Rémy Beauregard, president of the government-funded advocacy group Rights & Democracy, died yesterday after a contentious board meeting that saw a prominent board member walk out in disgust.
Mr. Beauregard died at his Toronto home in his sleep of an apparent heart attack. He was 66.
His death comes at a time when the Montreal-based organization he led was growing bitterly divided. Sources close to the commission say that a recent round of appointments to the board by the Conservative government had dramatically altered the organization's direction.
The sources say the change was placing Mr. Beauregard under increasing stress. Votes on the board were consistently seven to six, with the new appointments forming the narrow majority and Mr. Beauregard on the other side.
At a meeting Thursday in Toronto, the board voted not to reappoint one of its international members, Guido Riveros Franck, and voted not to provide three-year funding for a program to aid victims of sexual violence in Congo.
These came on the heels of a dispute over a decision, made a year earlier, to fund a non-governmental organization that some board members argued was connected to pro-Palestinian terrorist organizations. The board also passed a motion freezing a fund that the president could use to respond to crisis situations overseas.
It was during Thursday's meeting that Sima Samar, the chair of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and former deputy president of Afghanistan in Hamid Karzai's 2001 interim government, signalled her intention to resign over the conduct of fellow board members and walked out.
She was joined by Payam Akhavan, a McGill University law professor and former legal adviser to the International Criminal Tribunals on Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Both were allies of Mr. Beauregard.
Aurel Braun, chair of the Rights & Democracy board and a University of Toronto professor, would not comment on any of the issues affecting the board, but offered his condolences to Mr. Beauregard's family.
"All I can say at this point is that this is a very tragic event and we are all very shocked and very saddened," Prof. Braun said. "Individually and collectively we deeply feel the loss of this man. Our thoughts are very much with his family."
Mr. Beauregard, a former executive director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, was appointed by the Conservatives in June of 2008 to a five-year term.