Politics

Mauril Bélanger remembered as an 'advocate, mentor and friend' by Canadian MPs

Long-serving MP Mauril Bélanger is being remembered on both sides of the aisle as a "formidable fighter," a "great parliamentarian" and a "good man."

MP who spearheaded historic changes to the national anthem dead at 61

Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger was given a standing ovation as he made his way to the Speaker's Chair in the House of Commons on March 9 to serve as honorary Speaker in a tribute organized by his fellow MPs following his diagnosis of ALS. Bélanger is now being honoured again by his colleagues after his death. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Long-serving MP Mauril Bélanger is being remembered as a "formidable fighter," a "great parliamentarian" and a "good man" by public servants of all political stripes. 

The Liberal member of Parliament for Ottawa-Vanier has died at age 61 after being diagnosed with  ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Bélanger's death on Twitter, calling him a "tireless MP and a brave fighter."

The prime minister later issued a statement offering condolences on behalf of himself, his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and the entire country to Bélanger's "family, friends, constituents, and many, many admirers."

"I was incredibly saddened to learn today of the death of my friend and colleague Mauril Bélanger," Trudeau said. "Mauril's immense contributions to our country will be honoured and remembered. We are all the poorer for his passing.

"Goodbye my friend."

Many of Bélanger's colleagues from both sides of the aisle have spoken out about the MP's legacy.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose and Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion have all expressed their condolences and commented on Bélanger's long history of public service.

Many pointed out the significance of Bélanger's last big political battle. On June 15, 2016, his private member's bill to make the national anthem more gender neutral cleared its final hurdle in the House of Commons.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, the MP for Ottawa Centre, called his "dedication" to the historic lyric change "inspiring." Trudeau's director of communications Kate Purchase called it "exemplary."

But above all, people remembered Bélanger as a good friend.

A book of condolences has been opened for Bélanger in the Centre Block rotunda on Parliament Hill for MPs and the public wishing to express their sympathies.

Earlier Wednesday Trudeau stopped to pen his own goodbye saying that while Bélanger would be missed, the late Liberal MP would also inspire those he left behind. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's message in the book of condolences for the late Liberal MP Mauril Bélanger. (Sarah Sears/CBC)
Liberal MP diagnosed with ALS last year has died at 61 3:19