It was perhaps appropriate that Dr. Andre Lafrance should have passed away while coming back from a demonstration in support of one of the causes close to his heart.

Lafrance collapsed and died Nov. 23 while walking from a prayer vigil he had held with Father Tony Van Hee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Van Hee is a Catholic priest who has maintained a longstanding vigil of prayer and fasting for the unborn at that location. Lafrance would often join him in the task, especially since his recent retirement, and was doing so that fateful day.

Police and medics were unable to revive the 68-year-old Lafrance, who had previously suffered a heart attack about five years ago. He was last seen by many Canadian pro-lifers at November’s National Pro-Life Conference in Montreal. His passing leaves a large gap in several areas of the pro-life movement.

Lafrance, a dermatologist, was a member of the board of directors of Canadian Physicians for Life, a long-time member of the Ottawa-based pro-life educational organization Action Life and president of the board of the directors of Ottawa’s Miriam Centre, an agency assisting mothers in need. He was perhaps best known in recent years as the chief organizer of the candlelight vigil for the unborn held at the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights Monument, which launches the annual March for Life in Ottawa.

Those who worked with him remember a man of intense passion and energy, despite has rather small and wiry frame.

“He was a real dynamo, always going, going, going, like a steam engine,” recalled Wanda Hartlin, communications co-ordinator with Campaign Life Coalition’s Ottawa office, where Lafrance spent a lot of time volunteering.

“He was right out there, fighting the culture of death,” said Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes. “He was so well-informed on issues, it blew everyone’s mind.”

Lafrance was prominent in spreading his knowledge through presentations and reports, including appearances before parliamentary and Senate committees looking into issues such as gay “marriage” and hate crimes. With other medical professionals, he more recently co-authored the report, “‘Gay Marriage’ and Homosexuality: Some Medical Comments,” that sounded a scientifically based warning over the folly of instituting same-sex “marriage” in Canada.

Last October, he also co-authored a statement condemning euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide and in 1997, wrote in a Medical Post article: “I submit that abortion, far from being a safe medical procedure, constitutes a culpable dereliction of a physician’s duty to his/her patients and a flagrant violation of the very first principle of ethical behaviour for physicians – consider first the well-being of the patient – as directed by the Canadian Medical Association’s Code of Ethics.”

Hughes added Lafrance was always upbeat and refused to allow things to get him down or make him negative. “He walked the walk and talked the talk. He was a sterling example for everybody else.”

Carroll Rees, who worked many years with Lafrance at Action Life Ottawa said his death means the loss of “a great man, a great pro-lifer, and a great friend.”

His impact was demonstrated by the fact that St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church in Ottawa was filled to overflowing for Lafrance’s funeral on Nov. 28. Prior to the Mass, his children said by way of tribute that Lafrance was on fire for his causes and worked tirelessly for them.

Hughes also spoke before the Mass. He remembered how Dr. Grant Hill gleaned knowledge from Lafrance before standing up in Parliament as an MP and speaking boldly on the deleterious health effects of homosexual behaviour. When Hughes was talking with Hill in the MP’s office, the MP asked where he could find an expert on the issue of the impact of homosexuality and health. Hughes replied, “He’s outside picketing right now.”

A memorial Mass for Lafrance is scheduled for Jan. 10 at 12:15 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Basilica in Ottawa. The family has advised that donations in his memory may be made to the Andre and Lorraine Lafrance Family Fund through the Community Foundation of Ottawa, 75 Albert St., Ottawa, Ont., K1P 5E7. Tel: (613) 236-1616.