Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my leader and all members of the New Democratic Party, I also rise in the House today to pay tribute to our friend, Arnold Chan, the late hon. member of Parliament for Scarborough—Agincourt.
I want to begin by expressing our most sincere condolences to his wife, Jean, Arnold's three children, Nathaniel, Ethan, and Theodore, and the members of his family and all the close friends who have been affected.
Everyone here knows the sacrifices that are made when one enters political life. Arnold understood this as well. We would like to thank his family for its understanding and its willingness to share Arnold with his constituents and with us here in Parliament. It was a sacrifice of time, made all the more precious by his early passing.
In Arnold's farewell speech, which has been referenced many times in the House, the sincerity and humility in his words, and the clear love and gratitude he showed for his family struck a chord across the entire country. Yet, for those of us who had a chance to know Arnold well, nothing he said came as a surprise. In fact, they are a wonderful reflection of the person he was and how he lived his life.
In his speech, he called for political opponents to respect one another, to listen to one another, and to engage with each other in dialogue beyond mere talking points because “It is the basic common civility we share with each other that is fundamental.”
I was fortunate to have spent the past few years working alongside Arnold on the procedure and House affairs committee, and this is where I really had a chance to see Arnold up close and get to know him. Although every committee will hit bumps along the road, I truly believe Arnold's contributions were a big part of any of the successes that our committee has had.
Arnold was not interested in playing political games. He understood the strength and value that came from a report or a recommendation that all members supported and he was always looking to build bridges and find common consensus. This approach, combined with his sharp intellect and a great sense of humour, made him a natural leader on our committee, and a voice of reason in a place where sometimes reason can be in short supply.
Canadians are so used to seeing leading news clips of us, usually fighting, yelling, throwing insults at one another, trying to make our point, and we do do a lot of that. Therefore, it is not a wonder that this is what they see. However, it does not take too long before people realize there are many more dimensions to this place, and many more dimensions to the work we do. Much of that takes place at committee, and it is under the radar
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I just want to read a couple of quotes from Hansard, at our committee, that will put on the formal record an example of how Arnold approached this, not talk, not speeches. This is in committee, in full flight, and we are going at it. This is how Arnold approached things. The issue at hand here was the rule for going in camera, which, as members will know, was kind of controversial in the last few Parliaments. This had the potential to explode. To me, it underscores Mr. Chan and his approach, and why we feel the way we do and why what looks to me like not one member of the House has left since question period to pay that respect.
I started by saying:
On a related issue, I want to advise colleagues that we're now starting to get into some of the areas where our lack of definition about being in camera could play out. I want to update everyone that Mr. Chan and I are continuing discussions and are hoping to have back here....
Mr. Chan said, “I know that we did switch topics, but I want to go back to” the hon. member for Hamilton Centre. I will just say Hamilton Centre from now on when it is a reference to me. We use our first names in committee, but we cannot do that here This is Mr. Chan to me, introducing something that is not good or comfortable for the government.
This was his response:
First of all, I thank him for the courtesy of allowing me the opportunity to have that conversation. Again, I will also defer, to some degree, to the Conservative members of this committee. Once we have that appropriate language, if we can come to a consensus and can get unanimity, we could dispose of it fairly quickly.
Moving on, a month later, Mr. Chan said:
I know that [the member for Hamilton Centre] is not available, so I want to put it on the record that we're continuing our conversations. I think we're very close to a resolution, [and I want to have that opportunity to continue].
In June, I said:
Chair, my intent would be to read the motion. I formally withdraw all of my former documents in relation to this, and I assume Mr. Chan will do the same. We've got a clean slate, and there's been consultations with the government and with the official opposition. My hope is that we finally can get this cleaned up before we rise. So here we go.
The Chair: Hold it.... Hold it.
[The member for Hamilton Centre]: Sorry. Yes, I agree.
The Chair: Do I have unanimous agreement to withdraw all the previous motions on this?
Mr. Arnold Chan: Agreed.
The Chair: Okay.
[The member for Hamilton Centre]: Thanks, Chair, I appreciate that.....
Mr. Arnold Chan: I have nothing to add, other than I am prepared to proceed on unanimous consent, unless the official opposition has anything to add.
The Chair: Okay....
The Chair: Mr. Chan, go ahead.
Mr. Chan ended by saying:
I also want to thank [the member for Hamilton Centre] for working collaboratively with the government on this. At the end of the day, we meant what we said.
You know what? Arnold did always mean everything he said.
I conclude my statement by sharing a few more words from Arnold's farewell speech because I hope we take these words to heart today and each day going forward, and I note that the Prime Minister was reflecting on exactly the same line of thinking. This is what Mr. Chan said:
I believe strongly that despite what we see in this place, what gives us strength is the fact that we can actually do it. We can actually engage in this process without fundamental rancour, without fundamental disagreement, and without violence. That is the difference, and that is why I so love this place.
That is the challenge he has left for us.
I just want to say on a very personal note that I have served with hundreds of elected people in my time, and Mr. Chan was one of the most amazing elected Canadians I have ever had the honour to serve with. I want to look directly at his family and say to them that their husband and dad was a remarkable man, a good man, and he made a difference in this Parliament and made our country a better place. We thank them for sharing him with us.
Rest in peace, my friend.