Elizabeth’s Tribute to Arnold Chan

Mr. Speaker, I thank all my colleagues in this House. It is for me a great honour to pay tribute to my colleague and friend Arnold.

I was blessed. I do not know who in this place makes the seating decisions when a new member joins this place, but where my friend from Terrebonne now sits was Arnold’s seat. After the by-election in 2014, the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt was my neighbour and he immediately became my friend. It was horrific news when he told me that he had cancer, needed to take a break, and would come back.

Much has been said here of the standard that he said, which I do not need to repeat, but I want to add to the wonderful words of my friend from Hamilton Centre, because I sat in on a lot of the meetings of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs during the filibuster when nights went late. Through all of that, Arnold was clearly struggling. He was in pain, he was exhausted. I would go to him sometimes and ask if he thought he ought to ask for a substitute for a while. He said no, he could do it. He had a strong sense of duty to his family, which he loved more than anything, to this place, and to his constituents. When the Prime Minister quite rightly said Arnold did not miss votes, Canadians need to know that he did not miss votes, when a lesser mortal would have said, “No one’s going to blame me if I go to lie down.”

When we say Jean was his rock—and I cannot see my friend Jean from where I am now, but she knows I love her—she had to come to Ottawa to help hold him together physically as he went through those treatments and kept coming to work, because he set a standard. He set an example. He was a living embodiment of commitment to democracy and love of country, and he exemplified it every single day.

I kept hoping and praying that Arnold would not leave us, but we are all mortal. Our candles go out too briefly, and some way too soon, but the legacy of that the Prime Minister and the leader of the official opposition speak of, the example that was set, was not one to be consigned to some footnote of history that once there lived a Canadian member of Parliament who was extraordinary and who truly, every single day, showed respect, caring, and kindness. That example is one that we challenge ourselves with now to embrace, with Jean and Nathaniel and Theodore and Ethan as our witnesses. Do not look to your party whips, look to your hearts, and decide right now how much better we can be.

My colleague, a recently elected member of the British Columbia legislature, Sonia Furstenau, a member of the legislature for Cowichan Valley, on the day Arnold died, rose to speak to the budget. She took Arnold’s words from this place and took his message to the B.C. legislature. She quoted Arnold, noting that in his final address to Parliament he said, “I know that we are all honourable members, but to treat this institution honourably. I would ask us to elevate our debate, to elevate our practice.” On her part, Sonia went on to say, “Can we do better? Do our words in this chamber always need to be about scoring points and wounding our opponents? Or can we find new paths and new approaches, particularly given the extraordinary challenges we face, not just in province but globally?”

Let us try harder for Arnold’s sake. He did not just “advise”, to use the word the Prime Minister just used, but advised us to listen. With all due respect to my friend the Prime Minister, that was not advice. That was an instruction. He said, “We have to listen to each other.” He exhorted us.

I do not want to consign my friend Arnold Chan to a place where everyone will remember him for what he said, but remember him as someone who changed the way we behave. We owe it to him, we owe it to our own kids, and we owe it to our grandparents that we take Arnold’s words to heart.

I loved him dearly. I will miss him, and do miss him dearly. I know he would wish that I remind the House, as the hon. member for Hamilton Centre said, that he meant what he said.