Today’s blog post is to pay tribute to former Senator Laurier LaPierre, who died in December at the age of 83.
Senator LaPierre came to national prominence on the CBC program, “This Hour has Seven Days,” a weekly news and currents affairs program that aired on CBC from 1964 to 1966.
It’s well-known that Senator LaPierre irked some people with the passion and emotion he displayed publicly. That same compassionate quality impacted a lot of people in a positive way—Senator LaPierre understood their reality and, in many cases, he identified with their reality. For example, his reaction while interviewing Stephen Truscott, the 14-year-old boy sentenced to life in prison for the murder of an Ontario girl, which once again renewed debate on the death penalty. Sadly, CBC considered Senator LaPierre’s visible emotion unprofessional—he shed a tear on camera—and soon after the Truscott interview, Senator LaPierre’s contract was cancelled.
Patrick Watson, co-host of This Hour has Seven Days, said, “Some of the best times I ever had on camera were spent with Laurier.”
I had personally been a great admirer of Senator LaPierre from a distance for a long time, and I was absolutely thrilled when he and I were appointed by Prime Minister Chrétien to the Senate in 2001.
He was my seatmate. While we were both learning the rules of the Chamber, I also very quickly learned from Senator LaPierre that there were rules to be respected and there were rules to be challenged. He always followed the overarching spirit of the rules…but maybe not their particular intent.
During his time in the Senate he was a great proponent of human rights; especially Aboriginal and gay and lesbian rights. He also spoke out passionately on issues related to bilingualism.
He was a very entertaining seatmate with a great sense of humour. He once rose on a Point of Order regarding BlackBerrys; he was always irritated by my constant use of my BlackBerry. It was typical of Senator LaPierre to voice his thoughts aloud. We all know the Senator was many things—but he was not a shrinking violet. He always spoke out where others would stay silent. On October 22, 2002, he said:
Honourable senators, I rise with a certain amount of sadness to deplore a situation in this chamber that is discriminatory to some of us, if not many of us, who are finger-challenged. Many people in this august group use that little BlackBerry, blueberry, raspberry, or whatever it is called. They play with it and they get all the information they want. Those of us suffering from arthritis in our hands cannot hold a BlackBerry, a blueberry or a raspberry. The end result is that we are discriminated against because we cannot bring our computers into the chamber. The computers used by the parliamentary reporters and by Senator Gauthier do not make any noise. Most modern computers on the planet do not make any noise.
The time has come for Her Honour to take us out of the 12th century and bring us into the 21st century by allowing laptop computers to be used in this chamber, like all the civilized legislatures on Planet Earth.
Senator LaPierre’s partner, Harvey Slack, was always very solicitous of him and his friends.
Harvey, I mourn with you the loss of a great human being who truly cared about the unity of Canada and the well-being of Canadians.