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.