Jack Layton (July 18, 1950 – August 22, 2011) ... an embodiment of hope
- A book tribute to Jack Layton has been released: "Hope is Better than Fear", an essay collection in electronic format
- Jack Layton honoured with statue and ferry terminal:
Voice to the powerless. He spoke from the heart. A kind and decent soul. Principles of compassion, fairness and equality. An open, honest and compassionate leader. Relentless in his convictions. Tireless in his efforts to change life for the better. A consensus builder.
These are things said of a savior, rarely a politician.
But that's how Canadians remember the Honorable Jack Layton, Leader of the Official Opposition. Smiling Jack. Jack of Hearts. Champion of positive politics.
Naturally we expect Jack's funeral to be inspirational.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper graciously offered a state funeral to Jack's widow, Olivia Chow.
It is fitting that a man of the people should be celebrated by all. And regardless of color, beliefs and social status many want to take part.
Since his sudden passing on Monday, August 22, 2011 the outpouring of sorrow across the country has not paused. We have never witnessed collective mourning at this scale. Some may say it is exaggerated false sentiment. Though a few experts say it is not surprising.
It may have been triggered by his lengthy and moving letter to Canadians written 2 days before his passing.
When the well wishers who stood in line for hours to get a glimpse of his flag-draped casket were asked what they think of Jack, they said:
"I wanted to come and pay tribute to a wonderful Canadian that I never got a chance to vote for but whom I respected and admired his passion."
"He cared about everyone regardless of political stripe."
"He's the best prime minister we never had."
"I didn't know him personally, but I feel like I lost a friend."
News links have reported vigils held across the country -- Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Halifax and of course Toronto to name only a few.
Maybe he knew how to stir the masses. Maybe his accelerated decline in health struck a chord in all of us. Maybe his sudden end just as he approached the pinnacle of his career gave us a jolt. Maybe it is the loss of someone who we knew stood up for our needs. Maybe his parting marks a milestone for the idealist hippie generation. It could be all the above, or something else. Essentially we know that the world lost a good guy who happened to be a politician.
Though it may sound mythological perhaps Jack's death may serve as a transformational force. Jack's hope was to unify diverse Canada. Maybe we can accomplish that. We already agree it is a goal worth achieving.
It will take some time to get used to a world without Jack. But we must go on.
Rest in peace, Mr. Layton. You gave it your all.
SUMMARY OF JACK
Born July 18, 1950 in Montreal, Quebec, John Gilbert "Jack" Layton grew up in the small town of Hudson, Quebec.
Layton had politics in his blood.
His great-granduncle, William Steeves, was a Father of Confederation.
His grandfather, Gilbert Layton, was a cabinet minister in the Union Nationale government of Maurice Duplessis in Quebec, and resigned due to the provincial government's lack of support for Canadian participation in World War II.
His father, Robert Layton, was a Liberal Party activist in the 1960s and 1970s, and served as a Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) and Cabinet minister in the 1980s.
Layton studied political science at McGill University, and in 1969, at age 19, he married his high school sweetheart Sally Halford, with whom he had two children, Sarah and Mike. In 1970, he moved to Toronto and his family to attend York University. Layton and Halford's marriage ultimately ended in 1983 after 14 years. He was awarded a Ph.D. in Political Science from York University with a specialty in economic public policy in 1984.
In 1974, he became a tenured professor at Ryerson Polytechnic University, and has taught at both York and the University of Toronto.
He first entered politics in 1982 when he was elected to Toronto City Council. He ran unsuccessfully twice for a federal seat.
Layton has served as Acting Mayor and Deputy Mayor and chair of several committees, including: Chair of the Toronto Board of Health, Chair of the Economic Development and Planning Committee of Metro, Chair of Metropolitan Toronto's Planning and Transportation Committee, the Advisory Committee on Homeless and Socially Isolated Persons, Member of the Greater Toronto Services Board.
As a six-term Toronto city councilor, he spearheaded innovative public projects such as Canada’s first municipally-sponsored AIDS strategy, which became a nationwide model.; The Healthy Cities model, adopted by the WHO; an urban wind turbine; and The White Ribbon Campaign of men speaking out against violence against women.
As head of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, he helped launch successful initiatives like the Green Infrastructure Fund to help cities clean up their air and water; and innovative ideas on how to address homelessness.
His company, the Green Catalyst Group, Inc., has helped organizations implement workable environmental solutions – work that won a United Nations award.
He has written several books, including Homelessness: The Making and Unmaking of a Crisis and, more recently, a book on general public policy, Speaking Out.
He has been married to Olivia Chow since July 1988. Layton first met Olivia Chow in 1985, during an auction held at a shopping mall (Village by the Grange) in Toronto's Chinatown, in which Jack was the auctioneer and Olivia was the translator for the Cantonese language observers.
On February 5, 2010, Layton announced that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He noted that his father Robert Layton had suffered from the same type of cancer 17 years before and recovered from it. His wife, Olivia Chow, had also battled thyroid cancer a few years before. He vowed to beat the cancer and said it would not interrupt his duties as member of Parliament or as leader of the NDP.
In 2011, Layton brought the New Democratic Party (NDP) of Canada to unprecedented heights. Canadians elected a record-breaking 103 New Democrat MPs, representing every part of the country. Layton became leader of the largest Official Opposition in 31 years—and the first formed by New Democrats. With 59 Quebec MPs, Layton’s team emerged not only as a credible government-in-waiting, but as a force for Canadian unity.
Following the 2011 federal election, a frail-looking, gaunt and hoarse-sounding Layton announced on July 25, 2011, that he would be taking a temporary leave from his post to fight an unspecified, newly diagnosed cancer. He was hoping to return as leader of the NDP upon the resumption of the House of Commons on September 19, 2011.
Jack Layton passed away at 4:45 am ET on August 22, 2011, at his home in Toronto.