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Marie-P. Charette-Poulin

The Hon. Marie-P. Charette-Poulin, O.St.J., B.A., LL.B., M.A. Called to the Senate of Canada in September 1995, Senator Marie-P. Poulin was the first woman to chair the Senate Liberal Caucus, and the first senator to chair the Northern Ontario Liberal Caucus.

Statements & Hansard

Motion to Support the Establishment of a Federal Public Safety Officers' Survivors Scholarship Fund

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Statement made on 07 October 2010 by Senator Joan Fraser

Hon. Joan Fraser:

Honourable senators, I wish to begin by congratulating Senator Runciman for bringing forward this motion. It is hard to think of anyone to whom we owe more than federal public safety officers who lose their lives in the line of duty. We owe to them, as to veterans, all possible honour and, more practically, we owe to those they leave behind all the assistance that we can practically furnish.

As Senator Runciman pointed out yesterday, most of the public safety officers who lose their lives in the line of duty are police officers. It is in the nature of things that most of them are young people out on patrol. As most of them are young, many of them leave behind young children. We cannot bring back the lost parents of those children, but we can think about what we, as a country, owe them for the sacrifice they, too, have made in the loss of their parent.

Police officers are not generally wealthy. They have not usually, particularly at a young age, been able to accumulate much capital, and their children will face long years of financial need. They will also face a particular kind of trauma that comes from the way in which their lost parent died: murder, usually, of a sort — not always, but usually.

We know that for young people who have suffered emotional trauma, the years of growing up are even more difficult than they are for all young people. We also know that for any young person, the promise of a fulfilled future can make an enormous difference in the choices that young person makes as he or she grows up. One key element of access to a fulfilled future is education.

Senator Runciman explained yesterday that the Province of Ontario, thanks to him, already has a scholarship fund for the survivors of public safety officers who lose their lives in the line of duty. It covers post-secondary education costs for the spouse and offspring of public safety officers in Ontario who lose their lives in the line of duty. One thing I found fascinating was how little it costs. This fund was started more than 10 years ago, with just $5 million of seed money, and it has never had to be replenished.

It is hard to think of a more worthwhile investment and of one that would give better results on a cost-benefit analysis for society as a whole. I believe that it would be entirely appropriate and entirely desirable for a comparable fund to be established at the federal level. I truly do. I would urge all members of the Senate to agree with this proposition. It is hard to think of a less partisan matter than the children of lost public safety officers.

I am sure that some honourable senators will wish to speak to this motion. However, if they are in agreement with the motion, I would hope that they would do so relatively quickly so that, if the Senate did decide to adopt this motion, the word of it could be given to the Finance Minister while he is preparing his next budget. If one thinks it is a good idea, why wait? We are not talking about large sums of money, but possibly about very important sums of money.

I have, however, told Senator Runciman that there is one phrase in his motion that gives me some trouble. His motion suggests that the federal fund should "mirror the provisions" of the Ontario fund. That strikes me as being perhaps a bit restrictive, a bit narrow. I do not know the fine details of the Ontario fund. More particularly, I do not know that anyone can be sure that the fine details of a fund that exists in Ontario, however well it serves Ontario, would be exactly useful in other portions of this country. There are not many things in which, for example, Yellowknife and downtown Toronto are immediately comparable. Therefore, purely for prudent reasons, I have suggested to Senator Runciman that it might be wise to amend that phrase. He has indicated to me that he would not be in disagreement with that idea. I have not consulted him about the specific wording because it was only moments ago that I figured out what I thought the specific wording should be, but I have consulted him about the principle of what I am about to propose.

Therefore, honourable senators, I move:

That the motion be amended by replacing the words "mirror the provisions of" with the words "operate along the lines of."

The motion would then read "that such a fund should operate along the lines of the Constable Joe MacDonald Public Safety Officers' Survivors Scholarship Fund."

Honourable senators, I hope that this will meet with your agreement.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: It was moved by the Honourable Senator Fraser, seconded by the Honourable Senator Tardif, that the motion be amended by substituting the words "mirror the provisions of" with the words "operate along the lines of."

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the amendment?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

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