Early yesterday morning Canadians lost a great leader and advocate when the Honorable Jack Layton lost his battle with cancer.
For my non-Canadian readers, a bit of background: Layton was the leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, a perennial third (sometimes even fourth) rung party which in our recent election he elevated to Official Opposition status for the first time ever.
I had the good fortune to meet Jack, along with his MP wife Olivia Chow, and hear him speak several times at anti-Iraq war rallies in 2002-03. It was one of my first introductions to the political world as a young student, and I was encouraged, inspired and impressed by him.
Jack was a tireless crusader for many causes, and unlike many politicians it wasn't just talk.
He wrote the book on homelessness in Canada, literally, with the publication of Homelessness: The Making and Unmaking of a Crisis in 2000.
He co-founded the White Ribbon Campaign, encouraging men to take responsibility for ending violence against women.
He and Olivia showed their support for the queer community, as well as their commitment to the environment by riding their tandem bicycle in the Toronto Pride Parade each year.
Besides his causes, he was known for many things: his big personality, penchant for sing-alongs, his infamous and unmistakable moustache, wearing jeans to city hall as a city counsellor, and a sense of humour about himself.
|Layton and Chow at a 1991 Star Trek Convention. (!!!)|
Source: all over the interwebs.
I realize I’m at risk of rambling here, because the fact is I just can’t stop thinking about how this man’s life seems to have been cut short. I guess that’s what cancer does sometimes.
Committed to the end, Layton wrote an open letter to Canadians days before his death. Many have quoted it online already, but he must have known these closing lines would become part of his legacy:
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.