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The Honourable Joan Fraser

Honourable senators, I have been fighting this laryngitis, but I have to get through this today; it can’t stop me from talking.

Honourable senators, let history show that Joan Fraser was the editor-in-chief of our caucus. As the senior editor, she was well aware of what a front-page story should look like, but what was just as important was the editorial content — the substance inside the political pages of our caucus.

For Senator Fraser, what we stood for mattered. Where we stood on issues mattered. Why we stayed together as a group mattered. How we conducted ourselves mattered.

I worked with Senator Fraser in our leadership team, and leadership does matter. Even in our darkest hour, she was the politician with principle keeping the focus on our team and holding our heads high.

Yes, to put it politely, we were told we were no longer welcome in the national caucus, but I think Joan may quietly have shared my perspective that it was our liberation notice — true independence in the sense of the word.


In any case, you could always count on Senator Fraser to be that steady voice in our deliberations, a strong voice at a table of strong-willed individuals. She said at the time:

We’re going to continue to sit as Liberals.

And we did. She helped to shape our future instead of lamenting about the past. Senator Fraser was a rock.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but in the business I once shared with Senator Fraser, where rules are made to be broken, Senator Fraser believed in rules, and when it came to rules in this place, Senator Fraser, as everyone knows, took rules very seriously.

Other senators have and will talk about her accomplishments, her McGill days, her media days and her Senate career, but I would like to mention briefly what she meant to me.

Leadership is at the core of her essence. Looking back at what I call the “Fraser Report” on the Canadian news media, I want to remind senators to take another look back at what the Senate does so well: our studies, reports which may not always appear on the front page, but reports with substance. There is so much in that report that is still useful today.

More than 10 years ago, she said:

If you want to have a free press, then that free press has to be able to support itself.

Considering where we’re at today, those words matter.

What also matters is that Joan Fraser never forgot her roots, whether it was supporting women students at McGill or remembering, here in the Senate, those reporters around the world who lost their lives doing what must be done — seeking the truth and paying the ultimate price for doing so.

Awards are wonderful to get, and Senator Fraser, as we have heard, won many of them in the news business. But there is no greater reward than having a loving family. And, Senator Fraser, with your children and dear husband Michel by your side, what more could a partner and a mother have than that love.

I close with a short story about cartoons. Her old friend Terry Mosher, or Aislin, of the Montreal Gazette, created many cartoons. There is one about the Parliamentary Dining Room in which Senator Fraser tells Aislin, “The Parliamentary Dining Room has ears, a place where secrets are no more.” The caption shows a conversation on the sixth floor Centre Block establishment, conversations that echo under the centre domes and land in the laps of other tables. The caption reads, “Then he said . . . .”

Honourable senators, there are very few secrets on Parliament Hill, and it is no secret that Senator Fraser was one very good senator.




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