WATCH ABOVE: House of Commons offers touching tribute to Mauril Belanger
Mauril Bélanger, a Liberal MP for over two decades, has died at the age of 61.
Last November, the member for Ottawa—Vanier was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease. His health quickly deteriorated.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used Twitter to announce Bélanger’s death on Tuesday night.
Mauril Bélanger has passed away. He was a great friend, tireless MP and brave fighter. The entire Parliamentary family mourns his loss.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) August 17, 2016
As word of Bélanger’s passing spread, tributes began to pour in from fellow MPs.
Saddened to learn of the passing of Mauril Bélanger. Very well-liked and respected colleague. Our condolences to his loved ones.
— Tom Mulcair (@ThomasMulcair) August 17, 2016
Mauril Bélanger was was an exceptional MP.His brave battle with ALS taught us about grace and courage. My thoughts are with Catherine. RIP
— Rodger Cuzner (@RodgerCuzner) August 17, 2016
Very sad to hear of Mauril Belanger’s passing. I will be keeping the Belanger family in my thoughts during this difficult time.
— Bob Chiarelli (@Bob_Chiarelli) August 17, 2016
ALS began its progressive toll by affecting Bélanger’s power of speech, a doubly cruel blow for a man dedicated to language rights who was poised as the front-runner to be elected Speaker of the House of Commons under the Trudeau Liberal government.
He withdrew from the race, but not from public life.
Bélanger was the driving force behind amending the lyrics to O Canada to make it more gender-neutral.
WATCH: Vote to amend national anthem to be more gender neutral passes
His private member’s bill, passed by MPs in June, proposed changing the second line of the national anthem, swapping “true patriot love, in all thy sons command” with “in all of us command.”
On March 9, 2016, Bélanger was made honorary Speaker for a day and sat in the Speaker’s chair for about 20 minutes during member statements and the start of the daily question period, communicating via his tablet computer.
With files from Tania Kohut of Global News