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Beverly Faye Desjarlais (August 19, 1955 – March 15, 2018) was a Canadian politician. She represented Churchill in the House of Commons of Canada from 1997 to 2006, initially as a New Democrat and later as an Independent after losing her party nomination in late 2005. She had lost the confidence of the NDP after she had voted against the Civil Marriage Act, legalizing same-sex marriage in Canada. She later worked as a departmental aide to Conservative Veterans Affairs Minister Greg Thompson.[1]

Bev Desjarlais
Member of Parliament
for Churchill
In office
June 2, 1997 – January 23, 2006
Preceded byElijah Harper
Succeeded byTina Keeper
Personal details
Beverly Faye Nowoselsky

(1955-08-19)August 19, 1955
Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
DiedMarch 15, 2018(2018-03-15) (aged 62)
Brandon, Manitoba, Canada
Political partyIndependent (2005 - 2006)
New Democratic Party (1997 - 2005)
Spouse(s)Robert Desjarlais (divorced)
ResidenceThompson, Manitoba

Her ex-husband, Bob Desjarlais, is a prominent labour leader in northern Manitoba, who campaigned for Mayor of Thompson in 2006.

Early life and careerEdit

Desjarlais was born in Regina, Saskatchewan. She graduated from Bert Fox Composite High School in 1973, and held several positions at the General Hospital in Thompson, Manitoba over the next twenty-four years. At the time of her election, she was a ward clerk.[2] Desjarlais has also been a union steward with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and is a member of Canadian Parents for French.

Her political career began in 1992, when she was elected as a trustee for the Mystery Lake School Division. She became Chair of the Board in 1994, and served until her election to Parliament in 1997.[3]

Member of ParliamentEdit

New Democratic Party MPEdit

Desjarlais challenged Liberal incumbent Elijah Harper for the Churchill riding in the 1997 federal election. Although Harper had gained national fame in 1990 for blocking passage of the Meech Lake Accord, he was not a prominent Member of Parliament. Desjarlais won by 2,764 votes, and joined twenty other New Democrats on the opposition benches. Her opposition to the Canadian gun registry was likely a contributing factor to her victory, as the registry was unpopular in rural Manitoba.[4]

She held several official responsibilities in the 36th Canadian parliament, including serving as her party's critic for housing and the Treasury Board.[5] In the latter capacity, she was a prominent supporter of pay equity policies to benefit Canadian women. Desjarlais was also chosen as her party's representative on the Commons Transport Committee, and held this position for several years.[6] She defeated Harper again in the 2000 election, and was appointed NDP Industry Critic in the following parliament.[7]

In 2001, she participated in a military training exercise to educate parliamentarians about the Canadian Forces. Desjarlais joined the Canadian Air Force for a week, and took part in a search and rescue exercise in Northern Ontario.[8] She later supported fellow Manitoba MP Bill Blaikie's campaign to become NDP leader in 2002-03.[9] Blaikie finished second against Jack Layton.

Desjarlais was re-elected in the 2004 election over a strong challenge from Liberal candidate Ron Evans. After the election, she was named NDP critic for Transport, Crown Corporations and the Canadian Wheat Board. In early 2005, former Assembly of First Nations National Chief Ovide Mercredi announced that he would challenge Desjarlais for the NDP nomination in Churchill.[10] He later withdrew the challenge.

Policy viewsEdit

Desjarlais was one of the most socially conservative members of the federal NDP, and when in caucus was its most socially conservative member. She was the only New Democrat to vote against the Civil Marriage Act (Bill C-38), which legalized same-sex marriage in Canada, on its third and final reading in 2005. Her position placed her in conflict with both official NDP policy and party leader Jack Layton, who described same-sex marriage as a human rights issue and ruled that caucus members would not be permitted a free vote on matters of equality.[11]

Desjarlais argued that her position was based on personal religious convictions, and was not grounded in homophobia.[12] She acknowledged as early as 2003 that opposing same-sex marriage was contrary to NDP policy, and accepted that "discipline may take place" as a result.[13] She was stripped of her shadow cabinet posts after the 2005 vote.[14]

On other issues, her views were closer to official NDP policy. She is a strong defender of the rights of labour and public health care, and supports the principle of aboriginal self-government.[15]

Independent MPEdit

On October 17, 2005, Desjarlais lost the Churchill NDP nomination to Niki Ashton, daughter of Manitoba cabinet minister Steve Ashton, in a vote of the membership of the Churchill NDP riding association.[16] She resigned from the NDP caucus on the same day, and announced she would run as an Independent in the next federal election[17] She acknowledged that her position on same-sex marriage was a prominent factor in her defeat.

Desjarlais was endorsed on January 5, 2006 by Vote Marriage Canada, a group which opposes same-sex marriage.[18] She finished third, behind Ashton and winning Liberal candidate (and North of 60 star) Tina Keeper.

After defeatEdit

After her defeat, Desjarlais took a job in Ottawa as Director of Parliamentary Affairs in the office of Greg Thompson, Minister of Veterans' Affairs in the Conservative government of Stephen Harper.[19] The reaction from her former NDP colleagues was mixed. Caucus Chair Judy Wasylycia-Leis described her decision as "mind-boggling and very disappointing", and commented that it was "hard to understand how Bev could have gone from being an active New Democrat to actually supporting and upholding the Stephen Harper agenda". Veterans Affairs critic Peter Stoffer said that Desjarlais had always worked well with MPs of all parties, and that she and Thompson would "work well together".[20]

She died in Brandon, Manitoba on March 15, 2018.[21][22]

Electoral recordEdit

2006 Canadian federal election: Churchill
Party Candidate Votes % Expenditures
Liberal Tina Keeper 10,157 40.68 $75,179.50
New Democratic Niki Christina Ashton 7,093 28.41 $70,290.02
     Independent Bev Desjarlais 4,283 17.16 $23,042.68
Conservative Nazir Ahmad 2,886 11.56 $23,875.20
Green Jeff Fountain 401 1.61 $2,837.23
     Independent Brad Bodnar 146 0.58 $68.69
Total valid votes 24,966 100.00
Total rejected ballots 90
Turnout 25,056 55.70
Electors on lists 44,982
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.
2004 Canadian federal election: Churchill
Party Candidate Votes % Expenditures
New Democratic Bev Desjarlais 8,612 43.44 $45,503.18
Liberal Ron Evans 7,604 38.35 $61,955.23
Conservative Bill Archer 2,999 15.13 $10,398.38
Green C. David Nickarz 612 3.09 $646.91
Total valid votes 19,827 100.00
Total rejected ballots 88
Turnout 19,915 41.40
Electors on lists 48,106
Percentage change figures are factored for redistribution. Conservative Party percentages are contrasted with the combined Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative percentages from 2000.
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.
2000 Canadian federal election: Churchill
Party Candidate Votes % Expenditures
New Democratic Bev Desjarlais 10,477 44.94 $41,854.47
Liberal Elijah Harper 7,514 32.23 $55,871.45
Alliance Jason Shaw 4,126 17.70 $7,444.04
     Progressive Conservative Doreen Murray 1,198 5.14 $2,722.40
Total valid votes 23,315 100.00
Total rejected ballots 98
Turnout 23,413 51.05
Electors on lists 45,860
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.
1997 Canadian federal election: Churchill
Party Candidate Votes % Expenditures
New Democratic Bev Desjarlais 9,616 41.17 $45,525
Liberal Elijah Harper 6,852 29.33 $59,373
Reform Corky Peterson 4,438 19.00 $11,803
     Progressive Conservative Don Knight 2,452 10.50 $10,729
Total valid votes 23,358 100.00
Total rejected ballots 158
Turnout 23,516 50.25
Electors on lists 46,801
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.
1992 Manitoba municipal elections, Mystery Lake School Division Trusteesedit
Candidate Total votes % of total votes
(x)Stan Franklin elected .
Bev Desjarlais elected .
Fred MacLean elected .
Gary McMillan elected .
(x)Margaret Pronyk elected .
(x)Ana Rodriguez elected .
(x)Morgan Svendsen elected .

Desjarlais was re-elected to the Mystery Lake School Division in 1995.

All electoral information is taken from Elections Canada. Italicized expenditures refer to submitted totals, and are presented when the final reviewed totals are not available. The list of winning candidates from 1992 is taken from the Winnipeg Free Press, 30 October 1992.

Table of offices heldEdit

Preceded by
Elijah Harper
Member of Parliament for Churchill
Succeeded by
Tina Keeper
Preceded by
Gary McMillan
Chair of the Mystery Lake School Division
Succeeded by
Stan Franklin
Preceded by
Stan Franklin, Margaret Pronyk, Ana Rodriguez, Morgan Svendsen, Ed Isaac, Paul Power and Richard Whidden
Mystery Lake School Division Trustee (with Stan Franklin and Morgan Svendsen (1992-1997), and Fred MacLean, Gary McMillan, Margaret Pronyk and Ana Rodriguez (1992-1995))
Succeeded by
Stan Franklin, Morgan Svendsen and five others


  1. ^ Bill Curry, "NDP shocked to find ex-MP in Tory post", Globe and Mail, 16 March 2006.
  2. ^ Helen Fallding, "Alliance grabs Grits' remaining rural seat", Winnipeg Free Press, 28 November 2000, B3 and Bud Robertson, "Rural Liberals take hit", Winnipeg Free Press, 3 June 1997, B3.
  3. ^ Canada Votes 2006, Churchill, Bev Desjarlais biography.
  4. ^ Robertson, "Rural Liberals". Desjarlais was quoted as saying, "Guns are a way of life here. People still hunt and trap for their food."
  5. ^ "Petition backs native housing", Globe and Mail, 28 May 1999, A9; Bill Redekop, "Women celebrate pay equity win", Winnipeg Free Press, 30 October 1999, A1.
  6. ^ "Collenette may stiffen merger rules", Globe and Mail, 22 October 1999, B3.
  7. ^ Valerie Lawton, "Small caucus means NDP members face big workload", Toronto Star, 23 January 2001, p. 1.
  8. ^ Jane Taber, "Canadian MPs on guard for free", National Post, 1 October 2001, A03.
  9. ^ "Winnipeg MP Bill Blaikie expected to seek NDP leadership Monday", Winnipeg Free Press, 14 June 2002. Desjarlais was quoted as saying, "I am a strong supporter of Bill Blaikie. He has years of experience and I think it was something that we were missing in the party leadership."
  10. ^ James Gordon, "Former Chief Mercredi keen to challenge rebel NDP MP", National Post, 14 April 2005, A6.
  11. ^ Kim Lunman, "Layton warns NDP maverick", Globe and Mail, 9 September 2003, A5.
  12. ^ Mary Agnes Welch, "Northerners lament years of neglect", Winnipeg Free Press, 24 June 2004, A14.
  13. ^ "Manitoba NDP MP intends to break party ranks over same-sex unions", Canadian Press, 9 September 2003, 22:05 report.
  14. ^ Paul Samyn, "Vote puts NDP MP in leader's bad books", Winnipeg Free Press, 30 June 2005, A3.
  15. ^ Gloria Galloway, "Objections to 18-hour day a surprise, minister says", Globe and Mail, 9 November 2004, A4; Dennis Bueckert, "Government engulfed by furor over private-sector health care", Canadian Press, 28 April 2004, 17:01 report; "New First Nations act lambasted by critics", Winnipeg Free Press, 19 March 2003, B4.
  16. ^ Bill Curry, "MP who broke ranks loses NDP nomination", Globe and Mail, 18 October 2005, A6.
  17. ^ "Manitoba MP will sit as an independent after losing NDP nomination", Canadian Press, 17 October 2005, 21:00 report.
  18. ^ "Vote Marriage Canada endorses three pro-marriage candidates", Canada NewsWire, 5 January 2006, 05:03 report.
  19. ^ Lloyd Mackey, "OttawaWatch: Navigate an interface; pilot a project", (accessed 9 March 2006).
  20. ^ Curry, "NDP shocked".
  21. ^!/Obituary
  22. ^

External linksEdit