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House pays tribute to Mauril Belanger, honorary speaker

PM and MPs line corridors of Centre Block to cheer 21-year veteran of the Hill


 
Liberal MP Mauril Belanger makes his way to the House of Commons as he takes part as House of Common Speaker in the Speakers Parade as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Memebers of Parliament look on look on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Wednesday March 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Liberal MP Mauril Belanger makes his way to the House of Commons as he takes part as House of Common Speaker in the Speakers Parade as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other Memebers of Parliament look on look on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Wednesday March 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is urging Canadians to donate to research into Lou Gehrig’s Disease as the House of Commons pays a unique tribute to one its own ravaged by the devastating disease.

Veteran Liberal MP Mauril Belanger was appointed unanimously by his peers to sit briefly as honorary Speaker, the first time such a distinction has been accorded to anyone.

Belanger was diagnosed last November with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease — an incurable, progressive, neurodegenerative disease that causes muscle weakness, paralysis, and eventually, respiratory failure.

Trudeau was among the cabinet ministers, MPs, senators, Parliament Hill staff, family and friends who lined the corridors of Centre Block to applaud and cheer as Belanger, clutching a walker, marched laboriously in the traditional parade from the Speaker’s office to the Commons.

No longer able to speak, Belanger used a tablet computer that converted pre-programmed text into speech to open today’s sitting of the Commons, with a prayer and the singing of O Canada.

He also presided over members’ statements and the opening round of question period, which Trudeau, Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair used to praise Belanger’s 21 years of public service and pledge support for ALS research.


 
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