Most of my American friends probably won’t have heard of the Honourable Jack Layton, but his passing is sending shock waves across Canada. For the last several years, he has been the leader and the face of our “New Democratic Party”: the NDP. Although the group has been around for years, it has always been considered our “third” party: doing well enough to have representatives in parliament for years, but always behind the Liberals and the Conservatives. Mr. Layton’s talents and finesse helped to be able to move them forward to become our “official opposition” in the last election: the party that holds the the second-most votes. They’re the ones who challenge the government and point out what they’re doing wrong.
I was looking forward to the next few years, hearing Mr. Layton fight with our current Prime Minister. Jack has always displayed the kinds of values that I appreciate: and he’s not afraid to talk about them. If anyone was to challenge the Canadian government in a way that it needed to be challenged, I hoped it would be him.
Less than a month ago, he took a leave of absence in order to be treated for cancer. A year and a half ago he had announced that he was suffering from prostate cancer; but it never seemed to interrupt his work. He never got to actually act as leader of the opposition, although he knew that his party had earned him that right; Parliament does not re-convene until September.
Myself, I remember meeting Mr. Layton at one of the Pride events in 2009. Some of my friends asked me to get pictures of them together. I remember thinking I would probably be at some other event where I could get a picture with him. It did not occur to me to think of how fragile life is at that moment. It seems ironic to me that Mr. Layton, who was always fighting for environmental and social causes should die so young.
The deputy of the NDP Party, Libby Davies, has said: “He was a great Canadian. He gave his life to this country. His commitment to social justice and equality and a better Canada in the world and at home. I think that’s how people saw him… They saw the courage that he had. He faced cancer and he kept on working, doing his job, because he felt so strongly about what he believed in.” (The Star, 2011)
David Jacobson, the American Ambassador to Canada, said similarly: “I will never forget the image of Jack campaigning as the happy warrior. His energy, enthusiasm and passion for politics and for the Canadian people were undeniable. Something I will never forget. A standard for all of us.” (CBC, 2011)