David Kilgour, longtime MP who left 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 age 81.

Kilgour suffered from a rare lung condition that progressed rapidly over the past month, his wife Laura Scott Kilgour said.

He passed away in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 5.

During his 27 years as an MP, Kilgour has established himself as a strong advocate for international human rights causes. He has also proven that he is not afraid to challenge his colleagues in the Commons – and even party leaders.

Kilgour was first elected MP for Edmonton—Strathcona in 1979 as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party. He left Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s caucus in 1990 because he opposed to the introduction of the GST.

He joined the Liberals a few months later and served as Canada’s Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa from 1997 to 2002, and Secretary of State for the Asia-Pacific region from 2002 to 2003.

In 2005, Kilgour publicly resigned from a major federal party for the second time in his career when he quit the Liberals over what he called “about 10 issues” with party conduct – including including the sponsorship scandal and his plans to legalize same-sex marriage.

Kilgour also cited Canada’s reluctance to participate in a multinational effort to stop genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region as the reason for his departure.

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

Prime Minister Paul Martin (centre) talks to NDP Leader Jack Layton (right) as Independent MP David Kilgour walks past 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 Member of the House of Commons from 2005 until his retirement from politics in 2006. As an Independent, Kilgour held the balance of power in the minority Liberal government of Paul Martin at the time.

After retiring 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 fellow activists around the world until the final days before his death.