Statement made on 05 February 2009 by Senator James Cowan, Senator David Smith, Senator Joyce Fairbairn (retired), Senator Art Eggleton, Senator Jim Munson, Senator Rose-Marie Losier-Cool (retired), Senator Joseph Day, Senator Catherine Callbeck, Senator Claudette Tardif, Senator Terry Mercer, Senator Elizabeth Hubley, Senator Percy Downe, Senator Tommy Banks (retired), Senator Joan Fraser and Senator Larry Campbell
Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable senators, today, I wish to pay tribute to a dear friend, a great Atlantic Canadian, and a distinguished colleague, the Honourable Marilyn Trenholme Counsell, who retired from the Senate on October 22, 2008.
We are fortunate in this place to have colleagues who bring an extraordinary depth of experience and knowledge to their work as senators. Senator Trenholme Counsell stands in the highest rank.
For many of us, an appointment to the Senate marks the beginning of a second career — not so with Marilyn. For her, it was the latest in a series of interesting, adventure-filled and meaningful vocations: nutritionist, journalist, family physician, provincial legislator, lieutenant governor, senator and through them all a community activist par excellence.
Marilyn's roots in Atlantic Canada gave her a determination to do everything in her power to improve the lives of others, particularly those who, through no fault of their own, had fallen between the cracks or were otherwise disadvantaged.
Marilyn's commitment to literacy, children and early childhood education is unwavering. In the Senate she was a tireless advocate for those causes, as well as for a multitude of other health-related issues. Most recently, she led a study in the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology examining the state of early learning and child care in Canada.
Last year, my wife, Shelagh, and I attended a memorable dinner for Marilyn in her hometown of Sackville, New Brunswick. The dinner was chaired by Senator Munson. Senator Bryden and Senator Day were also there. What struck all of us was the diversity of the guest list — family, friends, neighbours, patients, and representatives of countless groups that have been touched and helped by this remarkable woman over the course of her careers.
The stories that were exchanged that evening gave me an even greater insight into, and appreciation for, what she has achieved, and the lives touched and the causes promoted by her. She truly represents a model for all of us. We will all miss the daily contact with this warm and compassionate person who has been our colleague since 2003. Her accomplishments will endure.
I am sure her son and daughter will welcome the opportunity to spend more time with her now that she has retired from the Senate. Here, however, she will be sorely missed.
Hon. David P. Smith:
Honourable senators, I rise to pay tribute and to bid farewell — at least in my role as a senator — to my dear friend Marilyn Trenholme Counsell.
Apart from the fact that we have been Senate colleagues, we have been close and good friends. One of the main reasons for that is sitting right beside her — her lovely daughter Lorna, who looks 21 years old, and in spite of that practised law with me in my firm in Toronto for several years. We have been soulmates for years.
We will miss you, Marilyn.
Fine minds make it to the Senate, and from different areas. There is another fine doctor here. In spite of the fact that Marilyn came to Toronto to go to the University of Toronto medical school, she is really a true Maritimer in her heart. It is almost like the salmon going back to the stream. She went back to Atlantic Canada and practised medicine. I have heard numerous stories of her going out in wild weather to visit country patients, a circumstance to which many of us cannot relate. She certainly brought to this chamber an understanding of issues in which most of us do not have first-hand experience. When she spoke, it was always real, genuine and from the heart.
Honourable senators are familiar with her three-term tenure in the New Brunswick legislature. She was a government minister and also lieutenant-governor of that province.
Marilyn, I will miss seeing you, but when you come to Toronto, we will see you again. I am looking forward to cooking for you. Senator Duffy can confirm that I am a good cook because he used to hire me to cook at his dinner parties.
I bid you farewell, Marilyn, but only in the Senate context. You made a great contribution and we will see you regularly.
Hon. Joyce Fairbairn:
Honourable senators, it is with sadness and great pride that I say farewell to a friend and a colleague, Dr. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell, who has brought, through wisdom, laughter and kindness, a real sense of creation in this chamber. She will be missed tremendously. While doing this, she has been a great voice for her beloved province during these last five years.
Before Marilyn came to this chamber, she was an icon in New Brunswick, where she served first as a vigorous family physician and nutritionist in Sackville before moving into the Legislative Assembly of New Brunswick where she served as Minister of State for the Family. She has degrees from Mount Allison University and the University of Toronto.
I first met Marilyn when she was the Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick and one of the most vigorous activists for literacy in her province. I had just become the federal Minister of Literacy. The combination of Marilyn and Premier McKenna was a powerful example to the rest of this country of the need for help with that difficult issue, which continues to remain a tragedy in our society.
Not only did we join in that cause, but we also continued in other areas as the good doctor has indicated on our committees in the Senate. As the "still" senator in my mind leaves this chamber, we can rest assured that Marilyn will continue to fight for all those people who need help. She will be remembered with great affection and friendship by one of us, as not only a friend, but also as an outstanding senator.
Hon. Art Eggleton:
Honourable senators, King George VI once said that the highest of distinctions is service to others. Senator Trenholme Counsell's life is full of accomplishment in service to others.
We have heard some of that service enunciated: from her early years as a family physician in both New Brunswick and in Toronto, Ontario, through to her second career in elected office in the New Brunswick legislature. She was the first Minister of State for the Family in that province. She carried through to her next career as the Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, with a commitment that she made to promoting opportunities for children. She is the champion of children and literacy. Honourable senators know that through her work in the Senate. Finally, I move to her career that has come to a close after five years; namely, her career in the Senate of Canada.
What a trailblazer Marilyn is. She was the first woman doctor to be elected to the New Brunswick legislature, the first woman doctor to be a cabinet minister in that province, the first woman doctor to be a lieutenant-governor in Canada and the first woman doctor to be a member of the Senate. She has received numerous honours and recognition over the years for all the good work she has done.
I have come to know her over the last couple of years particularly in my capacity as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, where she has been an active and daily participant in deliberations on everything from the mental health report entitled Out Of the Shadows At Last, to autism, poverty and the work on population health that Senator Keon leads. Her questions are insightful; good questions and comments that show what a caring and compassionate person she is.
I join with Senator Keon who said a few moments ago that we will work toward and commit to moving that early learning and child care report out of committee. The report is ready now. As soon as the committee is started, it will be ready for deliberation. We will do our utmost to have the report passed in committee and brought to the Senate for consideration because it is her work that has helped to make that report a reality and we owe a debt of gratitude to her for that. I hope we see much more of Marilyn in the years to come and I wish her well.
Hon. Jim Munson:
Honourable senators, in my mother's home village of Baie Verte, New Brunswick, Senator Trenholme Counsell is known simply as "Marilyn." Imagine a small village in New Brunswick — Baie Verte. Imagine two prominent families — the Trenholmes and the Scotts, the Trenholmes being liberal and the Scotts conservative. It was not the Canadian version of the Hatfields and the McCoys because there was a lot of love in that village. The only difference between the families was about a foot. My mother's family were wee Scotts while the Trenholmes were tall.
My grandfather, James G. Scott, was a Progressive Conservative godfather in the area. Marilyn's dad had a similar role for the Liberals. Sometimes my grandfather's Tories won and sometimes Marilyn's dad's Grits won. I do not know what my Tory grandfather would think this afternoon. Regardless, as a Liberal senator, I am here to speak fondly of Harry Trenholme's daughter, Marilyn Trenholme Counsell.
I think honourable senators will agree that Marilyn Trenholme Counsell, as has been said, is an extraordinary woman, a trailblazer who has made her mark on this country — not only in Baie Verte and in New Brunswick, but in this country. However, home is where the heart is and Marilyn's heart is huge. She is a mother who has always doted on her children. She lost her husband a long time ago but never lost her love for him.
Her next love is love of community. As a doctor, she cared for everyone, and that included house calls day and night and on the weekends.
Here in the Senate, she leaves behind a legacy of professionalism, intelligence, courtesy and great charm. Others have spoken about what she has done in New Brunswick, and I do not need to repeat that, but when one takes all the titles away — lieutenant-governor, cabinet minister — one is left with a person who likes nothing better than to read to children. Here in the Senate she made children her priority by working to make early childhood education available to children and families throughout this country.
She made us understand that early childhood education is about helping kids get a good start, about helping young families find balance between work, education and raising children, about ensuring that women, in particular, have choices and opportunities.
Honourable senators, Marilyn also made us see how early childhood education goes beyond the family and touches broader policy issues. Early childhood education is about poverty reduction, equal opportunities, making sure that everyone gets a fair shake and, ultimately, about making Canada a better country.
In closing, we must thank Marilyn for her wonderful contributions. I personally promise to continue her legacy by working hard to ensure that Canada's children receive everything they deserve for a life of health, happiness and opportunity.
If I could be personal for a moment, I want to thank Marilyn for just being a good family doctor. She was good for the community. She was good to my mother's family, the Scotts, and she was good to my mother, 95-year-old Doris Scott.
Marilyn, you have been good to me from the day I first arrived five years ago until today. At the end of the day, Marilyn, I think it is fair to say I have always looked up to you.
Hon. Rose-Marie Losier-Cool:
Honourable senators, I would like to salute a friend and colleague, a respected New Brunswicker who has said farewell to us after only five short years.
Yes, Senator Trenholme Counsell, you were a dedicated and skilled physician and this, in itself, would have been enough to gain lasting recognition. However, it is in your trailblazing life as an even higher public office-holder that I drew inspiration for my words today. How can I, another woman and a current parliamentarian, not be awed by all you have accomplished in our province of New Brunswick since the mid-1980s?
Throughout your career as a member of the legislature, a minister, Lieutenant-Governor, and a senator, you have always focused on two special causes: literacy and helping the less fortunate. Your dedication, to this day, to helping and supporting the most vulnerable members of our society defines who you are and makes you a very special individual.
I fondly remember a program that you helped launch some years back, where new mothers would return home from the hospital with their baby in one arm and a book in the other — how many people have you gently steered toward literacy that way? I know, for one, that you inspired the New Brunswick Fédération des dames d'Acadie to launch a similar initiative with French books.
All I can do is thank you, dear Marilyn, for everything you have accomplished. Allow me to thank you in advance for continuing to make so many people happy in the years to come, whether as President of the Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick or simply as a person with a big heart. I am very sad to see you go.
I take comfort in knowing that we will still see one another from time to time and share a glass of good wine on your patio at Parlee Beach.
Hon. Joseph A. Day:
Honourable senators, knowing how many senators wish to pay tribute to Marilyn Trenholme Counsell, I feel like I have won the lottery in having been chosen to do so.
Honourable senators will know that Senator Marilyn Trenholme Counsell is a product of the picture province of New Brunswick. She spent her formative years in the village of Baie Verte and became a graduate of Port Elgin Regional Memorial School — coincidentally the same high school from which Senator Bryden graduated, but not, he informs me, the same year.
She began her post-secondary education at the beautiful Mount Allison University and continued at other universities, including the University of Toronto, from which she graduated with a degree in medicine. She had a distinguished career as a medical doctor and that training combined with her experiences from the practice of medicine are clearly reflected in her many accomplishments throughout her life.
I first came to know Marilyn when she was elected to the legislature of New Brunswick as part of then Premier Frank McKenna's sweep of all 58 seats in 1987. She served as the MLA for Tantramar and later as Minister of State for Family and Community Services until 1997, when she was called upon by the Governor General to serve as New Brunswick's twenty-eighth Lieutenant-Governor. I can attest to her dedication to the people of New Brunswick during her six years as Lieutenant-Governor and there is not a village, a town, a school or an IODE hall that did not have a visit from Marilyn Trenholme Counsell during that time. She was always available to help with the celebration of community accomplishments and to assist groups working for the benefit of children and youth.
During her five years in the Senate, Marilyn Trenholme Counsell continued her pursuit of early childhood development, health care and literacy through her work on the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources; and as Vice Chair of the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament. Her contributions are well known and much appreciated. I will miss my seat mate at the Liberal Party of Canada's national caucus and her fine sense of humour. I have no doubt that, although we will miss her in the Senate chamber, we have not heard the end of Senator Trenholme Counsell. Once she finishes the round of retirement parties, which seem to be endless, we can expect to hear again from Marilyn Trenholme Counsell — the senator, good doctor, the MLA, the cabinet minister, the lieutenant-governor — as she continues to work toward a better Canada and a better New Brunswick for all citizens.
Hon. Catherine S. Callbeck:
Honourable senators, I am pleased to join you in paying tribute to our friend and former colleague.
I first met Marilyn at a Liberal convention in Ottawa. Through the years we have become good friends. I have had the opportunity to work with her while we were both members of our respective provincial governments and, of course, here in the Senate.
Marilyn has an incredible record of service as wife, mother, friend, neighbour, community activist, nutritionist, medical doctor, member of the legislature, cabinet minister, lieutenant-governor, senator and now, university lecturer. Throughout it all, she has been a trailblazer. Our society is richer and fuller because of Marilyn.
What has always deeply impressed and amazed me is Marilyn's tremendous enthusiasm and energy. Despite her hectic schedule, she is always there to help, to provide encouragement and support, and to go the extra mile. She has been the patron, honorary patron or chair of more than 75 community organizations.
As Minister of State for the Family in New Brunswick, her initiatives brought the province the United Nations' International Year of the Family Award in 1995.
As lieutenant-governor, she carried out her duties with grace, dignity and style. She reopened the Old Government House as "the people's home," and she welcomed thousands of people from all walks of life. In the year 2002, more than 21,000 people were hosted by Marilyn at receptions, dinners and lunches, and that does not include the 29,000 who toured the building.
As a senator, Marilyn was one of the hardest working senators I know. She served on a number of committees and made a great contribution to this place.
Honourable senators, we all know that successful politicians are remembered for the contributions that they make to public life. They make a difference in the lives of people, and Marilyn has done and continues to do that through the positive changes she has brought about in literacy, health and early childhood development.
Marilyn, you have made and continue to make a tremendous contribution to your province and country, and we wish you good health and happiness in the years ahead.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition):
Honourable senators, I am pleased to initiate this inquiry in order to provide the opportunity to my colleagues who did not get the chance earlier today to pay tribute to Senator Trenholme Counsell.
Personally, senator, I would like to add my warmest wishes to those of my colleagues on your well-deserved retirement from the Senate of Canada. I have long admired your courage and resiliency throughout your extraordinary career in both politics and medicine. You have been a strong advocate and a source of inspiration to all Canadians, especially for women and children.
Most of all, I wish to thank you for your continuous support of issues relating to post-secondary education and linguistic rights in Canada. I am grateful for the numerous times you have courageously defended these important issues in the chamber and in committee hearings.
As a Franco-Albertan, I would like to express my appreciation for your openness towards francophones during your time in the Senate. Your keen interest in understanding and supporting the challenges faced by minority francophone communities has touched me immensely. I have truly appreciated your determination to speak French whenever we met. Sadly, the Senate has lost an extraordinary francophile.
It has been a real honour and a privilege to serve in this institution with you. My very best wishes; you will be sorely missed. Au revoir.
Hon. Terry M. Mercer:
Honourable senators, it is my pleasure to join in the tribute to my good friend Marilyn Trenholme Counsell. Knowing Marilyn, working with her and spending good time with her has been one of the great pleasures of having come to this place.
Marilyn, as others have mentioned, was born and raised in the beautiful village of Baie Verte, New Brunswick, and was educated at Port Elgin Regional Memorial School, where, by the way, she was valedictorian, so one can see that her public speaking started early. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Mount Allison University in Sackville, magna cum laude. She then obtained a Master of Arts degree in 1960, cum laude, as well as a Doctor of Medicine degree, cum laude, from the University of Toronto.
I did not know this until I did some research: She actually practised medicine at the Toronto General Hospital and in Sackville and Port Elgin, New Brunswick, on the staff of the Sackville Memorial Hospital.
She was a founding member of the Tri-hospital Diabetic Education Centre for the Women's College and Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. She launched the Sackville Branch of the Canadian Diabetes Association, a group with which I have had the pleasure of working. In her early years in Toronto, she had time to be a freelance journalist. This woman is an underachiever, as we can tell.
She has been a trailblazer, though, in many ways throughout her life, particularly as a woman in medicine. She is the first and only woman doctor to be elected to the legislature of New Brunswick, to be a cabinet minister in the Government of New Brunswick, to be a lieutenant-governor in Canada, to be appointed to the Senate of Canada and the first woman doctor to receive the Dr. William F. Roberts Political Action Award. Those are a lot of firsts, Marilyn.
I know that many people have said this, so I will try to phrase it as best I can personally: Senator Trenholme Counsell has been a role model and an inspiration to us all. She is a woman of class. She has set the standard very high for those of us who would like to live up to those standards. She has been charming along with all of that. We miss her, we love her and we wish her well in the next phase of her career.
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley:
Honourable senators, I would also like to join the chorus of senators paying tribute to our former colleague Marilyn Trenholme Counsell on her retirement from this chamber. A remarkable woman, Senator Trenholme Counsell has been an inspiration to all.
I first saw Lieutenant-Governor Trenholme Counsell at the official opening of the Confederation Bridge some years ago. She was truly an elegant figure in a sea of suits. Many times we have discussed if hats will or will not ever come back, so that was an interesting time for me.
As an outstanding Maritimer whose seat in this chamber was across the aisle from mine, I observed first-hand her dedication as a senator to issues of importance to New Brunswick and to all of Canada, especially her efforts to promote literacy, children's issues and medical issues.
A wife and a mother, Senator Trenholme Counsell has also had additional amazing careers, first as a family physician and nutritionist, and then in the public arena of New Brunswick politics where she served as an MLA, a cabinet minister and Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick before being appointed to the Senate to represent her beautiful province.
Senator Trenholme Counsell's presence in this chamber will be sorely missed. I know honourable senators join me in wishing her and her children all the best in what we will call her retirement. Thank you, Marilyn.
Hon. Percy E. Downe:
Honourable senators, I would like to join my colleagues in paying tribute to Senator Marilyn Trenholme Counsell.
Marilyn Trenholme Counsell was born and raised when opportunities for women were restricted. Someone, however, forgot to tell that to Marilyn. She has had wonderful and numerous careers and has performed outstanding service in the public life of Canada.
Since her appointment for New Brunswick in 2003, Senator Trenholme Counsell has been an active and esteemed member of this chamber. She has worked hard on behalf of her province, region and country, always with great enthusiasm and devotion.
As the first woman doctor appointed to the Senate, she has shared with us her invaluable expertise, experience and passion for making a difference. Marilyn Trenholme Counsell has used this chamber to serve and improve her country. As honourable senators know, her work extends far beyond this chamber and will therefore continue on into her retirement from the Senate.
She dedicates her time to a great many causes across Canada, including in my home province of Prince Edward Island. I thank Senator Trenholme Counsell for her commitment to the Senate of Canada and for her commitment to her country. She is an inspiration to Canadians, especially young women, about what can be achieved in Canada and in public life.
Personally, as I consider legislation that is before the Senate, I will ask myself: What would Senator Marilyn Trenholme Counsell do? Even though she is gone from this place, I will be guided by her wisdom.
Hon. Tommy Banks:
Honourable senators, I wish to add my congratulations.
Forgive me for speaking directly to Senator Trenholme Counsell, Your Honour, but I cannot refer to someone in the third person who is right here.
We have all been inspired by your trailblazing, as has been referred to previously, but you have blazed some trails here as well. In the committee on which you and I both sat for too short a time, you asked questions that would not have occurred to any of the rest of us but which were entirely cogent to the subject at hand, from which we have learned. I want you to know that there will be a substantial residual benefit to the deliberations on those matters that have derived directly from your interventions and helping us to look at everything in a new light. I thank you very much for that, senator.
Hon. Joan Fraser:
Honourable senators, it has occurred to me, as I have listened to all these tributes going over the extraordinary list of accomplishments of our former colleague, that they make her sound like a rather daunting figure; incisive, trail blazing, first this, first that, all true, but I would like the record to show also a couple of other elements of Marilyn Trenholme Counsell.
The first element is the luminous quality of her smile and of her utterances on behalf of children. It was impossible listening and watching her not to be caught up in the joy that she brought to those issues. Another element is the almost old-fashioned grace that she brought to much of what she did here, and that was coupled with a seeming inability ever to lose her temper. Once or twice, I caught her looking just a tad terse about something but she quickly controlled herself. She went about her work here, as I am sure she has done everything throughout her life, with good humour, grace and charm.
It is said that one of the key components of charm is the ability to be genuine and to think well of the people with whom one is dealing. Certainly, that last component would qualify Marilyn Trenholme Counsell. I only served briefly on a committee with her, but I came rapidly to the conclusion that if a mass murderer brandishing an axe were to appear before us, Senator Trenholme Counsell would find good in him to perceive. Of no one was that more true than of people from her beloved province of New Brunswick. Her dedication to them and to their welfare shone like the North Star.
I suspect that those qualities have also had a great deal to do with her extraordinary list of successes and accomplishments that we know are not yet concluded.
Hon. Larry W. Campbell:
Honourable senators, I must say that I had no real knowledge of Senator Trenholme Counsell's past. I am quite glad of that because I am afraid that had I known I would have been quite intimidated by her presence. Instead, I found myself watching her as she listened to other people with a little smile, sometimes a laugh. I would watch to see if she was going to nod her head, which would give me some help — of course, I have not been allowed to join my colleagues on the other side — in figuring out exactly how I would vote on an issue.
I have told the honourable senator that I am prepared to give her my next five years in here and that I will sit back and watch. I know that on both sides of this august chamber it would be met with total unanimity, allowing me to leave for five years.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Campbell: I also have to say that this wonderful and elegant senator walks the walk and talks the talk. In British Columbia we would refer to her as the "real deal". Good luck in your future.
Please click here to read more tributes to the Honourable Marilyn Trenholme Counsell
Please click here to read more tributes to the Honourable Marilyn Trenholme Counsell