Manitoba

'A great leader' lost: Manitobans on MLA Oscar Lathlin

Politicians of all stripes are honouring the life and work of Manitoba cabinet minister Oscar Lathlin, who died early Sunday.

Politicians of all stripes are honouring the life and work of Manitoba cabinet minister Oscar Lathlin, who died early Sunday.

Lathlin, 61, went from working a trap line at the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, in northern Manitoba, to chief of his reserve, before ultimately becoming a cabinet minister in the province's NDP government.

He served as the MLA for The Pas for nearly 18 years, and as minister of conservation and minister of aboriginal and northern affairs, a portfolio he had held since 2002.

Fellow cabinet minister Eric Robinson said Lathlin was not only a political colleague but a friend.

"It's got to be said that we've lost a very dear person, a great leader among Manitobans," the minister of culture, heritage, tourism and sport said. "He's going to definitely leave a void."

Justice Minister Dave Chomiak said his cabinet colleague will be sorely missed.

"We've lost a strong advocate for the North, somebody who not only believed but lived the fact that the North and First Nations needed to be educated, needed to be part of the economic development of this province," he said.

"I can tell you that in cabinet, whenever Oscar spoke, everyone listened."

'A big figure with big ideas'

Accolades for Lathlin are being heard from the other side of the political spectrum, as well.

"It's a big loss for all of us that are involved in First Nations affairs … because he was a big figure with big ideas and a real worker," said federal Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl.

"That's the way he was, he'd just pull you aside, say, 'Here's the things that while that other stuff is going on, we need to make sure we don't drop the ball on this.' He was just very good, very effective."

Grand Chief Ron Evans of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs also praised Lathlin, calling him a role model for aboriginal people.

Lathlin was at his home in The Pas when he became ill Saturday night and was taken to The Pas Health Complex, government spokesman Jonathan Hildebrand said.

The cause of death wasn't disclosed, but Hildebrand said Lathlin had "some health difficulties and challenges."

Lathlin leaves behind a wife and two children. Funeral arrangements have not yet been made public.

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