Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak today on behalf of the NDP to pay tribute to Roméo LeBlanc, who was considered by all in my community and by myself to be a great politician. The work he did during his career as a member of Parliament, fisheries minister, senator and Governor General had a lasting impact on New Brunswick, Acadia and Canada as a whole.
During his time as fisheries minister, or, as Jean Chrétien put it, minister of fishers, Mr. LeBlanc helped fishers in his region and across the country tremendously. He made great strides forward during his mandate because he was close to the people, close to fishers. He was like one of their own and he knew how to listen to their concerns.
He loved his work and our beautiful country passionately, and he wanted people to care more about politics. My colleague, Bill Blaikie, who had a chance to work with Mr. LeBlanc, told me about what a simple, fair and down-to-earth guy he was, how he liked talking to people and listening to what others had to say to him. I think that many people in politics now could have learned a lot from spending time with Mr. LeBlanc.
He was the first Acadian to be appointed Governor General, and was a great defender of la francophonie in Canada and throughout the world, but many other causes were close to his heart, including volunteerism.
In 1996, to honour everyday heroes who help others and ask for nothing in return, he created the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award.
He wanted the qualities of openness and compassion that he so admired in Canadians to be applied to solving the problems that divided aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada. He declared June 21 National Aboriginal Day, to pay tribute to the first nations, their culture, their history and their contribution to the development of our country. In doing so, he showed us, yet again, how much respect he had for Canadians, and how much he wanted us all to be equal.
I will conclude with something Mr. LeBlanc said in his installation speech in February 1995:
If I am to be known for anything, I would like it to be for encouraging Canadians, for knowing a little bit about their daily, extraordinary courage. And for wanting that courage to be recognized.
I think that his wish came true, because that is exactly how many Canadians, myself included, will remember him, as a man who believed in his country and its people, and also as a man who was close to people, who respected them, and who profoundly touched the lives of many Canadians. Mr. LeBlanc's family, including the member for Beauséjour, have every reason to be proud of their father's accomplishments.