometimes making time for fun, creating the odd problem for us and getting me to smile anyway. There was always that balance that not everyone has, but she did. She was truly exceptional.

On behalf of the members of my party, and of Canadians generally, I would like to thank her for everything she did for her constituents and for all Canadians.

I have to tell members that in many ways Canada is a better place because Shaughnessy Cohen has been with us.


10:10 a.m.


Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with a heavy heart that I rise to pay tribute to Shaughnessy Cohen whose tragic death last night has shaken us all.

In politics partisanship often clouds what is truly important in life. Shaughnessy's tragic death puts everything we do in perspective. On behalf of the official opposition I extend my heartfelt condolences to her very many friends and family, especially to her husband Jerome and her stepdaughter Dena.

Words are little consolation at a sorrowful time like this and expressions of friendship from colleagues will just begin to fill the very large void left in so many hearts. Permit me to share my feelings today, if only to tell Canada who it lost last night.

I liked Shaughnessy's style. I liked her energy. I admired her tenacity. I respected her forceful advocacy for the causes she believed in and the constituents she represented. I also appreciated her kindness and wonderful sense of humour. That was the amazing thing about this woman from Windsor. She was a seemingly impossible combination of vigorous partisanship and of open minded friendship. Those of us on this side of the House should know because we have been on the receiving end of both.

There will never be another quite like her. Shaughnessy led a life of public service. She was a crown prosecutor for years and brought her love of justice to parliament in 1993. Later she became chair of the justice committee.

Although we were from different parties, Shaughnessy earned a lot of respect from this side of the aisle. I remember meeting with her privately to talk about victims rights, an issue she helped champion through the justice committee. I knew then this was a woman who put solving problems ahead of raw partisanship.

I also witnessed firsthand how she put people first. When one of our MPs was down on his luck and when others would have kept their distance from him, Shaughnessy sat with him and spent time with him, quietly demonstrating her kindness and compassion in his hour of need.

She had a sharp mind. All who had the good fortune to meet her quickly sensed that. She chaired the justice committee with a healthy dose of humour and in a manner that always treated witnesses with respect and dignity. She made them feel comfortable and she made us feel comfortable too.

She came by her public mindedness naturally. Her parents worked for their local community, founding a school, volunteering at a food bank and passing on to Shaughnessy a deep commitment to help others.

It is my wish that Shaughnessy's spirit, her tenacious commitment to her constituents and her keen sense of fun will remain in this place for a long time to come. We will truly miss Shaughnessy Cohen.


10:10 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, December 9, our colleague Shaughnessy Cohen collapsed here in the House. Strongly committed to democratic values and deeply involved in the community, she had devoted herself to serving her constituents.

The member for Windsor—St. Clair is no longer with us, leaving behind a family, a profession and, I happen to know, a party that she loved.

Ms. Cohen was born in London, Ontario, on February 11, 1948. After graduating from the University of Windsor with a BA in English studies in 1969, she obtained an MA in sociology from the same university in 1973, followed by a law degree in 1977.

From 1971 to 1974, she taught at the St. Clair College of Applied Arts and Technology. From 1979 to 1993, she practised law, concentrating on criminal and labour law, and served as an assistant crown prosecutor.

She had represented the riding of Windsor—St. Clair since first being elected in 1993, and had chaired the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights since 1996. She was also well known as co-chair of the Liberal Party's caucus committee on gun control.

Having had the privilege of working closely with Ms. Cohen on the standing committee on justice, I can easily imagine how deeply her loss will be felt by the Liberal caucus.

Although we did not always see things the same way, I always respected Shaughnessy for her sense of professionalism and, above all, her passion for the law and for justice. There were many areas in which we shared the same ideals and values. Once again, although we did not always see eye to eye, we had great respect for each other.

I wish to offer my deepest condolences personally and on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois to her husband Jerome and her daughter Dena.

I believe strongly that it is by keeping someone's memory alive that we push back the boundaries of death. Those who had the honour of knowing you, Shaughnessy, will remember you as a woman of your word, and as a woman of action. Émile Henriot put it well when he wrote: “It is my firm belief that the dead live on in the memories of those they leave behind.”

We will not forget you, Shaughnessy. Thank you, Shaughnessy, for your time with us and your highly regarded devotion to your work.


10:15 a.m.


Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with very great sadness that I rise in this House today to pay tribute to our dear friend, our dear departed colleague, Shaughnessy Cohen, and to express our heartfelt condolences to her husband Jerry, to her daughter Dena and to her dear, dear friends who are really part of her extended family, for this very great loss.

No one ever loved life more than Shaughnessy Cohen. Few people ever loved politics as much as Shaughnessy Cohen. And no politician has ever been more universally loved by her peers than the hon. member for Windsor—St. Clair.

When my caucus colleagues gathered this morning, one of them described the feeling that I know is widely shared at hearing the news of Shaughnessy's passing, that of being totally shattered. I think that expresses how we all feel from all corners of this House. A sense of great loss fills our hearts today and fills these halls today.

As the Prime Minister has said, this was a woman who represented the very best of what politics is about. She had a deep concern for people. She was a fierce partisan. The Prime Minister said that sometimes she was very partisan. Shaughnessy was always partisan in the best sense of the word.

She was someone who was willing to work very, very hard, who liked to play hard as well, and who had a wicked sense of humour. Shaughnessy saw the very best in people. As a result of that she always brought the best out in people.

I did not have the opportunity of knowing Shaughnessy for a very long time, only in the 18 months that I have been in this House, but those who worked with her over a longer period of time came to appreciate the magic of Shaughnessy Cohen's approach to politics. She was indeed a fierce partisan, but she always respected her political foes.

She talked recently about how much she appreciated the contributions to the justice committee made by various members. She actually singled out members of each of the parties to say how much she appreciated their contributions, including the member for Wild Rose. Not all of us would say that.

Shaughnessy loved the law. She loved the practice of law. For her what the law was about was the pursuit of justice. That is why she fought so fiercely for the rights of those who were not being fully respected. Some will remember that in her fierce pursuit of justice on behalf of gay and lesbian people she could even tell an affectionate joke now and then about her colleague Roseanne Skoke.

Everybody talks about Shaughnessy Cohen's stories. I had an opportunity this morning to speak with Mary Clancy, who was a dear, dear friend of Shaughnessy and one who really thinks of herself as a sister. I said to Mary “If you had an opportunity today to tell some of Shaughnessy's stories, what would you say?” Mary said “Most of them are not repeatable, at least not here in this House, at least not on this day”.

But I think Mary spoke for all of us when she said “Shaughnessy was the most joyous human being that I have ever known”. That is why she is going to be greatly missed in this place. It is hard to imagine the depth of the grief and the shock that is felt by her family.

The greatest tribute that we could pay to Shaughnessy Cohen is to learn the lesson that we are in this place to serve our constituents. We are here because we are driven by a common purpose of trying to build a better society. She will be greatly missed, but her lessons will not be missed on us.

On behalf of my colleagues, I want to express my deepest condolences to her family and to this great family of her friends and colleagues.


10:20 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with a tear in my eye, as there are many tears in the eyes of our colleagues in the House of Commons. We have lost a wonderful, wonderful Canadian today. I look over and see the flowers that are in her seat and on her desk.

Shaughnessy had a sense of humour. When I was here in 1993 there were just two in my party at that time. I sat up in the corner and she used to encourage me to stay. She would joke with me when I was on the elevator with her. Her friend Mary Clancy did the same.

I want to say to her husband, to her daughter and to her family, thank you for sharing her with us. Tremendous sacrifices are made by families, and people across this country do not realize that.

She loved justice. She had a friend in my colleague here, Peter. They would joke back and forth. One day she ran over and asked “Where do you buy your sweaters, Elsie? I want a sweater just like yours”. A couple of weeks ago she came in with a sweater and asked “Is it as nice as yours, Elsie?” I said “I'm not quite sure, darlin'; it's on a Liberal”.

Yes, I have to say that she was partisan, but she was a wonderful person. We were fortunate to have her here. She loved justice. She just loved being the chair of that committee. She loved all of us here in this House of Commons. It is truly a great loss for the people of Windsor, but it is also a great loss for us because she was different. She was different from some of us who are here today.

On behalf of all of my colleagues, I say to her husband, daughter and family, thank you very much for sharing her with us. You are in our prayers and she is in our prayers. You will continue to be in our prayers from here on out. On behalf of my colleagues, our condolences to all of you. Thank you for sharing Shaughnessy with us.


10:25 a.m.

The Speaker

I address my few remarks to Shaughnessy's family and friends, and to my colleagues in the House of Commons.

As the Prime Minister said, we are a family. Just as Shaughnessy was part of your family, she was part of ours in this House and part of the larger Canadian family.

There was an umpire in Welland where I grew up and played baseball. His name was Frank Chase. He was hard of hearing. He had a hearing aid. Every time something went wrong in a game and everyone started yelling at old Frank, he would turn off his hearing aid. I think of him sometimes when I am in this House. I do not want to wear a hearing aid, but if I had one I would have turned it off quite a few times when I heard what Shaughnessy was saying down at the other end.

Shaughnessy loved the House. She loved being here. She loved the give and take of Parliament. She loved the institution. She was a partisan, with no apologies.

Of course, she always held me in awe and she always feared me. That is why on Wednesday of last week she waved to me from just behind the chair over there. When I came out she grabbed me by the arm. As I said, she always feared me. She said “Listen here, Gib, you have to do something to make sure that the House doesn't get out of control”. I said “Shaughnessy, you could help me a great deal”.

And as a family when she fell here in the House, I yelled out to get a doctor. Bob Kilger got to his feet and asked did we have a doctor. Grant Hill was over there within seconds and pretty soon Peter Adams and André Bachand were there. We could not get at her. She was on the floor. We moved chairs. Our head page, Daniel Cardinal, came and he looked at me. I said yes, take them out, and he ripped out six desks so we could get at her, so we could get help. I thank you for doing for us, for Shaughnessy, what we could not do.

We are a family, a very, very special family. We are going to have to mourn too, like you.

I want to invite you, my colleagues, and the family of course, to room 216 afterward. There is a book of remembrance that I invite you to sign. But more than anything, I just want us to be together for a little while.

We are going to miss Shaughnessy. She belonged to us.


10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.


10:30 a.m.

The Speaker

I am going to suspend the House for about five minutes and then we are going to do a little bit of business before the day is out.

Those who are involved with the business of the House will carry it on at that time. For those who want to retire from here, or for those who want to sit here for a while, that is okay too.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 10.31 a.m.)

The House resumed at 10.45 a.m.

Ways And Means
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.



Jim Peterson Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I wish to table two notices of ways and means motions. The first amends the Excise Tax Act in accordance with the proposals set out in the attached publication, legislative proposals, draft regulations and explanatory notes relating to the Excise Tax Act.

The second amends the Income Tax Act to implement measures that are consequential on changes to the Canada-U.S. tax convention, 1980, and amends the Income Tax Conventions Interpretation Act, the Old Age Security Act, the War Veterans' Allowance Act and certain acts related to the Income Tax Act.

I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Technology Partnerships Canada
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.

St. Catharines


Walt Lastewka Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, in accordance with Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Technology Partnerships Canada annual report for 1997-98 entitled “Investing in Innovation”.

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.



Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have two batches of government responses to petitions, yesterday's and today's. I will table them separately.

Pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 11 petitions.

Pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 48 petitions.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.


Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to present to the House two reports from the Canadian branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association concerning the 44th conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association which took place from October 16 to 23, 1998 in New Zealand, and the 21st Canadian regional seminar which took place in Edmonton, Alberta, November 20 to 22, 1998.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

10:45 a.m.


John Maloney Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34, I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report from the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum, on the sixth general assembly of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentarians Conference on Environment and Development, which was held at Guilin, China, from October 14 to 18, 1998.

The conference provided an opportunity for an exchange of ideas on sustainable development between the 28 participating member countries. It also provided an opportunity to develop or enhance parliamentary contacts and to represent the interests of Canada in a multilateral forum.

We would recommend that Canada participate in future APPCED conferences, including the 7th general assembly in Chiang Mai, Thailand, December 11 to 15, 1999, and that the Canadian section of the Asia-Pacific parliamentary forum consider constituting an APPCED group within its structure.