We lost Laurier a few weeks ago, and the time in between has given us a chance to reflect on the life he lived.
His eyes always twinkled. He had a spark, a sense of fun and mischief, a capacity for friendship and loyalty, that marked his voyage through life and made him a unique figure in our national life. He was a man of great passions, and, yes, a romantic soul. Lincoln once said that when you measure a man, measure him around the heart. Taking that measure Laurier was a very big man.
He was not afraid to be outrageous. As he got older in some ways he became younger, the small boy who was at his heart, mischievous. This is what upset some people – the object of his outrage – but also endeared him to all of us who loved him.
Yet his humour and mischief concealed a deep sense of seriousness of purpose. A young French Canadian, he did his university education at the University of Toronto, where he earned his doctorate in history.
He understood Canada, Quebec and the world. He was profoundly committed to the liberal idea, and made personal sacrifices in his life for his values with courage. The vision of a united Canada, a diverse Canada, that respects our two official languages and the history of our country.
Before there were several hundred television channels, the country would come together to watch certain shows. This Hour Has Seven Days was just such a programme. It captured the attention of English speaking Canada like no public affairs programme before or since. It was passionate, it was opinionated, and it was unafraid. And it was years ahead of its time. Laurier lost his job because the CBC management thought it was unprofessional to shed a tear while interviewing Steven Truscott’s mother. Some forty years after that interview the Ontario courts and authorities determined that there were not, in fact, sufficient grounds to charge Steven Truscott. Laurier had the courage of his passion. His tears were well spent.
His Senate colleagues are here today, and those who served with Laurier will long his remember his passion, his humour, and his conviction. He did not always go along to get along, he had too much edge for that. But when the fight came on the rights of everyone, for equal marriage, for respect for aboriginal Canadians, for bilingualism and for Canada itself, no one was uncertain where this warrior stood.
As Interim Leader of the Liberal Party, I had the opportunity to receive Laurier LaPierre’s advice and friendship. With his loyalty so came his ideas and criticism. But it was worth the price! He understood the history of our country and party. And in his books, his speeches, his commitments, his life, he expressed clearly the great values of the liberal and democratic movements. Much like the Prime Minister after whom he is named, he was a man of faith, of courage, and of love who used his charm to accomplish his goals.
At the end of a remarkable poem about two Canadians who lost their lives behind enemy lines in France, Douglas Le Pan wrote these words
“And without a core of courage
how can anything be achieved, can anything be built ?
And courage shadowed by weakness may be the most precious
of all, since it carries sweetness into the heart of the building,
carries it like honey into the hollows of the honey-comb”
Laurier LaPierre carried much courage and sweetness into our lives, and into all our buildings. We remember him best by following his example.
Vive le Canada.