Mr. Speaker, sometimes the House of Commons can be a harsh and unfair place, and the 42nd Parliament was particularly cruel. Between the election of 2015 and the date six months ago on which the Commons rose, we lost a number of colleagues. We lost Jim Hillyer, who was only 41 years old when he passed away at his Hill office in March 2016.
Mauril Bélanger, whose dream of becoming the Speaker of the House was crushed by ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease, was taken from us on August 16, 2016.
Arnold Chan's promising career was cut short by cancer in September 2017. Gord Brown was taken from us by a massive heart attack in May 2018. Mark Warawa passed away just days before the House rose in June of this year.
When we left here, there was at least one fixture on the Conservative side of the House who seemed eternal. In June, Deepak Obhrai, the member for Calgary Forest Lawn and the dean of the Conservative caucus, was seemingly as healthy as he had been in years. He was on his way back to serve what would have been his eighth term in office.
Within days of the final sitting of the 42nd Parliament, Deepak was informed by his doctor that he had terminal liver cancer and within a few weeks of that announcement he was gone. Deepak was deprived of the tribute that we give to fallen comrades who leave us while they are still in service.
For those colleagues who are new to this place and who have never seen it before, a bouquet of white flowers is placed at the member's desk, along with a glass of salt water to symbolize tears and a lemon to signify bitterness at his untimely departure. It is a testimony to the fundamental decency of this place that the House leadership of all parties granted us the time today to give tribute to Deepak.
Deepak had a huge personality and no one ever forgot the experience of meeting him and his remarkable wardrobe of scarves for the first time, but for the benefit of new members, here is the Coles Notes version of Deepak Obhrai's extraordinary life.
He was born in Africa in what was then the British colony of Tanganyika on July 5, 1950, and was educated in India and England, becoming an air traffic controller and later an accountant. At the age of 27, Deepak immigrated to Canada, eventually landing in Calgary where he became a successful business owner.
After dabbling in municipal politics and provincial politics, he was elected the MP for Calgary East in 1997. Deepak served as an MP for more than half of all the years he lived in Canada. There are not many countries in the world where that kind of thing can happen.
Deepak was a pioneer. He was Canada's first Hindu member of Parliament and a member of the first generation of Indo-Canadian MPs, whose legacy today is that numerous Canadians of South Asian origin, both first-generation and Canadian born, representing a diversity of faiths, are serving right now in this place under multiple partisan banners.
In opposition, Deepak served in too many roles to enumerate here. In government, he spent nearly a decade as parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, travelling the globe on behalf of Canada. As someone who had called three continents his home before he came to Canada, he brought a uniquely cosmopolitan perspective to this job. He was helped in this regard by the fact that he spoke three languages, in addition to English.
Unfortunately, French was not one of them, despite Deepak's heroic efforts.
He was an eminently quotable man. Much of what he said was wildly politically incorrect and might perhaps best not be repeated in the House of Commons by a white guy, but I can draw everyone's attention to his most famous utterance.
Deepak is justly famous for advising the government to “wake up and smell the thing”. Now that Deepak is gone, I am never going to be able to ask him what “the thing” actually is, but here is a guess.
Maybe the thing is to remember that we are here today and gone tomorrow. Maybe the thing is that our sojourn here, whether in Parliament or on earth, is brief. Maybe the thing is that while we cannot all have parliamentary careers as long and as illustrious as Deepak's was, we can nonetheless each strive to make a contribution as large as the one that he made.
Let us take Deepak's advice and wake up, realize that now is the only moment that exists and work every day, as our beloved colleague did, to make this Parliament and this world better, starting this very day.