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Former Bloc MP Bernard Cleary, strong defender of Indigenous rights, has died at 83

Bernard Cleary, a former Bloc Québécois MP for the riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent, has died. He was 83 years old. 

Cleary was the 1st Innu person elected to Parliament

Former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe, centre, and Bernard Cleary, right, who at the time was a Bloc MP for the riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent, are greeted by supporters at a rally in Quebec City in December 2005. Cleary died on July 27 at the age of 83. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Bernard Cleary, a former Bloc Québécois MP for the riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent, has died. He was 83 years old. 

Cleary's daughter, Chantal, confirmed his death to CBC News on Sunday.

Originally from Mashteuiatsh, an Innu Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation reserve in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region, he was known as a strong defender of Indigenous peoples' rights. 

According to a 2004 profile in Ottawa's The Hill Times newspaper, Cleary was the first Indigenous MP to be elected in Quebec and the first Innu person to be elected in Canada. 

He served as a member of Parliament for the riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent in the Capitale-Nationale region from 2004 to 2006. 

Earlier in his career, Cleary worked as a journalist at Le Soleil newspaper in Quebec City before becoming news director at Télé-Capitale.

He also taught journalism at Laval University in Quebec City.

Cleary died surrounded by loved ones in Lévis, Que., on July 27. In posts on social media, family members said his death followed a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Ghislain Picard, Assembly of First Nations regional chief for Quebec and Labrador, reacted to his death, saying he often consulted Cleary for his "vast experience."

With files from Radio-Canada

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