Mr. Speaker, this past summer, Acadia lost one of its most illustrious native sons, Roméo Leblanc, at the age of 81. During his long career, Mr. Leblanc left a lasting impression on us all. We will remember him for many different reasons.
He was very proud of what he was. He took pride in his origins, his roots. He was also proud of being Acadian and francophone. Born in 1927 in Memramcook to a father who worked for the railway, he had nothing in his background that destined him for the career he would have.
Mr. Leblanc left a long list of achievements. He began his career as a teacher and journalist and was then elected to Parliament as the member for the riding of Westmorland—Kent in New Brunswick. He served as a minister and a senator and later as Governor General, becoming the first Acadian to hold this position. I believe that he did as much for Acadian culture as the greatest figures in the history of his people.
Roméo Leblanc was a simple man who led an extraordinary life. He was a man of the people, a hands-on kind of man who was close to people. He had a big heart and understood the importance of working for the development and enhancement of his community. He always stood up for his people and for the values he cherished.
In his village, in his corner of the country in New Brunswick, Roméo Leblanc was considered a leading figure. Everyone appreciated his genuineness and generosity. His high office never prevented him from remaining close to people, which is remarkable. He never hesitated to go down to the wharves and meet people. It is no surprise that he came to be known as the “fishermen's minister”.
Roméo Leblanc created the Caring Canadian Award, which recognizes individuals and groups whose unpaid, voluntary contributions provide extraordinary help or care to people in the community. It is also thanks to him that we recognize the contribution of aboriginal peoples every year on June 21, National Aboriginal Day. Lastly, I think of the very important work he did to defend and promote Canada's francophone community. That shows what kind of man Roméo Leblanc was. He was committed and dedicated. That is why he was a true model and a great source of inspiration for Acadians.
In closing, on behalf of the leader of the Bloc Québécois, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, and all the members of the Bloc Québécois caucus, I would like to express our sincere sympathies to our colleague, the member for Beauséjour, on the loss of the man who was much more than his model in politics, the man who was his father, Roméo Leblanc.