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Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai dies of liver cancer

WATCH: Condolences are coming in from across the country after longtime Calgary MP Deepak Obhrai died on Friday at the age of 69. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports.

Calgary MP Deepak Obhrai has died following a brief battle with liver cancer.

A statement said he passed away surrounded by family on Friday night. He was 69.

“We are still shocked by his sudden departure,” the statement said.

Obhrai’s office said he had received a diagnosis of Stage 4 liver cancer just weeks ago.

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Obhrai, who represented Calgary Forest Lawn, had been an MP since 1997 and was dean of the Conservative caucus.

Born in Tanzania, he was the longest-serving Conservative MP and the first Hindu elected to the House of Commons.

Andrew Scheer said Obhrai was a “constant source of joy inside the Conservative caucus.”

“He brightened every room he walked into and often injected warmth, kindness, and good humour into our deliberations,” he said in a statement. “I know I speak on behalf of my Conservative colleagues when I say that he will be missed tremendously.”

The Conservative leader was one of many paying tribute to Obhrai on Saturday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Obhrai “dedicated himself to serving his constituents with utmost integrity, and we will miss him dearly.”

Calgary community reacts

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was sorry to hear of the passing of the “dedicated public servant.”

“I’ve known him and his family forever; you’ll never meet someone who loved his job and public service so much,” he tweeted.

Calgary Confederation MP Len Webber said Obhrai was a kind and gracious man.

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“I looked to him as a mentor to me to when I first came in,” he said.

“Of course, with him being the longest-serving MP in our caucus, we looked at him as sort of the godfather, and I’m going to miss him dearly.”

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Webber added that Obhrai brought good cheer to the caucus.

“There is some heated debate in the House of Commons now and then and of course, he would get serious when he had to get serious, but he also brought in some humour, which brought everyone back down again,” he said.

“To realize that we all are here to do what’s best for Canadians, we all have different opinions on how to do that but he brought us back down to earth with his humour and I thank him for that.”

Caitlin Flegel, president of the Forest Lawn Community Association, said the community is saddened by his loss.

“He has been a very courageous and inspirational figure in our community,” she said. “He’s been extremely responsive to the needs of our citizens — especially newcomers to Canada, which Forest Lawn has quite a lot of.

“I think he’s a shining example.”

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Other politicians react

Premiers Doug Ford and Jason Kenney shared condolences on social media.

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Ford called Obhrai a champion for human rights around the world.

Kenney said he met Obhrai while running for Reform Party nominations in 1996, adding they became good friends.

“Those who knew him will always smile in recalling Deepak’s winsome sense of humour, which reflected his generosity of spirit. He treated colleagues on all sides of the political aisle with respect, while reminding all of us never to take ourselves too seriously,” said Kenney, a former federal Conservative cabinet minister.

Another former federal Tory, James Moore, said it was a privilege to have known Obhrai and call him a friend.

“And privileged most to witness his unwavering deep love of our country,” he said.

Conservative MP Lisa Raitt called it “an unbearably sad day.”

—With files from The Canadian Press and Global News’ Carolyn Kury de Castillo