KAMLOOPS — Despite the grey skies, and occasional rain, hundreds gathered at a public memorial service for former Member of Parliament, federal cabinet minister, and Senator, Len Marchand, who passed away on June 3rd, at the age of 82.
Marchand was remembered by family, friends, and gathered dignitaries as a trailblazer, tireless supporter of his community and region, as well as a father. and husband.
Marchand was a proud member of the Okanagan Indian Band. Chief Byron Louis, of the OKIB, spoke of the path which Marchand followed in his life. “It does not matter where you come from or who you are. It’s your belief in your self that will carry you to the highest heights,” said Chief Louis. “[Len] proved that.”
Federal Minister of Sport and Disabled Persons, Hon. Carla Qualtrough, brought condolences from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. She read from a letter from the Prime Minister, written to Len’s wife Donna. “I know my father [Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau], always spoke of Len with the deepest admiration,” the letter read. “Len’s contribution to Canada will ensure his legacy will live on. His tireless advocacy on behalf on indigenous people rightly earned him great respect, and Len will forever deserve accolades for his trailblazing role to be the first federal minister to be of First Nations descent.”
Many local politicians remembered Len as a mentor, and spoke of seeking out his advice about representing the people of this region.
“When I was appointed to the Senate, Len was one of the first people I met with, wanting to get his advice on what would be expected of me,” remembered Senator Nancy Greene-Raine.
Both local MLA’s shared stories of seeking insight into the political process from Marchand. Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake said he still remembers Marchand’s advice about the perils of political life to a family. “He was a great father and grandfather,” Lake said. “When I met Len in 2004, I was on city council and running the federal Liberal campaign on behalf of John O’Fee. I’ll never forget that conversation, because he emphasized to me the importance of family, and what a toll political life can take on a family, and how important it was to look after your family… and stay connected to them.”
MLA Todd Stone recounted a story about interviewing Marchand for a school project. “When I was in my first year … here at UCC in Kamloops, I was writing a paper about Trudeau-mania,” Stone recounted. “I called up Len and asked ‘Can I interview you, and talk a little bit about that?’ and he said ‘Sure, come on over.’ I thought I’d be over there for maybe an hour or so,” Stone continued. “An hour turned into two hours, and by the third hour, I was getting pretty tired. I said ‘Len, I think I’ve got enough.’ He said ‘Let me see your notes. I think we can do better.’” It was a memory which highlighted Marchand’s belief in education as a tool for self-improvement.
Family was a theme throughout the two hour long event, which culminated with Len’s children, Lori and Len Jr. eulogizing their father.
Lori remembered her father fondly, and summarized the type of character he had. “My Dad never yelled; he stated his mind clearly, whether is was to us, or to world leaders,” Lori remembered. “Hearing everyone else’s stories was always more important than telling his own. He made everyone feel special, and treated everyone with equal respect and dignity.”
Len Marchand Jr. spoke of his father’s contributions to this country, and the people in it. “My Dad was a humble person who never sough out any recognition or praise, but instead spent his time getting things done,” Len Jr. said. “Having said that, he was quietly proud of his contributions to such things as earning the right for First Nations people to vote federally, introducing various Ministers of Indian Affairs to the realities experienced by First Nations, Inuit, and Metis people, …implementing the Metric system, introducing recycling to Parliament Hill, and assisting aboriginal war veterans to receive the recognition and benefits they so richly deserved.”
After Zena Eli sang the traditional song ‘Kulenchutin,’ Muriel Sasakamoose gave a blessing, and feast was held in Len Marchand’s honour. A life well-lived, celebrated by many.
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