In the short time she served in the Senate of Canada, the late Senator Judith Keating made significant contributions to the Upper Chamber’s work and had an enormously positive impact on her colleagues who will miss her deeply, senators said.
“We’ve lost one of our best legislators, just as she was getting started in the job she seemed to have trained for her whole life,” Senator Colin Deacon said.
“Given how quickly and powerfully Judith connected with so many of us, I cannot begin to imagine how tough her loss is for her family. This is a massive loss for them, but also for Canada.”
The Honourable Senator Keating joined the Senate in early 2020 and represented the province of New Brunswick for the next year and a half. She was a valued member of the Independent Senators Group (ISG), an accomplished legal and constitutional expert and a tireless advocate for both the residents of her province and Canadians at large, according to her Senate colleagues.
She died on July 15, 2021 in Fredericton, after a period of failing health. She was 64.
A longtime lawyer who served in a variety of roles within the Government of New Brunswick, Senator Keating came into the Senate armed with a powerful intellect, a wealth of experience and a tenacious determination to improving all Canadians’ quality of life, according to her fellow senators.
Senator Keating poses outside her Senate office, which was flanked by the flags of Canada and New Brunswick, the province she represented in the Upper Chamber. (Photo credit: Office of the late Senator Keating)
Senator Judith Keating, was appointed to the Senate of Canada on January 31, 2020. The accomplished constitutional lawyer represented the province of New Brunswick in the Red Chamber.
Senator Keating’s swearing-in ceremony took place at the Senate of Canada Building on February 4, 2020. She was led into the Red Chamber by her sponsor, New Brunswick Senator Percy Mockler (left) and Senator Marc Gold (right), the government’s representative in the Senate.
As a public servant, Senator Keating served as chief legislative counsel and chief legal advisor to the premier of New Brunswick — and became the first woman to serve as the deputy minister of justice and deputy attorney general in the province. She also cared deeply about advancing Indigenous issues and was formerly a provincial chair of the Working Group on Truth and Reconciliation.
Upon her appointment to the Senate, Senator Keating was sponsored by Senator Percy Mockler, who had worked with her previously as a New Brunswick member of the legislative assembly and provincial minister. She was always a fair and knowledgeable sounding board, he recalled.
“In giving advice to government, to policy makers and to politicians of all stripes, she would always treat people — it didn’t matter what title you had — on the same, level playing field,” Senator Mockler said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic that hit the country early into her tenure, Senator Keating did much of her Senate work virtually — but despite the lockdowns, she “hit the ground running,” according to Senator Paula Simons.
Senator Keating took her work on the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications “really seriously,” said Senator Simons, a fellow committee member.
“A real point of passion for her was to make sure that New Brunswick wasn’t going to be cut off from bus, train and air service,” Senator Simons added.
Sworn into the Upper Chamber on the same day as Senator Keating, Senator Brent Cotter said the two quickly became friends and members of the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. They worked closely together as the committee scrutinized Bill C-7, which sought to amend Canada’s medical assistance in dying laws, and joined forces as the ISG’s legislative leads for debate on the bill.
“She was relentless in her care and consideration of the way in which laws and policies of governments impacted individual people,” Senator Cotter said.
In addition to mourning a life cut short, Senators Simons and Cotter said they remain “heartbroken” thinking about what more their colleague could have accomplished for the Upper Chamber — and for Canadians — if she’d been given the time.
“The Senate of Canada has been robbed of a woman of extraordinary talent and insight who was going to make the Senate a better place and who managed to do that in a very short time,” Senator Simons said.
“I’m sad that my friend didn’t get to do all that she had hoped to do,” Senator Cotter said.
“We need more people like Judith serving in the Senate.”
Senator Keating embraces her family during an Easter celebration. From left to right: grandson Oliver, son-in-law Davie, grandson Wallace, daughter Stephanie, Senator Keating, granddaughter Grace, son Mathieu and grandson Harrison. (Photo credit: Office of the late Senator Keating)
Senator Keating loved birds — and animals, in general — according to her daughter Stephanie. (Photo credit: Office of the late Senator Keating)
Senator Keating with her family at a restaurant in Moncton, New Brunswick. (Photo credit: Office of the late Senator Keating)
“Of her many contributions, Senator Keating will be remembered as a tireless advocate for the equal status of the English and French languages in New Brunswick, the equal and just treatment of women in the legal profession, and the promotion of Indigenous issues in her role as provincial chair of the Working Group on Truth and Reconciliation in New Brunswick.
On behalf of the Senate of Canada, I would like to extend my condolences to all her family, friends and loved ones.”
The Honourable George J. Furey, Q.C.
Speaker of the Senate
Click here for Senator Furey’s full statement on Senator Keating’s passing
“I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of New Brunswick Senator Judith Keating, a dedicated lawyer and devoted senior public servant whose work advanced language equality and promoted reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
I offer my heartfelt condolences to her family, friends and loved ones. She will be missed in the Senate.”
Senator Marc Gold
Government Representative in the Senate
“On behalf of the Conservative caucus in the Senate, I express our condolences to Senator Keating’s family and friends. Senator Keating was an incredibly accomplished person; her work left remarkable impacts in New Brunswick. As the province’s first female deputy attorney general, she was an inspiration to many young women. In the Upper Chamber, Senator Keating was always insightful. We are grateful for the time that Senator Keating spent in the Senate and for her life dedication to serve her community.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to her loved ones at this time. May her soul rest in peace.”
Senator Don Plett
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate
“The Honourable Judith Keating left a mark on the Senate out of proportion to the 18 months she served as a senator. Sworn in as the country was entering a lockdown, she did not let a pandemic get in the way of service to her country. As a member of the Independent Senators Group, Senator Keating played a leadership role in the review of bills C-7 (Medical Assistance in Dying) and C-3 (Judges Act) and contributed to the debate with intelligence and force. She was a champion for women and Indigenous peoples and spoke out consistently on minority rights issues.
Above all, Senator Keating was a gentle, humble and compassionate human being who won the admiration and affection of those around her.”
Senator Yuen Pau Woo
Facilitator of the Independent Senators Group
“I am sad Judith wasn’t able to fully realize her role as a senator in the way she was so eager to leave her special mark. She gave a life of service to her province and her generous spirit will live on through her contributions to the legal community, dedication to Indigenous rights and the inspiration to the women she mentored. My sincere condolences to all who knew and loved Judith.”
Senator Scott Tannas
Leader of the Canadian Senators Group
“We are all deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague, the Honourable Judith Keating, Q.C. She led a life of public service both in her home province of New Brunswick and later in this place as a senator. Insightful and tenacious, she unquestionably made her mark in the Senate in a short period of time, and we should all regret her future accomplishments now left unfulfilled. New Brunswickers and indeed all Canadians are poorer for her loss; she will be missed.”
Senator Jane Cordy
Leader of the Progressive Senate Group