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Liberal MP Arnold Chan dies

The Ontario MP delivered an emotional speech in the House last spring, calling for greater civility in politics. He had been battling cancer while in Parliament the last three years.

Arnold Chan, pictured with his wife Jean Yip after delivering an emotional speech in the House in June, has passed away from cancer. The Hill Times photograph by Rachel Aiello

PUBLISHED :Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017 11:21 AM

Liberal MP Arnold Chan died on Thursday, after spending the better part of the past three years battling cancer. He was 50 years old.

Mr. Chan’s wife, Jean Yip, released a statement through his constituency office Thursday morning, which she tweeted, confirming his death.

“He was a loving father, wonderful husband, and dedicated public servant,” she said of her husband. “We will miss him dearly.”

Judy Sgro (Humber River-Black Creek, Ont.) told her colleagues of his passing Thursday morning as she chaired a meeting of the House Transportation Committee on the Hill, calling him “a member that we all very much respected and appreciated,” according to CTV News.

  

Mr. Chan, a lawyer and a former veteran political staffer at the Ontario legislature, was first diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a form of cancer, in 2014, the same year he won a byelection for the Toronto riding of Scarborough-Agincourt and became an MP.

After months of radiation combined with six months of chemotherapy after the first diagnosis, the cancer came back in February 2016. He said he would modify his work schedule so that he could receive treatment.

In June, Mr. Chan delivered an emotional speech in the House, calling for greater civility in the House, emphasizing the importance of Parliament, and speaking poignantly about his family. His parents and his wife were in the House gallery for the speech.

Arnold Chan is applauded by other Liberal MPs in the House of Commons June 12, after giving an emotional speech, which he acknowledged at the time could be one of his last. PMO photograph by Adam Scotti

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Mr. Chan said the cancer had spread to his lymphatic system and he was in the middle of a clinical trial.

  

At the time, Mr. Chan said he wasn’t resigning but acknowledged that he wasn’t sure how many more 20-minute speeches he would be making in the Commons, considering the resurfaced cancer.

“It’s true, I’ve been certainly more debilitated in the last few months. I’ve found my energy challenged. I’ve been a cancer patient now for almost two-and-a-half years, and [with] ongoing treatment, it wears you down,” he told reporters at the time.

“Even in terms of overall performance in the House of Commons, there’s been a marked decline over the last few months. So I’m practical and realistic, but at the same token, I have every intention of carrying on.”

Mr. Chan added that it had been a “tremendous honour” to serve as an MP for two terms and urged his colleagues “not only to act as honourable Members, but to treat this institution honourably.”

  

He also took time in his address to urge Canadians to boost their civic engagement by volunteering.

Mr. Chan leaves his wife and three sons, Nathaniel, Ethan, and Theodore, his parents Anthony and Sandra, and his brother, Kevin.

He most recently served as his party’s deputy House leader and sat on the Procedure and House Affairs Committee.

House colleagues quickly took to social media to praise Mr. Chan as a dear friend and gifted Parliamentarian.

Liberal MP Nick Whalen (St. John’s East, N.L.) wrote on Twitter that Mr. Chan was a “friend, colleague, and proud defender of our freedoms and institutions.”

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains (Mississauga-Malton, Ont.) said Mr. Chan was not only a “great Parliamentarian, but a close friend.”

“Your drive to serve [Canadians] was ever inspiring,” he wrote on Twitter of his late colleague.

Conservative MP Dan Albas (Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, B.C.), on Twitter, called him a “gentleman and a fine Parliamentarian.” His caucus colleague Michelle Rempel (Calgary Nose Hill, Alta.), addressing Mr. Chan’s wife on Twitter, noted: “If you or the boys need anything we are all here for you.”

Conservative MP Todd Doherty (Cariboo-Prince George, B.C.) posted that he was “deeply saddened” by Mr. Chan’s passing.

At Toronto’s Queen Park, members of the provincial legislature held a moment of silence for Mr. Chan.

mvigliotti@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times