Paul Lagace, the longtime executive director of Kamloops Immigrant Services, has died.
Lagace, who had cancer, died on Monday. He was 66 years old.
Lagace was also a retired member of the Canadian Armed Forces and spent time urging various federal governments to properly fund veteran’s benefits, such as in this December 2013 letter to KTW.
He also successfully challenged the Canadian National Defence Act and the Canadian Income Tax Act in written submissions before the Supreme Court of Canada.
Chris Buchner paid tribute to his friend Lagace on Facebook.
“Paul Lagace was my friend, a chosen brother, a mentor and a wise elder in my life,” Buchner wrote/ “He looked for joy and had a knack for finding it in places others overlooked or just couldn't see it. As much as he changed my path and life, he did the same and more for anyone and everyone he could. As a UN Peacekeeper and veteran community worker, he made a difference to many who too often 'fall through the cracks’ and believed they'd remain there. I lost count of the people who have shared stories of calling him in despair and him saying, "I'll be right there," regardless of time of day and distance needed to travel.”
Lagace was also a published author, penning the book Bullies in Power, about life as experienced by a family dealing with the challenges of poverty and racially motivated abusive authorities.
Lagace was the second of 12 children born on Jan. 31, 1954, in St. George, N.B., to Yvon and Jeannine Lagace. He joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1974 and spent time in Germany and the Middle East. In 1979, he arrived at the now-closed Mount Lolo Canadian Forces site near Kamloops.
Upon his retirement from the armed forces in 1994, Lagace used his education he pursued while in the service to begin working as an addictions counsellor at the Phoenix Centre. He followed that by working with the AIDS Society of Kamloops before becoming executive director of Kamloops Immigrant Services in 2009.
“Paul valiantly and diligently fought cancer for five years,” Buchner wrote in his tribute to Lagace. “It took him from us. Nobody who fights anything that hard ‘loses.’ His bravery and good humour defined him — along with his concern for those left behind — to the end.”
There has been no word yet on a date for a memorial service.