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George Baker

The Hon. George  Baker, P.C. Senator George Baker is the former MP for the riding of Gander - Grand Falls (Newfoundland and Labrador). He was first elected to the House of Commons in 1974, and was re-elected at every subsequent federal election. Since March 26, 2002, he has served in the Senate of Canada, representing the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

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The Honourable Yoine Goldstein - Tributes

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Statement made on 07 May 2009 by Senator James Cowan, Senator Mobina Jaffer, Senator Serge Joyal, Senator Jane Cordy, Senator Lorna Milne (retired), Senator David Smith, Senator Jerahmiel Grafstein (retired), Senator Claudette Tardif, Senator Joan Fraser, Senator Maria Chaput, Senator Jim Munson, Senator William Rompkey (retired) and Senator Wilfred Moore

Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition):

Honourable senators, I confess to a real conflict today. I am obviously delighted to be able to pay tribute to my friend Yoine Goldstein, but, on the other hand, I regret that it is in the context of his leaving the Senate where he has been such an active participant.

While Senator Goldstein's term of office has been relatively short, his contributions here have been impressively long. He stands as proof that one does not always have to be in a place for long to make a lasting and worthwhile contribution.

A native and lifelong resident of Montreal, Senator Goldstein is a graduate in arts and law from McGill University. For more than 40 years, he led an increasingly distinguished career as a lawyer, specializing in the fields of bankruptcy and insolvency, becoming a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American College of Bankruptcy and the Insolvency Institute of Canada — the only Canadian to be so recognized.

His knowledge of insolvency law is recognized throughout Canada and around the world, and he has published extensively on that topic.

Throughout his life, he has been a pillar of the Canadian and Montreal Jewish community, for which he has been honoured on numerous occasions. He was appointed to the Senate in August 2005 and immediately undertook an impressive legislative agenda.

Senator Goldstein has made an indelible impression on us all. Who amongst us has not been moved by his pleas for tolerance, respect and social justice throughout the world, by his warnings never to forget the horrors of the Holocaust or Kristallnacht and by his description of the atrocities in Darfur?

For him, human rights are not abstract concepts but rather basic values that must be promoted and protected everywhere. Senator Goldstein has consistently drawn our attention to the plight of the less fortunate and disadvantaged in our society. Only yesterday, he encouraged all of us to wear pins in support of African grandmothers and their orphans.

He has brought to this chamber and his committee work formidable analytical skills honed during his years as one of Canada's leading lawyers. He has consistently demonstrated an ability to cut to the heart of complex issues and, more importantly, to propose practical and sensible solutions.

In addition to being an active member on the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights and the Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages, he has represented Canada and the Senate at numerous international gatherings, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, where he has made important contributions reflecting his passion for human rights and social justice.

In the Senate, he has introduced legislation protecting students caught in the trap of bankruptcy and insolvency and legislation controlling spam email. He also introduced legislation amending the Investment Canada Act to include violations against human rights, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by investors or in which investors may have been involved, as factors to be taken into account in determining whether an investment is of net benefit to Canada.

Honourable senators, our colleague Senator Goldstein has made an important contribution to this place and to our society. He has set a high standard for us all, and we will miss his wise counsel and appeals to our consciences on a daily basis. As we bid him farewell, we know he will remain passionately involved in raising human awareness of human rights and issues of social justice.

Yoine, thank you for your work here, and Elaine, thank you for allowing us to share Yoine with you these past few years.

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer:

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to my friend, seatmate and colleague Senator Yoine Goldstein. In the four years since his appointment to the Senate, his work and accomplishments in this place have become legendary. I have come to know Yoine as one of the most passionate human rights advocates this institution has ever seen. His efforts in this place have utilized every skill in his legal, scholarly and humanitarian arsenal.

He was introduced to this chamber on September 20, 2005, as an active and highly regarded member of the provincial and national legal communities, an esteemed law professor from McGill, and one of Canada's foremost policy experts on Canadian bankruptcy and insolvency. It was not surprising he would immediately press for reform of Canada's bankruptcy and insolvency system, and in doing so became one of the most vocal advocates for post-secondary education of Canada's youth. He has dedicated a great deal of his time in this place to educating others and to introducing legislation that would ensure that students have the necessary protection and knowledge so that their investment in post-secondary education will not become a crushing financial burden. Canadians and senators will miss his strong and compassionate voice on Parliament Hill on this issue.

I respectfully suggest that Senator Goldstein's legacy is also about Canadian literacy. He has spent his time in this place pushing for better numeracy or mathematical skills for Canadians. He has imparted an understanding that Canadians chronically do not have the skills to improve their financial well-being. This missing level of literacy costs Canada and is a leading cause of financial hardship. It is an underlying principle of concern that has influenced so much of his work in this place.

Senator Goldstein is a human rights advocate. This stands out most profoundly when looking retrospectively over the last four years. I quote Senator Goldstein: "Human rights are indivisible; they are available to all people." This belief is rooted and infused throughout all of the work he has done as a senator.

Senator Goldstein has consistently introduced legislation that will bring affordable medicine to Third World countries and he has worked hard to empower the most vulnerable. He has also pushed for Canada's implementation of its refugee appeal division.

Yoine, you have been a zealous and worthy contributor to the calibre of debate in this place and the exceptional work conducted by Senate committees. I will particularly miss your contributions at our shared committees of Official Languages and Human Rights. Your exceptional work ethic has been something that has resounded for all of us. Your departure from the Senate will leave a huge gap in service to Canada and, more specifically, to Quebec.

I also want to thank Elaine for sharing you with us, as she has waited many long hours for you to come home. You have said: "My sole interest is to have excellent legislation for the excellent people of Canada."

My dear friend, you have certainly made this contribution and so much more. I wish you and Elaine, Doron and Dahna, much happiness as you take a break. Meanwhile, we will all continue to benefit from the work you have done here on behalf of all Canadians.

Thank you.

Hon. Serge Joyal:

Honourable senators, it is a privilege to draw your attention to Senator Goldstein's contribution to the Senate of Canada, as his work in this chamber draws to a close. The length of Senator Goldstein's term here was rather short, just under four years. However, his contribution to our work has been significant and was appreciated immediately, from the moment he was appointed. Indeed, the Senate and its legislative approach have benefited greatly from Senator Goldstein's unique academic expertise.

One should remember that after having completed his PhD in law at the Université de Lyon in France in 1960, he taught for more than 25 years at the University of Montreal. An expert in the law of bankruptcy, he has published extensively on related issues and is widely recognized by the legal and judicial community as an authority. He is quoted regularly in arbitration and court decisions.

Honourable senators, we in the Senate should appreciate the special professional background of Senator Goldstein and the backgrounds of other colleagues on both sides of this chamber, and recognize that their expertise is essential to our duty in reviewing the legislation adopted by the other place.

According to a study published recently by the Public Policy Forum, the newest members of the 40th Parliament elected on October 14, 2008, are less educated and less experienced than their predecessors in the 39th.

Moreover, according to that study, the House of Commons has few members experienced in public administration. This fact certainly has an impact on their capacity to do legislative work. The scholarly background of Senator Goldstein has brought solid credentials to the study of banking and financial legislation, in keeping with the fine tradition and practices of the Senate. Indeed, Senator Goldstein's talents were always at par, or even better, than those of the expert witnesses of the Department of Finance or those of the business community.

I cannot over-emphasize the fact that our Senate committees' reputation for credibility is due in large part to the professional experience of colleagues like Senator Goldstein.

Such colleagues sit on both sides of the chamber.

That is what fundamentally distinguishes this chamber from the other.

As we consider changes to the Senate appointment system, we should make it a point to maintain the elements that bring value to this chamber, elements that are critical to the Senate's credibility as a law-making institution, elements such as a high degree of professional qualification, which the system of elected representatives does not necessarily guarantee.

Let us hope that Senator Goldstein continues to take an interest in the work of Senate committees and contribute his academic and practical expertise to help us fulfill our constitutional duty to the best of our ability.

Senator Goldstein, we would be only too grateful.

Hon. Jane Cordy:

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to my colleague and to my almost-seatmate, Senator Goldstein.

I heard about Yoine and his skills before he came to the Senate. My husband Bob and Yoine served on the federal Personal Insolvency Task Force, which was formed by the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy. The task force was made up of senior trustees, insolvency lawyers, economists and a renowned insolvency judge. Yoine, as honourable senators know, is an internationally recognized expert in insolvency law and he was the chair of this task force. To quote my husband, "With all that firepower, Yoine, with his intelligence and calm demeanour, was able to control the agenda and garner the support and respect of the committee members."

Honourable senators, I was then fortunate to be the second member of my family to work with Yoine when he was appointed to the Senate in 2005. Senator Goldstein's activities are not restricted to the field of law or to his work in the Senate; Yoine also works to improve the lives and well-being of those living in his community and beyond. In many ways, his law expertise and his work in the Senate is dedicated to serving his community.

Whether through the numerous organizations to which he volunteers his time and expertise, or through the introduction of private members' bills here in the Senate, Senator Goldstein continues to strive to support and improve the lives of those less fortunate. His dedication to his community is an inspiration and must be commended.

Yoine, I will remember your passion for your causes and will also remember your frustrations, sometimes, when your well-intentioned questions were not answered. You have been a great asset to this chamber. I know that whatever you choose to do as you begin another stage of your life, it will be a success because it will be done with energy and expertise.

Yoine, we will miss you. My very best to you and to Elaine because, Elaine, we will miss you, as well.

Hon. Lorna Milne:

Honourable senators, we all know that in addition to everything we have heard today, Senator Goldstein is a man of deep convictions and thoughtful insight. However, let me tell you a little about his involvement with the Council of Europe.

We all know that he can occasionally run slightly over time in his profound remarks and at the Council of Europe, time is strictly allocated. There is a large light that goes on and there is a buzzer. Once you are a few seconds over your time, the buzzer rings and your microphone is cut off.

A little over two years ago, Senator Goldstein was on his feet speaking in an urgent debate on the situation in the Middle East. He had 10 extremely important points to make as to precisely how the nations of Europe and the world could begin to solve the ongoing situation. He reached point 7 when the 30-second warning went up. I think he completed point 8 before his time ran out. It is the only time in my entire six years at the Council of Europe that I have ever seen the president hold out his hand and physically prevent the clerk from ringing the buzzer. The president prevented the ringing of the bell so that Yoine could complete his 10 points. When he had finished, the president invited him to take part in writing the final report. I think Senator Goldstein flew to Europe at his own expense to take part in that endeavour.

In 2007, Senator Goldstein also took a very active role working on a report on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. The report discussed the forcible relocation of civilian populations and the recruitment of children as young as six years of age as soldiers. The report described the situation as a war crime and urged the prosecution of those responsible as war criminals. As I said, he is a man of strong convictions with a passion for human rights.

Senator Goldstein is taking up the cause of providing badly needed affordable drugs to Africa through CAMR, Canada's Access to Medicines Regime. His Bill S-232 is designed to simplify the complex approval process, which is preventing the delivery of drugs to where they are so badly needed.

Senator, this place will miss your insight, your dedication and your generosity of mind and spirit. Personally, I have been delighted to get to know your intelligent, charming and beautiful wife Elaine, too. It has been my privilege.

Hon. David P. Smith:

Honourable senators, I wish to pay tribute to Yoine Goldstein. Our friendship has been too brief because I did not know him before he came to the Senate. I knew of him, because my law firm has a large section of lawyers who practise in that melancholy area of bankruptcy and insolvency, which I found too depressing.

Someone said, "You must know this guy, Yoine; I think he is a Liberal." I thought, "Obviously he is wise, so I should get to know him."

I have come to know Yoine and he is a gentleman. He is knowledgeable in many subjects and he is wise. We could use a few more on the Hill because we can never have too many.

I am co-chair of the group known as the Liberal Parliamentarians for Israel. We have had numerous conversations on the challenges of issues in the Middle East, and I have always found his views balanced, fair and reasonable. I have always enjoyed those conversations.

We enjoy swapping jokes from time to time. They are all polite, of course. He has a sense of humour and that combination of qualities has created a good bond between us. I will miss you, Yoine.

To your wife, Elaine, whom I will call the "better half," you are great company, too, and I hope our paths will continue to cross. I know that Yoine is already on the straight and narrow but, sister, you keep him there.

Hon. Jerahmiel S. Grafstein:

Honourable senators, I rise to pay brief tribute to our colleague, Senator Yoine Goldstein, and to deal with a false belief.

There is a false belief in this chamber and other places that each Jew knows every other Jew. Frankly, I did not know Yoine Goldstein before he called me shortly before he was appointed to the Senate. I knew of him, as Senator Smith says, but I did not know him.

He sought my advice and my advice was very simple. I said if you get to the Senate, focus, work hard and you will be immensely satisfied and gratified by the things you do and the work you undertake.

He worked hard and he was rewarded; he was a quick study. He quickly became a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, which I chaired, and he played a very important role in that committee.

Yoine has left a large footprint in a very short period of time, so I will not reiterate what all honourable colleagues have said. I can only wish him and his wife a traditional Jewish salute, that he should live to 120 years.

Jews greet other Jews by this greeting, saying "You should live to 120 years," because Moses lived to 120 years. There is a symbolic, unconscious message within that message, which is that Moses became a leader and started his first career at the age of 80. A great Rabbi once told me to try to emulate Moses. Do not worry about old age because Moses, our greatest teacher, became a leader at age 80, which he did.

To Yoine, I wish you well. I wish you the other traditional Jewish greeting, which is "from strength to strength"; and I wish you Godspeed. I know you have only started. You have had several careers and you are about to start your greatest career. We do not know what it is; we wait with breathless anticipation.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Hon. Claudette Tardif (Deputy Leader of the Opposition):

Honourable senators, dear Senator Goldstein, I would like to pay tribute today to the priceless contribution you have made to the Senate, to committee work, to Canadians and to our lives.

Your commitment to promoting and defending human rights is highly commendable. Your determination to see projects through to completion, including your many bills, is exemplary and inspiring.

You carried a heavy workload on three committees, in addition to your responsibilities as a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and other Crimes against Humanity and the Canada-Israel Friendship Group.

You did not take your responsibilities as a senator lightly. You faced them head-on, rolled up your sleeves and did not stop working for four years.

I am certain that you have not finished championing the cause of human rights and that you will continue protecting the most vulnerable members of society. Your generosity and your dedication to improving the society in which we live make you an outstanding agent of social change.

I especially want to underscore your contribution to the Tolerance Foundation in Quebec, which inspired the Tolerance Caravan against racism and discrimination in Alberta. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for travelling to Brooks in southern Alberta two years ago to replace me as honorary chair, and for braving the terrible winter cold. I am honoured to continue your work to put an end to intolerance and to make people aware of racism and discrimination.

Senator Goldstein, you are without a doubt a man of peace and a great man. You have left your mark on the Canadian Senate, and you have touched every one of us with your diplomacy, your humility, your humour and your generosity.

Here, your great heart beat in time with the battles you waged for human rights, for linguistic minorities and for justice. The walls of this chamber will continue to resound with the beating of your heart during the parliamentary work and the question periods in which you took part with such gusto.

I hope that your heart will keep on beating long and hard in time with the fights you continue to fight and the memories of your life.

To you and Elaine, I offer my very best wishes.

Hon. Joan Fraser:

Honourable senators, two or three years ago, I was having lunch with one of my oldest and dearest friends, who is a lawyer in Montreal. As old friends do, we were catching up on what we were up to, and I was telling my friend about some work I was engaged in here that had some legal implications.

She was not at all sure that she liked what she heard until I said that Yoine Goldstein was doing the work with us. At that point, I wish you could have seen the wave of respect that swept over my old and dear friend's face. She knew that if Yoine Goldstein was involved in this work, it was worth doing, and it would be done seriously, competently and honourably.

I do not know how many of you are aware of the respect in which Senator Goldstein was held before he came here, all over North America, as we have heard, but, in particular, in his and my hometown of Montreal. Senator Angus pointed out earlier that we English Quebecers are not necessarily growing in number on Parliament Hill, but we are here and we are proud.

I want to recall for senators something that happened nearly 30 years ago. Many in this chamber will recall December 13, 1979. That was the day the Clark government fell.

There are those of us for whom it was an important day for another reason. That was the day when the Supreme Court of Canada gave its decision in the cases of the Attorney General of Quebec v. Blaikie and in the case of Attorney General of Manitoba v. Forest. Those were the cases in which the Supreme Court said that a provincial government cannot abolish the constitutional rights of language minorities.

It was a moment of supreme importance in this country, and it had taken great courage for those who brought those cases. In Quebec, the plaintiffs in that case were Peter M. Blaikie, Roland Durand and Yoine Goldstein. If he had done nothing else, every member of a minority in this country, including myself, would owe him an eternal debt. Of course, he has done a great deal, apart from that.

He brought to this chamber his personal sense of honour and integrity, his mastery of complex issues, his generosity, his good humour and his sense of charity. He has served here with passion, as so many have said before me this day. He has served the cause of human rights and the cause of Canada, domestically and abroad. He has been an ardent supporter of Israel, in part, because he is Jewish, but in large measure as an extension of his abiding commitment to justice and human rights around the world. Perhaps to his surprise, he has ended up serving the cause of Liberals in Parliament rather more passionately than, I gather, he initially believed he would, but it has been said there are none so zealous as the converts in this world.

He also brought Elaine with him to Ottawa — Elaine of the beautiful face and of the beautiful voice. I always thought there was a cosmic injustice in the fact that anyone can be so chic, elegant and slim and, at the same time, a world-class cook. There is something wrong. We are all delighted that she will continue to come back as head of the Liberal spouses association and she will bring Yoine with her.

Senator Goldstein, for many of us, to be made a member of the Senate adds lustre to us, to our CVs and to our stature in Canada. You brought lustre to the Senate and we shall miss you — I shall miss you — but I thank you very much.

Hon. Maria Chaput:

Honourable senators, Senator Goldstein, as I say farewell, I extend my most heartfelt wishes to you today for much health and happiness. For a few years I had the honour of being your colleague and I very much appreciated your human values of justice, tolerance and respect for the individual.

The Standing Senate Committee on Official Languages was always able to count on your understanding and your collaboration. As Chair of this committee, I thank you. We will miss you very much.

Senator, you give generously of yourself at every opportunity. Energetic and active, you follow your destiny as a man of vision with strong convictions and are afraid of nothing and no one. The bills you tabled in the Senate are a testament to these qualities and your legacy to Canadians and the world.

Words fail me and so I turn to the following quote to describe your generosity and the exceptional kindness you showed me, Senator Goldstein: "Kindness is the key attribute of intelligence."

I have had the privilege of knowing you and it will be among my most cherished memories. I would like to extend my best wishes and my appreciation, dear colleague.

My best wishes to you and to your wife, Elaine.

Hon. Jim Munson:

Senator Goldstein, it is late in the day. We all need a drink, I think. In keeping with my stature, I will keep this short.

Senator Goldstein, I will never forget that train ride in Europe, and you know what I am talking about. It was so much fun.

Human rights, human rights, human rights; that is what I will remember. Senator Goldstein, it is easy to say we love you. Thank you.

Hon. Bill Rompkey:

Honourable senators, I want to say a few words on behalf of the parliamentary spouses. My wife happens to be sitting in the gallery, along with other partners. We cannot call them "spouses" now; they are called "partners."

I happen to live in a house with Carolyn Rompkey, who is on the executive with Elaine Goldstein. From time to time, we receive calls on our answering machine from Elaine, and she tells us where she is and what she is doing, and there is a soft voice with the sound of laughter in it. I know we will not miss those phone calls, because they will keep coming and Elaine will continue to serve.

Elaine has worked extremely hard, and she has earned the devotion and respect of the people who have worked with her. Not only has she been a solid and significant partner for Yoine, she has given yeoman service in her own right. I wish to pay tribute to her on behalf of the partners and I am happy to know that her service will continue.

Hon. Wilfred P. Moore:

Honourable senators, I, too, want to say a few words with regard to Senator Goldstein. I want to be associated with the remarks made earlier today by Senator Oliver, having been a member of the Banking Committee at the time that Yoine provided his expert advice to us. We turned out a fabulous report, and as Senator Oliver mentioned, it could not have been achieved without Senator Goldstein's input and background. During the meetings we had after the hearings with our then chair, Senator Richard Kroft, Senator Goldstein was candid and gave us great guidance and advice.

Yoine, I thank you for that and for your friendship.

To Elaine, I have worked with you on another committee, and you have been a treat to work with.

I wish you both all the best, and I know that Richard Kroft would want to be associated with these remarks.

Please click here to read more tributes to the Honourable Yoine Goldstein

Please click here to read more tributes to the Honourable Yoine Goldstein

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