Mr. Speaker and dear friends, the hon. member for Langley—Aldergrove can now be addressed by his real name, because he has passed from us.
Mark Warawa was a dear friend of mine, and I want to identify some things about my experience of knowing Mark, in expressing my deep condolences to Diane.
One thing I noticed right away about Mark is that it was Mark and Diane. There is a plane that leaves Vancouver to bring B.C. MPs to Ottawa every week, and sometimes I call it the school bus. If there were a spouse who was almost always there, it was Diane. I think she travelled to Ottawa with Mark more often than most.
I know how hard this is right now. As we know, Mark is in the arms of our Lord, and it is Diane to whom we send our prayers and deepest condolences, so she may have strength in this difficult time.
This is how I knew Mark. I was elected to this place in 2011. From 2006 to 2011, before I was elected, Mark Warawa had the title of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment. I worked with him often. I talked to him often.
Although we did not agree on policy, his personal commitments were clear. He and Diane had done many things in their own home: they had solar panels, they composted. He could go on and on. He really was committed to doing things in his own life to make this a better world.
He also created a local award in Langley for environmental heroes. It mattered to him. He did things in his own way. He never would have thwarted policies of his own party; I am not suggesting that at all. He was committed, and he took the time to talk to me and, as we have heard, always in respectful ways.
When I was elected, I got to know Mark in a whole new way. I hope Canadians will be happy to know such a thing exists, as we do not talk about it very much here, but the one truly non-partisan thing that happens in this place, every single Wednesday morning at 7:00 a.m., is that we gather in prayer. My brother from Battle River—Crowfoot looks at me and I am going to start crying. It keeps me going, goodness knows, to know that despite the fact that we may not agree on anything, we are able to love each other.
I loved Mark. He was so clear, focused and devoted to the Lord in his day-to-day life and, as we have heard from other members from other parties, in how he conducted himself in this place.
He had real courage. One thing we have talked about lately at the procedure and House affairs committee is how to reduce the role of the party whips in controlling what happens here. A lot of people talk about it, but in my eight years of experience, Mark Warawa was the bravest in standing up against a party whip. He told us that when he was going to give his Standing Order 31 statement, he was told by the whip he was not allowed to bring it forward. At the time, the Speaker ruled on that. Eleven other members of Parliament, including many members of Mark’s party, stood up to agree with him.
I just want it remembered that Mark stood up for democracy in this place, when he could have been afraid, when he could have taken the easy route and not thwarted his party whip. He had confidence in the right of all members of Parliament in this place to speak to what was in their hearts and say what they wanted to say in their own 60-second opportunity every few months. He stood up on principle and asked for the Speaker to rule that his rights had been violated. That was brave.
Of many things about Mark Warawa’s life, he will be remembered. As we heard from the member for Abbotsford, he was a community champion, working at the local level and municipal government before coming to this place. As the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley so rightly said, he was someone known for his kindness. I also want him remembered for his willingness to reach across party lines.
There was a moment, and this is my last story, when a student from Langley contacted me. He was on an adventures in citizenship program. He said that he was supposed to have lunch with his own MP, but since he was not a Conservative, he wanted to meet me. I said to him, “Your MP is a great guy. I think you should have lunch with both of us.” I asked Mark, and he said, “Absolutely, let’s both take our student to lunch.”
We had this wonderful wide-ranging conversation about environmental goals. I could see this young high school student’s eyes light up because he realized he did not have to be a Conservative to love his MP. He just had to know him and know that he really was doing the best he could by his own lights every day. Then, in a truly generous gesture, Mark picked up the tab. That does not happen every day, around here or anywhere.
God bless you, Mark. God, greet one of your wonderful spirits, a soul who has served you well. Give him eternal rest. Let light perpetual shine upon him. Thank you, Lord, that we came to know him and call him “friend”.