Hon. David Tkachuk: Honourable senators, I will pay tribute to Tobias by using his own words — those he spoke during his many valuable contributions to debate in this place. I loved his speeches. Mind you, I had no choice; he was right behind me.
He was Canada’s first Filipino senator and a first-generation immigrant to Canada. His contributions to debate on many issues had a unique resonance. He began his speech on Bill C-6 thus:
. . . I came to Canada to make a better life for myself, keep in mind that I have worked tirelessly to contribute to Canada, and keep in mind that I made a pledge to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to uphold all the laws of this land. That was the deal I made with Canada’s Sovereign in return for citizenship being bestowed upon me.
That was a powerful introduction to a speech on an issue that was important to him. He concluded just as powerfully:
Honourable senators, I am a proud Canadian — very proud. I understand the hardships that many suffer in order to come here and make a better life for themselves. I also understand that once I have obtained the privilege of citizenship, it symbolizes the agreement between Canada and me.
He also weighed in on Bill C-210, in which he urged consensus:
Consensus is the Canadian way. It is in our DNA as a nation and as a people. It is how we forged our great Confederation in the first place, how we manage to unite many diverse voices and interests in one common country. And we succeeded in doing so without the necessity for violence or armed revolution. We did it by talking about it, sharing our views and listening to each other.
Tobias brought a sense of wonder and appreciation for this place, something many of us who have been here for generations take for granted. That came through in his speeches. Many of us Canadians take things like peace, harmony, justice and prosperity for granted. He did not. He never took his country for granted or the special role the Senate played. Nothing better captures that than his words about our national anthem:
I am very passionate about “O Canada,” as it is part of our tradition, which transcends merely being a song and is more accurately described as a pledge of allegiance for many newcomers to our country.
As such, colleagues, a country’s national anthem is the manifestation of tradition in its oral form and is undoubtedly quintessential to its tradition. Subsequently, our national anthem should make us swell with pride every time we hear it, whether it be at our children’s school assembly or before a hard fought hockey game.
His words, his thoughts, his unique perspective — those are the special and lasting contributions he made to this country and to this place. We’re forever in his debt.
To his wife, Rosemer; his daughters, Rystle, Reeza and Rocel; and to the Filipino community, we are all so sorry.