“I am deeply saddened to learn of the sudden and unexpected passing of my close friend and former colleague, Deepak Obhrai.
“Deepak and I first met while running for Reform Party nominations in adjacent constituencies in 1996. We quickly became good friends, helping each other in our successful campaigns, and working together ever since.
“Deepak was a fiercely proud Albertan and Canadian. Born and raised in Tanzania, he and his family were part of the highly successful wave of East African Asian immigrants to Canada in the 1970s. He and his wife Neena immediately set down strong roots in Calgary, contributing to many local community and charitable efforts, and raising their wonderful family here.
“Deepak had a passion for politics, which led him to become a trail blazer as the first Hindu Canadian to be elected to the House Commons, in 1997. He went on to be re-elected five times, with as much as 67 per cent of the vote, a reflection of his dedication to serving the people of East Calgary over two decades.
“As the longest ever serving parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, Deepak played a significant role in representing Canada abroad, articulating the principled foreign policy of the Harper Government. This he did with great relish and enthusiasm, whether confronting world leaders from Vladimir Putin to Hugo Chavez on human rights violations in their country, or defending Canada’s economic interests around the world. Perhaps Deepak’s biggest legacy was the key role that he played in the huge upgrading of Canada-India relations during Stephen Harper’s premiership.
“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 politics with respect, while reminding all of us to never take ourselves too seriously.
“It is shocking to learn of Deepak’s sudden demise. He once recovered from a near death experience years ago, and so I know he was determined to make the most of every day
“I offer my deepest condolences to his wife Neena, daughters Priti and Kaajal, son Aman, son-in-law Robin Martin, grandson Davin, and granddaughter Evasha. May they take some consolation in this difficult time by knowing that Deepak will be remembered fondly by so many who he served, and whose lives he touched.”