Mr. Speaker, I was very sad to learn of the sudden death of my parliamentary colleague, Bloc Québécois member Benoît Sauvageau, especially since I was out of the country and unable to attend his funeral.
It is therefore my privilege today to pay tribute to him, even though I do so with a heavy heart.
I worked with Mr. Sauvageau in the course of my parliamentary duties. In 2002 I was assigned to the Standing Committee on Official Languages, of which Mr. Sauvageau was a member. I got to know the member for Repentigny, but also the man.
It was always a pleasure to sit with him. Courteous, smiling and friendly, he always greeted me with, “Salut Yvon”. All the members of the committee will agree that he greeted everyone in a simple and familiar fashion.
He was always well prepared for every session and had a thorough grasp of files and issues. He took a special interest in Air Canada. I am certain that Air Canada senior management trembled with fear at the mention of Benoît Sauvageau's name. Even worse, when Air Canada representatives had to testify before the committee, they knew they were in for a rough ride, because Benoît was waiting for them. I would not have wanted to be in their shoes. I preferred to have him sitting next to me rather than across the table. We have Benoît to thank for the little card for official languages complaints that Air Canada places in seat pockets on its aircraft.
I would like to tell a short anecdote. Air Canada said that the complaint cards cost too much, so Benoît had one made. He told them exactly how much it had cost, which was not much.
To Benoît, every issue was important. He understood his role as a parliamentarian, but also as a member of the committee. He was a good ambassador not only for francophones in Quebec, but also for the francophone communities in Canada and Acadia. His efforts to promote the French language and culture were recognized when the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie made him a Chevalier de l'Ordre de la Pléiade, Ordre de la Francophonie et du dialogue des cultures.
Unfortunately, he was assigned to other committees, and I never had the chance to work with him again. Nevertheless, I am sure he worked just as enthusiastically on his new files.
He was a good member of Parliament who worked tirelessly for his community and the people in it. His five terms as a member of Parliament are a testament to his integrity and his devotion to his community.
Over the past few weeks, I have heard his Bloc colleagues, others who worked with him, and people everywhere say good things about him. Everything they said about him was true.
It almost seemed like people had sent the word around, but that was not the case. Benoît was always true to himself; he was a good man and true. He was a real gentleman and an example to us all.
Many people would have liked to pay tribute to him today. I hope that I have adequately expressed what we all feel.
Today, he leaves behind not only his grieving family, but also his family here in Parliament. There is no doubt he will be missed.
On behalf of the NDP and its leader, I would like to express our sincere condolences to his wife, children and family.
My dear Benoît, you left without giving us a chance to say goodbye, so I would like to take this opportunity to say farewell, my friend.