Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
The Honourable Jerahmiel S. Grafstein, Q.C.

Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to our colleague, Senator Grafstein. However, I will admit to you that the prospect is a little daunting. How do you pay tribute to a force of nature disguised as a person?

Some of you may remember the old film Zelig, about a character who just happened to be everywhere anything important was happening, anywhere in the world. Senator Grafstein has been rather like that. However, instead of a hapless Woody Allen character, Senator Grafstein has usually been a moving force behind whatever it is that everyone else was clamouring to be a part of.

The great CHUM empire was started by Jerry Grafstein and Allan Waters when, in 1954, they bought a small struggling radio station in Toronto called 1050 CHUM. It grew to some 33 radio stations, 12 television stations and 21 specialty channels.

Industry Canada, the department established to be a powerhouse for Canadian innovation policy, began as the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs in 1967, established under Prime Minister Trudeau. Yes, Jerry Grafstein was there, as a special adviser during its founding period.

In Washington, everyone knows Jerry Grafstein. The inauguration of President Obama? Absolutely; he was there.

Even the Pope famously referred to the fact that there were only two people he knew in Toronto — two people in our nation’s largest city — and, yes, one of them was Jerry Grafstein. As we learned a few weeks ago, they happened to meet a number of years before, through the good graces of our former Senate colleague, Senator Stanley Haidasz.

As we in this chamber all know, Senator Grafstein is just like that. If something needs to be done, he is there and ready with a plan before most people even realize a problem exists.

Senator Grafstein was born in London, Ontario, where he attended the University of Western Ontario. He then went on to study law at the University of Toronto. He was called to the bar of Ontario in 1960.

From a very early age, Jerry was a dedicated Liberal. Over the years, he has held various positions in the Liberal Party of Canada, from the riding level to the national one. However, titles do not begin to convey the depth of his commitment to Liberal ideals, principles and a vision for Canada.

In 1966, Jerry founded and edited the Journal of Liberal Thought. He was executive assistant to the Right Honourable John Turner when he was Registrar General of Canada. He served as an adviser to the Ministry of Transport and the Canadian International Development Agency, and was a member of the Department of Justice Advisory Committee. Senator Grafstein co-founded and was President of Red Leaf Communications Company, the advertising consortium that served the Liberal Party so well for so many years. Senator Grafstein also found time to practise law with the well-known Toronto firm of Minden Gross, which he joined in the 1960s and helped to build to its current status as one of the leading firms in the country.

In 1984, he was summoned to the Senate by Prime Minister Trudeau. Some people like to present the Senate as a sleepy chamber, filled with people who do not do much of anything. I invite those people to meet Jerry Grafstein. Here are just a few of the highlights of projects he has been involved in while with us.

Senator Grafstein has been an active member of numerous inter-parliamentary groups and associations in Europe, Asia and Latin America, including the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association.

He served for more than a decade as Co-chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group. In July 2007, he was elected Vice-president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the largest governmental human rights organization in the world.

His community involvement is legendary. He was co-chair of the 1988 Toronto Economic Summit Preparation Committee; he was a member of the executive of the 2008 Toronto Olympic Bid Committee; he spearheaded the 2001 "Canada Loves New York" Weekend to help New York in the aftermath of 9/11, the Rolling Stones concert in Toronto in 2003 to help that city recover from the SARS crisis, and the Canada for Asia telethon in December 2004 that raised $15 million to help victims of the 2004 tsunami. He was named an honorary commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and an honorary fire chief of New York City.

Senator Grafstein has served on just about every standing Senate committee over the course of his 25 years. He chaired the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce, and is the longest serving member of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Senator Grafstein has introduced a long list of private members’ bills — including, of course, Bill S-201, to establish a national portrait gallery; but that is only one. He introduced a private member’s bill that established the Parliamentary Poet Laureate, and co-sponsored one that established Holocaust Memorial Day. He introduced a bill to add suicide bombing to the Criminal Code, Bill S-205, which has now passed second reading in the other place. His bill on clean drinking water is now also in the other place, and there remains a long list of his private member’s bills on the Order Paper here.

Our distinguished colleague may be leaving this chamber, but he has made sure that the rest of us have plenty of work to do after he is gone.

He is a member of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs. He has published articles, given lectures, appeared on panels and led conferences on technology, television, cable, film, broadcasting and finance.

Senator Grafstein is a patron of many arts and health organizations. He served as a governor of the Canadian Opera Company and on the board of the Shaw Festival, the Stratford Festival, the Toronto Film Festival and the Festival of Festivals. I guess where else can one go after working with all these other prominent festivals but to something called the Festival of Festivals?

Honourable senators see what I mean; Senator Grafstein must be a force of nature. No mere human being could ever pack so much into one lifetime.

Senator Grafstein, I know that for you, retirement from the Senate just means one more milestone has passed and it is time to look to the next. It is impossible to believe that you will ever lead a quiet life.

We all look forward to watching in admiration as you alight on your next project — the Grafstein tornado begins to move again.

Senator Grafstein, I extend our warmest wishes to you, your wife, Carole, and your sons, Laurence and Michael.

To see the complete text of the Senator’s tribute to Senator Grafstein click here