Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Jack Layton Commemoration

'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.'

These iconic words were left by Jack Layton (1950-2011) as a legacy to his family, friends, political colleagues and the wider public as he died in a battle with cancer early August 22nd.

'Jack', as he was known, will be remembered as a person who had the courage to speak out on social justice and equality at home and abroad. With honesty, sincerity, the ability to reach out and connect, along with a passion for life, he understood the nature of politics in society. He listened to people, spoke to them (not at them), often transcended party lines and was an advocate for all including the underdog. He had always thought of the best of people and generally was known as a common man's leader.

'Don't let anyone tell you that it can't be done', was one of his sayings in inspiring us in our work to make a better world.  He also reminded us 'to have a dream that is longer than a lifetime.'

His 30-year political career was highlighed at the end of his life. In the May 2, 2011 federal election, the New Democratic Party (NDP) under his leadership became the official opposition in the Canadian House of Commons with 103 seats. This was a phenomenal achievement considering that the NDP  had only 10 seats when Layton became the leader in 2002.

With his Caucus in Parliament, he insisted that all members should respect each other so as to bring about a new way of doing politics. Parliamentary civility was the process he sought to create, but it was being a doer that gave him an advantage as an effective politician.

Jack Layton inspired us all in the tradition of Tommy Douglas because he had optimism and hope for a better world. We can remember his legacy by working together to achieve the social goals of a more equalitarian and just society. Several years ago when Jack was in Victoria, British Columbia, he met Saul Arbess, Co-chair of the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative (CDPI) who related this story:

'I presented him personally with our proposal for a department of peace. He greeted me with his characteristic warmth and, with Canada already serving in a combat role in Afghanistan, said that we need a department of peace now more than ever. In 2007, he seconded a Motion in the House calling for such a department, as a follow up to the Private Members Bill, introduced by an NDP MP earlier that year.'

Jack is a model to many. His good deeds will be remembered as a template for action. A state funeral will be held in his honour in Toronto on August 27th. With great respect, love, hope and optimism we commemorate his life. 'And we'll change the world'.

Well done, Jack! The torch is now passed on to us to make life better and not to leave anyone behind.


  1. Jack's last words of love, hope, and optimism for changing the world in his letter to all Canadians is remarkable. Only a great soul (Mahatma)in the face of impending death could have such a testimony with equanimity and passion for others.

  2. I agree with all the people marking the passing of Jack Layton who express the idea that his death marks the passing of a great Canadian.

    Often what distinguishes people who achieve this recognition is the bringing about of a singular event, and the event remaining in the minds of Canadians being linked to the individual. It no doubt helps if the event is actually a benefit to the country and the people living in it.

    If we think back to confederation, universal health care, the concept of Canadian armed forces being "peacekeepers", the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the names for many of us follow without hesitation, John A McDonald, Tommy Douglas, Lester B Pearson, Pierre Elliot Trudeau...Jack Layton?

    To typifying Jack Layton's accomplishment as a singular event may not be as clearly evident, however it is none the less dramatic. He clearly and strongly supported the policies of the party of which he was leader.

    He was able bring these policies from the documents where they were stored, and bring them to light in the public eye. It took time, but as the last election demonstrated, the idea of what the NDP stands for is beginning to be understood.

    In Quebec it clearly resonated with voters, and in the rest of Canada, at least more than ever before.

    People can see that the principle of concern for the welfare of the general public is important. People understand that allowing self regulation by multi-national corporations who's only avowed principle is maximizing the bottom line is irresponsible. People can comprehend that the poor and disadvantaged, and indeed everyone, need protection from exploitation and suffering. The need for affordable and well supported education and health services are a benefit to all.

    Worker's rights, including those workers imported from poorer countries (itself a retrograde practice) are indeed rights and in a civilized country should not be bartered away to encourage industrial development. People are becoming more aware of these principles because Jack Layton was able to bring them to our attention in a manner that was clear, understandable, logical and sensible. That he was able to do this, clearly marks him as a Great Canadian. The evidence that he was able to do this, demonstrated in such a spectacular and totally unexpected way is truly extraordinary.

    That he almost incidentally, at the same time brought Quebec into Canadian federalism is an incredible bonus. The legacy Jack Layton has provided is truly something we can proudly cherish and thank him for in the years to come.

    Bob Ewashen,
    Creston BC

  3. Dear Koozma,

    It was inspiring to hear Jack Layton’slast words of hope and love on CBC radio broadcast here in Hawaii. Surely you and the Doukhobors helped to inspire him too. The world needs many more political leaders like him.

    Peace and Love,