Sen. Tobias Enverga dies in Colombia on parliamentary trip

Conservative Sen. Tobias Enverga, the first Canadian senator of Filipino descent, has died at age 61 during a parliamentary trip to Colombia.

Filipino-Canadian lawmaker was appointed by Stephen Harper in 2012

Tobias Enverga, who was appointed to the Senate by former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2012, has died while on a work trip to Colombia. (Senate of Canada)

Conservative Sen. Tobias Enverga, the first Filipino-Canadian to sit in the Senate, has died at age 61 during a parliamentary trip to Colombia.

His office said Enverga died Thursday morning with his wife by his side.

The Ontario senator was in the South American country for the ParlAmericas Annual Plenary Assembly, along with Liberal MPs Robert Nault and Randy Boissonnault, NDP MP Richard Cannings and Conservative MP Bev Shipley.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer offered condolences to Enverga's wife, Rosemer, and three daughters.

"Sen. Enverga was the kind of person who could make anybody feel welcome and valued, a quality that is so important for those who act as ambassadors for communities of new Canadians. He embodied what we all want to see more of in public life," Scheer wrote in a statement posted to Facebook.

"Sen. Enverga's commitment to his community, his country, and to Canada's diversity and pluralism will be deeply missed by his many friends and colleagues in the Senate and in the Conservative family."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also tweeted condolences, calling Enverga "a member of our parliamentary family."

"He was a dedicated senator for Ontario, strong voice for the Filipino community, and a friend to so many on the Hill. May he rest in peace," Trudeau wrote.

In this Nov. 18, 2013, photo taken in Toronto, Harper, centre, is flanked by Enverga and Rev. Ben Ebcas of the Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Parish when the PM was announcing further Canadian support for the Philippines. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

First in Toronto

Enverga was born in the Philippines and served as a school trustee for the Toronto Catholic District School Board. He was the first Filipino-Canadian elected in the City of Toronto, according to his Senate bio.

​He used his time in the Senate to advocate for people who have Down syndrome, like one of his daughters.

Speaker of the Senate George Furey said Enverga, affectionately known as Jun, was "a proud voice for his community and for the many diverse communities in the Greater Toronto Area."

"Enverga will be most remembered as a fierce advocate for persons with disabilities and a tireless champion for multiculturalism. He was respected by all of his colleagues for his kindness, his warm sense of humour and his unparalleled work ethic," Furey said.

'Man of conviction'

Sen. Larry Smith, leader of the Conservative Senate caucus, said Enverga earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues.

 "He was a man of great conviction and a hardworking parliamentarian," he said.

Many senators and former Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose flooded Twitter with their sympathies Thursday afternoon.

"Shocking and upsetting news. Senator Enverga was a good man. My heart goes out to his family including those of us in his political family," tweeted Senator Linda Frum.

Conservative MP Erin O'Toole called him a "warm and caring person and a true role model."