1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 140

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

The Late Honourable Eugene F. Whelan, P.C., O.C.

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise to pay tribute to our former colleague Senator Eugene Whelan.

We all fondly remember him with his green stetson cowboy hat, which was presented to him at an agricultural fair in Swan River, Manitoba.

He served as Minister of Agriculture under Prime Minister Trudeau for a dozen years. He was proud that he was the only minister to have an office in Western Canada, and he travelled extensively to all parts of our country to listen and learn about the concerns of all Canadians.

During that time, he became a friend of Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovlev and subsequently hosted President Mikhail Gorbachev in Canada in 1983.

Minister Whelan firmly believed that it was this trip to Canada, especially visiting farms and towns and seeing our productive agricultural sector, that planted the seed of glasnost in the Soviet Union.

Senator Whelan’s real legacy was the work he did on behalf of the rural community and the marketing boards he put in place. His vision was to ensure, in his words, that a farmer could get a good return on his investment and the consumer could get a good quality product at a reasonable price. This way, everyone won.

My family also won when Senator Whelan became a part of our lives. As Canada’s Minister of Agriculture, Senator Whelan met my father when he spoke at an agricultural meeting in British Columbia. My father was a recent refugee, and Senator Whelan encouraged him to go into poultry farming.

Those who serve in Parliament know that family time is sacrificed for public commitments. Eugene always had his very supportive wife, Elizabeth, and three very loyal daughters, Terry, Susan and Cathy, by his side.

His daughter Susan was elected to the House of Commons and went on to become Minister of International Cooperation.

As Special Envoy to the Peace Process in Sudan, I had the pleasure of working with Susan, who was just as committed as her father to the betterment of humanity.

In the last few years, I came to know Senator Whelan very well through his very devoted assistant, Linda Clifford. For years, Linda was his rock in Ottawa. She later came to work for me, and so I was privileged to share many long conversations with Senator Whelan.

Until last week, I shared my Hill Times subscription with him. Senator Whelan always wanted to know what was happening in Ottawa and even to his last days was outspoken about what we should be doing in Parliament to help Canadians.

Eugene, my friend, now I will have to read The Hill Times on my own. I will deeply miss our discussions about events in Ottawa.

Rest in peace, Senator Whelan. We will long remember your greeting: “May the little people be kind to you.”