Tribute – The Honourable Vim Kochhar

Good afternoon, honourable senators, and to our guest of honour, my good friend Senator Vim Kochhar. I hope you had a happy birthday last week, Senator Vim, as I like to call you. You have realized so many accomplishments throughout your life, particularly in the interests of people with physical disabilities, and there is much to celebrate. The only drawback is that you are now 75 and at this ridiculous mandatory age of retirement for this place. I find this age discriminatory. If there will be term limits and one comes to this place at the age of 73, why should Senator Vim not be allowed to stay until 81 or 82? Age is just a number. That is all it is. I just turned 65 this year.

It is hard to believe it has not been two years since you first took your seat in this chamber. Of course, your reputation preceded your arrival. Most of us know about all of your wonderful commitments, as Senator LeBreton talked about, to the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons.

If we had not met here, I think we would have met somewhere else in some of the disability causes that we are involved in. Rather than guarding our work supporting people with disabilities, we worked together, Senator Vim, and we had a lot of fun. In fact, most days, the only thing that separated us was this aisle in front of me.

Earlier in our friendship, when Vim asked me if I would participate in something called the Rolling Rampage, I had no idea what he was talking about. I thought for a moment: Is the senator starting a rock band before he retires at 75, or was this a seniors’ motorcycle gang heading down the highway and he was looking for adventure or whatever would come his way? The senator found it in Rolling Rampage.

In fact, Rolling Rampage is a unique and wonderful athletic event. It is a race for physically disabled athletes, incredible athletes from all over the world, who race in wheelchairs. Imagine racing 10 kilometres in only 23 minutes. Witnessing this kind of athletic power affected me profoundly. As I watched these athletes, I did not see their disabilities; I saw their abilities. I saw men and women with amazing strength, stamina and ability doing something few people in the world can do. Moments after that race was over, Senator Kochhar, I was thinking of the tens of thousands of Canadians who were not in the limelight and who are in wheelchairs. It was as if I had gained a deeper appreciation for their everyday courage and ability to get on with life.

I am grateful to you, senator, for giving me that and other opportunities to learn and be inspired.

Please join me, honourable senators, in saluting Senator Kochhar for his contributions, not only to the physically disabled community, but also to Canadian society as a whole, a man who came to this country from India so long ago, a man who worked hard, a man who dreamed of doing good things and did, a man who gave back, and a man who may be leaving this place but will not be leaving the causes that he cares so much about.