Politics

Liberal MP Arnold Chan dies after battle with cancer

Scarborough-Agincourt MP remembered as 'a thoughtful, kind and — above all — tireless advocate for Canadians'

Liberal MP Arnold Chan and his wife, Jean

Liberal MP Arnold Chan and his wife, Jean Yip, spoke with reporters on Parliament Hill after Chan's speech in the House in June. In a statement Thursday, Yip said her husband was "a loving father, wonderful husband and dedicated public servant." (Victor Modderman/CBC)

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Arnold Chan, the Liberal MP for Scarborough-Agincourt, has died at the age of 50. Chan had battled cancer over the last two years.

"I am saddened by the untimely passing of my husband," Chan's wife, Jean Yip, said in a statement. "He was a loving father, wonderful husband and dedicated public servant.

"He proudly served as a Member of Parliament for Scarborough-Agincourt for the past 3½ years, and while he courageously fought his nasopharyngeal cancer he always continued to work hard for his constituents." 

Chan is survived by his wife and three sons.

In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Chan "distinguished himself as a thoughtful, kind and — above all — tireless advocate for Canadians. He believed deeply in our democracy and became one of its most faithful and eloquent guardians."

Liberal MPs in Ottawa for committee hearings confirmed Chan's death to their colleagues on Thursday morning.

"Arnold never stopped," said Bill Casey, chair of the health committee. "He worked right to the last minute. He never slowed down, he was always present and he put up a good fight."

"He loved this place, he lived this place," Liberal MP David Graham told members of the transport committee before a moment of silence.

MP remembers Arnold Chan 1:32

Chan was first elected federally in a byelection in 2014, then re-elected in 2015. Previous to that he was an aide in the Ontario Liberal government. At Queen's Park, Ontario MPPs held a moment of silence in Chan's honour.

Colleagues from all parties paid tribute to Chan as the news circulated.

"Arnold Chan made us all better as Parliamentarians. I will miss my friend & seatmate, who was taken far too soon," tweeted Liberal MP Chris Bittle.

"Saddened at passing of MP Arnold Chan, champion of civility and reason," tweeted Conservative MP Peter Kent.

Arnold Chan 20140915

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and MP Dominic LeBlanc, right, escort Arnold Chan into the House of Commons in September, 2014, following his byelection victory. Chan was re-elected in the 2015 election. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Chan's poignant last speech

In June, with his wife and parents in attendance, Chan rose in the House of Commons to deliver an emotional and personal address, thanking his family for their support and encouraging his fellow MPs to honour the institution of Parliament.

"I am not sure how many more times I will have the strength to get up and do a 20-minute speech in this place, but the point I want to impart to all of us is that I know we are all honourable members, I know members revere this place, and I would beg us to not only act as honourable members but to treat this institution honourably," he said.

"I would ask all of us to elevate our debate, to elevate our practice."

Arnold Chan's heartfelt speech to the Commons 2:22

Chan encouraged his colleagues to drop their "talking points" and listen to each other.

"That is the challenge that is going on around the world right now," he said. "No one is listening. Everyone is just talking at once. We have to listen to each other."

He also asked Canadians to value their democracy.

"I would ask Canadians to give heart to their democracy; that they treasure it, revere it," Chan said.

"Of course, I would ask them in the most basic of things, to cast their ballot, but for me it is much more than that. I ask them for their civic engagement, regardless of what it actually may mean, whether it is going out and coaching a soccer team, whether it is helping someone at a food bank," he said.

"And for me it can be even something simpler than that ... It is thanking our Tim Hortons server. It is giving way to someone on the road. It is saying thanks.

"It is the small things that we collectively do, from my perspective, that make a great society, and fundamentally to me that is ultimately what it means to be a Canadian."

In his statement, Trudeau encouraged Canadians to review Chan's words.

"He reminds us that real democracy means listening to each other instead of talking over each other, and that our civic duty includes not just casting a ballot but taking care, in our everyday actions, of the country we are lucky to call home," the prime minister said.

"He leaves us with wise words that he truly embodied: 'We should use our heads, but follow our hearts.'"

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