‘He lived the Canadian immigrant dream:’ Stephen Harper at Memorial for MP Deepak Obhrai

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Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivers remarks while attending a memorial celebrating the life MP Deepak Obhrai in Calgary, Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY:  Former prime minister Stephen Harper told a memorial service Monday that former Calgary member of Parliament Deepak Obhrai opened doors for new Canadians to become involved in politics.

He said Obhrai also built a legacy of engagement for the Conservative party.

Obhrai, 69, died earlier this month from liver cancer.

Born in Tanzania to parents from India, he settled in Calgary with his family in 1977. The businessman became the first Hindu elected to the House of Commons in 1997 when he won the Calgary East riding for the Reform party.

He was re-elected six times under the banners of the Canadian Alliance, Progressive Conservative and Conservative parties.

“He never looked back,” Harper told the public service in Calgary.

“There can be no doubt that, had God been willing, he would have made it eight successful campaigns in a few short weeks from now.”

Obhrai was the longest-serving parliamentary secretary to a minister of foreign affairs in Canadian history _ from 2006 to 2015 _ and was also the longest continuously serving Conservative MP, “as he frequently reminded me,” Harper said.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, right, comforts Neena Obhrai, while attending a memorial celebrating the life MP Deepak Obhrai in Calgary, Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Obhrai was proud of his accomplishments, Harper said.

“Deepak lived the Canadian immigrant dream and he led a generation of Conservatives in demonstrating how to build relationships in communities of different backgrounds across the country.

“He reminded us that the strength of free and democratic societies is not in the virtuous narratives and vanity of our leaders, but in the simple aspirations of everyday hard-working families for a better life.”

Obhrai joined a crowded field of contenders to replace Harper in the 2017 Conservative leadership race, which was won by Andrew Scheer.

Scheer, who is vying to replace Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the federal election in October, told the memorial that he was working with the Reform party when he met Obhrai in 1999.

Federal Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer delvers remarks while attends a memorial celebrating the life MP Deepak Obhrai in Calgary, Monday, Aug. 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

“Deepak was the one who was building bridges in every community across Canada, not just in the South Asian community.”

Obrhai believed every person on Earth was worthy of dignity, freedom and opportunity, said Scheer, who added that he continues to meet “Deepak fans” everywhere he goes.

“Let’s honour Deepak the best way we can by carrying on his fight and his commitment to those core Canadian values.”

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