On the legacy of the late Ottawa-Vanier MP and former SFUO president
Ottawa-Vanier Liberal member of parliament, Mauril Bélanger, passed away on Aug. 16 at the age of 61, after a battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Bélanger attended the University of Ottawa in the 1970s, serving as the 1977–79 president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO).
In an interview with the Fulcrum, defence lawyer and former vice-president of academic affairs, now known as vice-president of university affairs, Lawrence Greenspon shared his experiences working with Bélanger in the student federation.
“He was a 60–70 hour a week kind of guy,” said Greenspon, recalling how Bélanger slept at the university overnight when the workload became heavy. “He had a cot in the university centre, this was indicative of how hard he worked.”
Greenspon described Bélanger as “ambitious” and “hardworking.” During his time at the U of O, Bélanger had focused on a number of initiatives, including developing a student tutorial service with Greenspon while on the SFUO.
Most significantly, perhaps, was the relationship that Greenspon had fostered with Bélanger.
“Lifelong friendships were made,” said Greenspon, who is also greatly involved in the planning of Bélanger’s Aug. 27 funeral.
In an email to the Fulcrum, Alain-Michel Sékula, who served as the SFUO’s vice-president finance during Bélanger’s second term as president, said that Bélanger’s accomplishments are still evident on campus today.
“Under his leadership he opened or assumed management of Pivik, the student bookstore, (and) the rental of mini-refrigerators to residents,” said Sékula.
Bélanger also reformed the SFUO constitution to make it more inclusive and representative of the student body.
“His passion for democracy, fair and equal rights and representation, bilingualism, innovation and most importantly, politics, were probably reinforced by his tenure as SFUO student president.”
Like Greenspon, Sékula is also involved in the planning process for Bélanger’s funeral, having also stayed close friends after their time together at the U of O.
“Our lifetime friendship started that fateful day in 1978 when he approached me to run for vice-president finance, and set our paths for both our future careers. He became an acclaimed member of parliament and I became a humble banker! We will all miss him,” said Sékula.
Though Bélanger is gone, his contributions to Canada, as well as to the U of O and the student federation continue to be remembered and celebrated.
Current SFUO vice-president of services and communications Francesco Caruso wrote in the SFUO’s official online statement that “Mr. Bélanger has been an integral part, not only of our Student Federation, but also of our entire political system, proudly representing the students that live in his riding.”
“The work that Mr. Bélanger has accomplished will continue to inspire future generations to fight for their rights. We couldn’t have asked for a better representative within federal politics.”
Mauril Bélanger’s funeral is open to the public and will be held on Aug. 27 at 10 a.m. at Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, 385 Sussex Dr.