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Even among his enemies, Jack Layton had a lot friends.
Political stripes of all colours faded early this week as the country mourned the death of the federal NDP leader, who demonstrated once again his ability to unite people.
Social media websites were swamped with remembrances for the 61 year-old politician, husband and father of two who passed away Aug. 22 from cancer.
Layton’s memory will be honoured at a state funeral, Saturday in Toronto — a rare honour usually reserved for former Prime Ministers, Governors General, or current members of cabinet.
Rising to federal politics via his role as a Toronto city councillor, Layton represented the riding of Toronto-Danforth. He led the party to official opposition status, winning a historic 103 seats in the recent spring election. Layton was married to fellow NDP Member of Parliament Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina).
Statements of condolence from regional politicians flooded in, Monday.
Conservative Kenora MP Greg Rickford said, “Jack was a fighter – committed to his constituents and to working for all Canadians. His commitment and contribution to public life were exceptional and will be sorely missed.”
Newly named NDP candidate in the upcoming provincial election, Sarah Campbell said Layton was an inspiration to all Canadians.
“His dedication to social justice and fairness in our society was unmatched,” said Campbell. “Even in his final days he was more concerned with the welfare of others than his own well- being.”
Nishnawbe Aski Grand Chief Stan Beardy says Layton demonstrated a deep concern for the future of First Nations people in Canada.
“As a politician, Jack was looked at as a friend to the people of Nishnawbe Aski,” said Beardy. “He was a strong leader that understood the social struggles facing First Nations. He understood our aspirations to create a stronger and more economically-sound future for our children. Jack will be greatly missed.”
In his final days, Layton penned an address to his party, to young Canadians to all Canadians, a plea to stay politically engaged and demand a society that shares its benefits more freely.
“Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity…. My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”
By Chris Marchand