Canada’s pro-life community suffered the loss of a strong voice in Parliament with the October 1 resignation of Reform MP Sharon Hayes (Port Moody-Coquitlam).

Described by Campaign Life Coalition as “an outstanding defender of life and family in Parliament and in international affairs,” Hayes resigned to spend more time with her husband Douglas, who took ill last spring.

Mr. Hayes suffered a heart attack just days before the 1996 election was announced. Drugs used to treat the heart attack led to a brain hemorrhage and stroke, leaving Mr. Hayes in a coma for three days. The turn of events presented great difficulties for Hayes, who for a time was uncertain if her husband would survive.

Her husband’s health problems kept Hayes away from active campaigning during the election, but she managed to retain her seat with a 8,000 vote margin over her nearest competitor.

Hayes had hoped to combined her Parliamentary work with care of her husband, but she found the task impossible.

“My focus over the next few months will be on Doug’s rehabilitation,” Hayes told The Interim October 14. “It’s not as if he needs constant care, but he’ll need help over the next while to bring some stability to his life.”

Hayes said the heart attack, stroke and hemorrhage resulted in major brain injuries which will require extensive therapy. Mr. Hayes has overcome paralysis and has resumed walking and speaking, but he has been left with a vision impairment and some cognitive deficiencies. He will be unable to drive or to resume his work as a regional director with an insurance company.

Hayes said it is too early to think about future plans. “I’ll make those kinds of decisions when the time is right,” she said.

First elected to Parliament in October, 1993, Hayes soon gained a reputation as an advocate for the family and the unborn child. She argued for legislative changes that would provide tax relief for families choosing to raise their children without resorting to daycare services.

Hayes said a sense of unfinished business made her decision to resign that much more difficult. “It’s hard to make that kind of decision when you’ve made a commitment to your community – to the people who have supported you’re standing for election in the first place,” she said.

News of her resignation brought tributes from several quarters, including Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition.

“As much as we are disappointed at this turn of events, we recognize that your decision is perfectly in keeping with your record as an MP,” Hughes wrote to Hayes.

“Your activity since being elected has been a constant source of hope and encouragment for us, and all Canadians who care about the sanctity of marriage, and of human life itself.”

Reform and Opposition leader Preston Manning said Hayes’ decision to resign to care for her husband underscores her profound commitment to the family.

“In the House and in committee, Sharon Hayes was a tireless advocate for tax relief for families, protection for the unborn and the elderly, (and) protection of the family from violence and state interference,” Manning told the House.