Statement made on 07 May 2009 by Senator Yoine Goldstein (retired)
Hon. Yoine Goldstein:
Honourable senators, friends, colleagues, but mostly friends, the Book of the Bible, Koheleth, which you know as Ecclesiastes, contains one phrase that is particularly significant to me at the moment. The phrase is, "To everything there is a season." This is the season for me to take leave of this noble and marvellous institution and to take leave of you, my friends — and you are, all of you, my friends.
It leaves me with some moments of sadness, but with many moments of happiness in the knowledge that each of you, as committed and as devoted and as wonderful as you are, will carry on the work of making this Canada of ours the best it can possibly be — all of us, on both sides of the aisle.
Honourable senators, I have a great deal for which to be grateful. This country gave safe haven to my parents before the World War II. Had it not done so, my parents, my siblings and I would have been smoke sometime between 1939 and 1945.
I was privileged to be able to grow up in this country, to be able to take advantage of all that it has to offer: Access to outstanding educational institutions, boundless opportunities for me in the practice of law, and the freedom to say and do and think whatever I wanted to say and do and think, so long as I harmed no one else. If you stop to think about it, we are one of the very rare countries on this globe where that privilege is accorded to us.
During these few years, I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve my country as best I could through this institution from which I now take leave, and to serve with the best minds and the warmest hearts this country has to offer.
Of course, I should say, because it is important, I am grateful to leave in the vertical position.
I have learned a great deal from my experience here. Michelangelo, in his eighty-seventh year, is reputed to have said, "Ancora imparo;" I am still learning. He was able to continue learning in his eighty-seventh year. I would like to presume I will be able to continue learning in my seventy-fifth year.
I have learned, honourable senators, through traveling and through hearing all of you — because I have attended this chamber assiduously — that Canada is a beautiful country. I think that Lucy Maude Montgomery said it more eloquently than I possibly could:
. . . if I go out there and get acquainted with all those trees and flowers, the orchard and the brook I'll not be able to help loving it.
Canada is not only physically beautiful; it is a country that has a soul. That soul is evidenced by our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and its application. It is evidenced by medicare, by our hallmark of bilingualism. It is evidenced by the ongoing civility of discussion and debate. It is evidenced — and I found this particularly striking — by the fact that when the "yes" faction lost the sensitive referendum in 1995 by much less than a point, no one took to the streets. It is evidenced by our economic safety net, as imperfect as it is, but it is a process and we are reaching the destination. It is evidenced by the sincere desire and intent of all political parties to make Canada better and, indeed, to try to make it the best it can be.
I am grateful to you, my colleagues and my friends, for your patience with my sometimes impatience and for teaching me so much, each of you, because each of you has so much to offer. I was delighted and humbled — but mostly humbled — by the principled stands that you took, the causes you espoused, the sincerity that you brought and bring to your work, and the self-sacrifice your work here requires, which each of you gives so wholeheartedly.
I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to work with a group of brilliant, compassionate, sincere and devoted parliamentarians in this chamber. I am grateful for the friends and friendships I have here.
It is apparently de rigueur for a departing senator to express his or her vision of a reformed Senate. I will spare you that vision, except to make two quick points. The first is that an appointed Senate is not a dirty word. Our judges are all appointed. They are not elected. They serve until they reach the age of 75. That is somewhat reminiscent. We have the finest judiciary in the world, a model for other countries. Judges from all over the world come here to learn how to be independent and good judges. There is nothing inherently wrong about an appointed Senate.
Second, before we ask the Canadian people to pronounce themselves on what kind of Senate they want, I think it is essential for them to understand what kind of Senate they have. Before we ask their opinion, it seems to me we have the obligation to ensure they understand this institution, its role, its history and its importance in the parliamentary system. Regrettably, at the moment, they do not have that understanding.
We, in the Senate, are most fortunate to have the remarkably talented staff and superb resources we have: the clerks, the library people, the researchers, the translators, the security people, the Hansard editors, the people who prepare Quorum for us in the dead of night so we can have it first thing in the morning, the table people and all the variety of people who work here so assiduously and so sincerely to make this institution function.
Unfortunately, most of them are unnamed, but they are not unnoticed and are no less important for that. Indeed, they are no less essential to the operations of this institution, and I thank each and every one of them not only for their labours but for the excellence of their labours.
In my own office I have been particularly fortunate. My first two researchers, Paul Thomas and Marion Laurence, were wonderfully delightful, enthusiastic and brilliant people, as are my current set of researchers, Marek Krasula and Étienne Grandmaître St-Pierre. I thank them for their commitment, for their enthusiasm and for their flashes of genius.
I want to especially mention Kathleen Ippersiel, my executive assistant. She is highly organized and I am not; she is highly committed; she is efficient; she is creative; she is most tolerant of my very bad habits; and she is absolutely the best executive assistant that anyone could ever hope to have.
There is a Hebrew phrase that I want to use. It speaks to why someone is kept to the last by way of mention of thanks. That Hebrew phrase is Acharon, Acharon Chaviv — the last one is the dearest. Elaine was somewhat reluctant initially about my coming here. It meant her leaving a start-up business in which she was very involved and in which she was highly successful. It meant my leaving a rather lucrative law practice, which would mean a significant change in our financial circumstances. Nonetheless, she not only encouraged me but did so with a full heart and with great gusto. She accompanied me on this part of the journey. She was my biblical helpmate throughout. She created a circle of very good friends of her own in Ottawa, especially spouses of many of my colleagues here. She integrated herself quite seamlessly. She chaired, and has been asked to continue to chair, the group of partners of Liberal parliamentarians and former Liberal parliamentarians, which has been renamed "The Club." Rather than following me to Ottawa from time to time, I will be following her to Ottawa from time to time, and that is as it should be.
Elaine, this is just a stop at a way station of our journey through life together — a lovely stop but a stop nonetheless — and the beginning of the start of the continuation of our journey. Thank you for being you.
Stay with me; the best is yet to come.
Hon. Senators: Here, here!