Jewish stalwart Yoine Goldstein has died

Yoine Goldstein

Yoine Goldstein, a pillar of Montreal’s Jewish community, a respected lawyer and a former Liberal senator, died March 18 in Montreal. He was 85 years old.

“He was a role model for lawyers for well over 50 years,” noted his death notice. Goldstein was the only Canadian lawyer to have been elected a fellow of both the American College of Bankruptcy and the American College of Trial Lawyers, it added.

He was an expert in insolvency and restructuring practice, “and as a great litigator, his expertise and prodigious knowledge, skill and appetite for work extended into many other areas.”

Goldstein was named to the Senate by former prime minister Paul Martin. He served from August 2005 to May 2009 and introduced and sponsored bills to protected refugees in Canada, to relieve Canadian students from the burden of student loans, to add a human rights element to the Investment Canada Act when a foreign investment is reviewed, and to facilitate the supply of Canadian medications to African and Asian countries at affordable prices.

He co-founded and chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity.

“He was a tremendous person in every way,” Martin told The CJN. “In the legal community, he was a legend. He was a standout in the Senate. He was one of the great experts in insolvency and he wrote heavily.”

Martin said it was Irwin Cotler, Canada’s former justice minister and longtime human rights advocate, who recommended Goldstein as a Senate appointee.

In the upper chamber, Goldstein was “incredibly active,” added Martin, who was shocked by the news of Goldstein’s death when informed by The CJN.

With his “huge background in law,” Goldstein became special counsel to the Senate’s standing committee on banking, trade and commerce, which was “one of the Senate’s most important committees.

“I’m very proud to have appointed him,” Martin said.

Born in Montreal in May 1934 to Sam and Batsheva Goldstein, he graduated from the storied Baron Byng High School and earned a bachelors and a law degree, both from McGill University. He earned a doctorate from the Université de Lyon in 1960.

Goldstein occupied some of the top positions in Montreal’s Jewish community. He served as president of the Jewish Community Foundation, president of Federation CJA, vice-president of the Jewish National Fund Canada, and was honorary legal counsel to those and many other organizations.

When tensions flared between Montreal’s Ashkenazic and Sephardic communities in the early 1980s, Goldstein was tapped to reach a truce.

He was, for many years, on the boards of the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Canadian Jewish Congress, and several other community organizations. He was co-founder and co-president of the Tolerance Foundation, which has worked for decades to educate young people about the value of tolerance

It was during his tenure with the Tolerance Foundation, now known as “Ensemble, for the respect of diversity,” where “all aspects of Yoine were in full display,” remarked Sen. Marc Gold, also a Montreal lawyer who was named to the Senate in 2016.

Gold praised Goldstein’s “eloquence and erudition, his impressive intellect and deep wisdom, his sensitivity to people, his love of his city, province and country. Underlying all these were his values: His commitment to social justice and his hatred of prejudice and discrimination in all its forms … his commitment to a society of inclusion and opportunity for all.”

Gold said, “These were values firmly rooted in the Jewish tradition of which he was so proud, and which was an integral part of who he was as a person.”

In a CJN interview last autumn just before the federal election, Goldstein defended Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s record in the SNC Lavalin scandal and the Liberals’ stance on Israel. He slammed Tory leader Andrew Scheer’s “extreme conservatism.”

Goldstein taught bankruptcy law at the University of Montreal for more than 25 years. In 1998 he received the Bronfman Medal for Community Service.

He is survived by his wife Elaine (née Rapkin), children, Doron and Dahna, daughter-in-law Sarah, grandson Ezra, and his sister Mindel. He was predeceased by siblings Moishe and Israel.