Mourners gathered Saturday morning at Winnipeg’s Centennial Concert Hall to remember Jim Carr, the Manitoba member of Parliament and former Liberal cabinet minister who died earlier this week at age 71.
“We are bereft, but we are better for having known him, better for having him serve this country,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Winnipeg, before Saturday morning’s ceremony.
Carr, who had represented Winnipeg South Centre since 2015, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma — a type of blood cancer — one day after he was re-elected in October 2019. He also battled kidney failure.
Carr died peacefully at home Monday, surrounded by his family and loved ones, a statement from his family said. His death was announced in the House of Commons that day.
“How fitting to do this here,” Ben Carr, Jim’s son, said on stage during the service at the 2,300-seat downtown concert hall. “[It was] a place he loved so much.”
Before he became an MP, Jim Carr was a professional oboe player with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, which performs at the Centennial Concert Hall.
He later moved into provincial politics, serving as deputy leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party from 1988 to 1992.
He first ran for a seat in Manitoba’s legislature in 1986, when he lost to Progressive Conservative leader Gary Filmon in the Tuxedo riding. In the 1988 provincial election, he won the Fort Rouge seat for the Liberals, and served as an MLA until 1992, when he took on a role with the Winnipeg Free Press.
He later became the founding president and chief executive officer of the Business Council of Manitoba, before entering federal politics with his 2015 win in Winnipeg South Centre — a seat he held on to in the 2019 election.
Ben Carr said his father spent more than a month campaigning for re-election in 2019 while unknowingly suffering from kidney failure and cancer.
“He ended the election by giving an upbeat victory speech in front of a large crowd before going to the hospital for the night,” Ben said at Saturday’s memorial.
“Dad believed strongly in public service and in our collective responsibility to look after one another,” he said.
That extended to befriending political opponents such as Filmon, Ben said.
“Whether he knew it or not, he was teaching us that just because you don’t see the world the same way, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for friendship and mutual respect from one person to another,” said Ben.
Lloyd Axworthy, a former Liberal cabinet minister who held the Winnipeg South Centre seat from 1979 until 2000, said Carr was a convener of both ideas and people.
Axworthy said after Carr’s death was announced, he received a Facebook message from a woman the late politician visited as he was canvassing for another candidate in 2006.
The message, which Axworthy read aloud, said the woman hadn’t voted for 10 years at that point, but after Carr’s visit, she never missed a chance to cast her ballot.
“He convinced me of the power of a single vote,” the woman’s message said.
Carr, a musician, brought a sense of harmony to politics, said Axworthy, sharing his passions, values and dreams with everyone he encountered.
“His greatest gift to me was his friendship.”
WATCH | Jim Carr remembered at Winnipeg memorial service:
During Saturday morning’s ceremony, Trudeau said Carr brought a “Prairie pragmatism” to Parliament, and leaves behind an immense legacy.
The prime minister said the close attention Carr gave him made him feel special.
“And then this week I discovered it wasn’t just me [he did that for] — it was everyone.”
After his speech, Trudeau gave Carr’s family the Canadian flag that flew at half-mast at Ottawa’s Peace Tower on Monday.
He also gave the family a copy of the Green Prairie Economy Act, Carr’s private-member’s bill that passed through the House of Commons just last week, and received royal assent on Thursday.
Carr worked with all three levels of government, members of the private sector and Indigenous communities to create the bill, which focuses on building a green economy in the Prairie provinces.
Carr was pleased to see the passage of the bill last week, his family said in their statement earlier this week.
Trudeau said the bill shows how much Carr had to contribute to the country.
“Cancer robbed him of a number of years that he would have continued to have an impact in Winnipeg, across the Prairies, and across the country,” he told reporters before Saturday’s memorial.
Ben Carr also made note of his father’s service to his community during his tribute on Saturday.
“Your work is done now, Dad.”