Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Supporters show lasting love for 'Jack'

Anniversary of Layton's death marked

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In the world of Canadian politics, he was known as the man who led his party to historic wins during the last federal election, but to the hundreds who gathered to honour him a year after he died, he was remembered simply as "Jack."

Events were staged across Canada Wednesday to mark the anniversary of Jack Layton's death from cancer, which came just three months after the New Democrats had seized a triumphant electoral breakthrough and gained official Opposition party status -- a first in the NDP's 50-year history.

Layton was 61.

The largest gathering to celebrate the late federal NDP leader took place in Toronto, where he had lived and served as a high-profile city councillor before moving to federal politics in 2003.

His wife, Toronto NDP MP Olivia Chow, said she was touched by the hundreds of people, including Canadian musicians, actors and politicians, who came out to celebrate her late husband's life.

"Jack would've loved this," she said to the cheering crowd, many of whom were wearing orange, the colour of the NDP. "Wow, he would have."

Throughout the day, numerous chalk messages in Layton's memory -- which spoke of hope and inspiration -- were scrawled on the walls and the ground at Nathan Phillips Square, outside Toronto's city hall.

The messages were accompanied by bouquets of flowers, cards and cans of Orange Crush -- the nickname given to the NDP's electoral sweep in Quebec in May 2011.

The scene was reminiscent of the outpouring of grief observed following Layton's death a year ago.

Chow added the words "alive in our hearts" to the growing chalk tribute, which had spread across the square.

She said her husband believed in the goodness in people, social justice and the ability to make the world a better place. Chow urged the crowd to carry on his causes.

"He said in his final letters to all of us, 'I believe in you,' " she said. "He called on all of us to pick up his torch and I know in my heart that you have and you will."

Layton's son, Toronto city councillor Mike Layton, said his father would have wanted people to stop grieving and start getting involved in his vision.

"The one thing that a celebration like this has is it can give you that support, and it sort of feels like there's other people in the same position, saying 'You know what, Jack left us, we're sad, but he left us with a vision and such a positive message of love, hope and optimism,' that it makes you feel not so alone," he said.

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the turnout at events honouring Jack Layton showed how much his message resonated with people.

"Jack was somebody who not only shook a person's hand, but pulled them in for a hug and bothered to have a conversation," she said. "He was really about connecting with people. And today that's what he would be doing if he was here."

Gatherings to remember the popular politician ranged from picnics to pub nights across the country, from Smithers, B.C., to Charlottetown.

In Ottawa, tributes to Layton took on an unapologetically partisan tone as he was remembered on Parliament Hill.

His political causes -- and their ongoing pursuit -- were front and centre as a small crowd gathered under the shadow of the Peace Tower to memorialize the man who led his party to a historic highpoint.

"I miss him dearly, but he would be telling us all right now to roll up those sleeves, get to work and get moving with making a difference," NDP MP Paul Dewar told several dozen Layton admirers.

-- The Canadian Press

Local admirers

gather for tribute

DOZENS of Winnipeggers gathered in the humid space of the Lo Pub Wednesday evening to remember the Jack Layton legacy.

One of love, hope and optimism, as organizer David Jacks pointed out during opening remarks.

"Jack's message is going to keep rallying us," he said before passing the microphone to former Winnipeg North MP and the event's host, Judy Wasylycia-Leis.

"Yeah, it's a bit about the person," said Wasylycia-Leis of Layton, "but it's much more than that. It's about how to change the world, about a legacy that's based on values."

The event included a video compilation of Layton that drew inspiration, laughter and a few tears from an audience who once were supporters, colleagues and friends. There was a recording of a song by the 12-year-old son of Gimli MLA Peter Bjornson with lyrics about love conquering anger and hope conquering fear.

Wolseley MLA Rob Altemeyer, who spoke at the event, defined Stephen Harper's ideology as "foreign" before reading a letter Layton wrote on Aug. 20, 2011, two days before he died.

MP Pat Martin briefly spoke about continuing Layton's legacy and Rebecca Blaikie, president of the NDP, spoke last, ending with a message about moving beyond naysayers and the potential for an NDP government.

-- Kristy Hoffman

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 23, 2012 A7

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