Arnold Chan, the Liberal MP for Scarborough-Agincourt, was remembered for his compassion and dedication to politics at a church service in Toronto on Saturday.
Chan died last week of cancer at the age of 50.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario Elizabeth Dowdeswell were among the dignitaries in attendance at Bloor Street United Church.
The prime minister remembered his colleague as someone who was completely engrossed in the political process, calling him “one of the most honourable members of that House of Commons.”
Trudeau also told the room about his first impressions of Chan when they met on the campaign trail three years ago.
“It took me only five minutes to see that below the surface of this slender, thoughtful, polite guy was a deep conviction and a core of steel,” Trudeau said in his emotional tribute.
The prime minister offered condolences to Chan’s wife, Jean Yip and their three sons, Nathaniel, Ethan and Theodore, saying his legacy goes beyond the bills he authored and the votes he won — to the lives he touched.
“To him politics is about people coming together to improve their community. It’s about neighbours helping neighbours to better the place they’re proud to call home,” said Trudeau.
‘He was just this light and driving force’
Mark Holland, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and former Liberal MP for Ajax-Pickering, also recalled Chan’s deep concern for making an impact.
“Arnold taught me that politics is the opportunity to fight for what you care about with who you love,” he said.
They first met in 1995 while working on a campaign.
“Arnold was full of energy and passion, and would have this work ethic that just came from a place I couldn’t understand, and he drove everyone around him,” Holland said in his tribute.
“In that campaign he was just this light and driving force, and he was a magnet that people were drawn to.”
‘My brother really loved politics’
But Chan’s brother, Kevin, saw a different side of him.
He described him as his protector, best friend and someone who was joyful, happy and extroverted.
“My brother really loved politics and the cruellest fate is that it was taken away from him so soon,” Kevin said.
The Toronto-area MP was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer in January 2015, six months after he was first elected. The disease affects the part of the throat that lies behind the nose.
After enduring six months of radiation and chemotherapy, Chan felt healthy enough to run for re-election in fall 2015, the same day Kevin was diagnosed with the disease.
But a routine check-up in March 2016 revealed that the deputy government House leader’s cancer had returned.
My parents and I would like to thank everyone for their kind words of comfort. Thank you. @ArnoldChanLib
“Let me tell you this, going with your brother to a cancer appointment jointly, getting blood work together for the exact same thing, is the strangest thing anyone can ever go through,” he said.
“He took his fate with absolute dignity, a fighter’s mentality, and even though it was excruciatingly painful, still with incredible humour. He cared more for me than he cared for himself and that was his nature.”
Yip remembered her husband as “a man of integrity, of quick wit coupled with strategic abilities,” who worked tirelessly, up until his passing, to get the job done.
“He really got excited about anything political,” she said, using the story of their betrothal as an example.
“When he proposed, he said to me, ‘you will never have to worry about me Jean. I only have one mistress.’ And I asked him who was that. He said, her name is politics,” she said.
The pair were married for 19 years.