David Kilgour, longtime MP who quit 2 different parties for ideological reasons, dies at 81

David Kilgour, a former cabinet minister known in Ottawa for his fierce independent streak and dedication to human rights causes, has died at 81.

Kilgour suffered from a rare lung disease which progressed quickly over the past month, said his wife Laura Scott Kilgour.

He died in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 5.

During his 27 years as an MP, Kilgour established himself as a vocal supporter of international human rights causes. He also proved himself unafraid to challenge his Commons colleagues — and even party leaders.

Kilgour was first elected as an MP for Edmonton—Strathcona in 1979 as a member of the Progressive Conservative party. He quit the caucus of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in 1990 because he opposed the implementation of the GST.

He joined the Liberals months later and served as Canada’s secretary of state to Latin America and Africa from 1997 to 2002, and as secretary of state to the Asia-Pacific region from 2002 to 2003.

In 2005, Kilgour publicly quit a major federal party for the second time in his career when he left the Liberals over what he said were “about 10 issues” with the party’s conduct — including the sponsorship scandal and its plans to legalize same-sex marriage.

Kilgour also cited Canada’s unwillingness to take part in a multinational effort to stop the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan as a reason for his departure.

Ottawa eventually sent humanitarian aid to Sudan, a move attributed in part to Kilgour’s persistent and public calls for action.

Prime Minister Paul Martin (centre) speaks with NDP Leader Jack Layton (right) as Independent MP David Kilgour walks past prior to a confidence vote on the federal budget in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 19, 2005. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

Kilgour served as an Independent MP in the House of Commons from 2005 until his retirement from politics in 2006. As an Independent, Kilgour held the balance of power in Paul Martin’s minority Liberal government of the time.

Following his retirement from politics, Kilgour remained active in human rights causes — notably China’s treatment of minority groups, including practitioners of the Falun Gong religion.

Kilgour’s family said he was in communication with friends and activist colleagues around the world until the last days before his death.

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