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The Speakers of the Senate of Canada


Hon. Jean Marchand
P.C., C.C. (1980–1983)

J ean Marchand came to the Senate toward the end of his political career. By age 45, he had risen to be the most prominent union leader in Quebec, and was appointed one of 12 commissioners on the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (1963–1965). Following Marchand’s work with the Royal Commission, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson recruited him to run as a Liberal in the 1965 general election; Marchand agreed, but only on the condition that two of his oldest friends, Gérard Pelletier and Pierre Trudeau, accept to run at the same time. Three years later, Marchand was seen by many as the best choice to replace Pearson as Prime Minister, but he felt that his English was not strong enough and stepped aside in favour of Trudeau.

Marchand held seven Cabinet portfolios between 1965 and 1976. He then resigned from the Cabinet, believing that the government was too weak in supporting bilingualism in Canada. He later resigned his seat in the House of Commons and ran in the 1976 Quebec provincial election, but was defeated. Prime Minister Trudeau then nominated him for appointment to the Senate, and to the Speakership in 1980.

As Speaker, Marchand uncharacteristically had to remain neutral on the major issues of the day. At his urging, the position of Speaker pro tempore – essentially, acting Speaker – was created: this allowed the Senate to avoid having to chose a senator to act as Speaker whenever the Speaker was unavoidably absent. The new position involved the Committee of Selection nominating a senator at the start of each parliamentary session.

Marchand resigned the Speakership and his Senate seat in 1983.

Marchand was one of the “Three Wise Men” recruited by the Liberals from Quebec in 1965, along with Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Gérard Pelletier.

Next Speaker: Hon. Maurice Riel

Previous Speaker: Hon. Allister Grosart

Portrait of the Hon. Jean Marchand

Born: Champlain, Quebec, 1918

Died: St-Augustin, Quebec, 1988

Professional Background:
Labour Union

Political Affiliation: Liberal

Political Record:

Prime Minister During Speakership: