The huge scope of the public turnout for Jack Layton's funeral is starting to take shape as more than 1,000 people flock to pay their respects just blocks away from where the New Democratic Party leader celebrated his historic election victory this spring.
Organizers say about 1,300 people passed through Toronto City Hall for the last two hours of public visitation Saturday as hundreds more lined up for their chance to attend the state funeral at Roy Thomson Hall.
Many of them waited overnight to make sure they were one of the several hundred to get wristbands, which were doled out early Saturday morning. An area with large video screens is also being set up behind the hall to accommodate the expected overflow crowd.
Veteran Rick Harrison, who spent much of Friday and overnight at Roy Thomson Hall, was first in line to get a coveted ticket to the state funeral.
The military veteran, who was also first in line to pay his respects to Mr. Layton at City Hall on Friday, says he felt compelled to attend.
“Jack would have done it for others, and would have wanted it that way,” said the visibly tired Harrison, his voice shaky.
Behind him was a couple from Parry Sound, Ont., who travelled to Toronto to show respect for someone they feel is a political hero.
Dianna Allen said Layton touched people personally.
“We really admired his leadership,” she said. “We wanted the world to know that he was truly loved and respected.”
“To me, he started the healing process for the country by bringing so many Quebec supporters back to a federal party.”
Mr. Layton died Monday at the age of 61, just weeks after revealing he had been diagnosed with an unspecified cancer.
Police were also in the process of moving into position to block downtown streets for the procession. Onlookers were lining the route, waiting behind barricades.
Mr. Layton's coffin will be brought to Roy Thomson Hall by a procession through downtown Toronto. It will be led by horse-mounted police, followed by pipe and drum bands and an honour guard.
Eulogies at the service will be delivered by humanitarian and New Democrat Stephen Lewis, the party's Karl Belanger and Mr. Layton's children Mike and Sarah.
The minister officiating at Jack Layton's state funeral today says it's all about celebrating the long-time politician's life. Rev. Brent Hawkes says he intends to deliver Layton's call that it's time to “roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
In keeping with Mr. Layton's wishes, those in attendance will be asked to write down something they'll do to make the world a better place.
The ceremony, expected to be more a celebration of life than a sombre remembrance, will be filled with music. Members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra open the service, followed by Richard Underhill with Van Morrison's “Into the Mystic.”
Mourners will also hear music by Bach and a choral performance during the processional, then “O Canada.” Steven Page, formerly of the Barenaked Ladies, will sing Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah.”
Parachute Club singer Lorraine Segato will sing her Juno-winning inspirational tune “Rise Up,” which she performed at his wedding to Olivia Chow in 1988.
State funerals are a mix of government protocol and public mourning. About 1,700 invitations were sent out for Mr. Layton's service at Roy Thomson Hall, which seats 2,500. Such funerals are a somewhat rare occurrence in Canada, with just 34 other state funerals hosted by the federal government since 1868.
Distinct elements of state funerals can vary, as the deceased person's family makes those decisions in consultation with the government. But they are by definition public funerals organized and administered by the government in co-ordination with the family.
State funerals generally include a lying-in-state, a procession and some military honours.
Normally they are accorded only to current and former prime ministers, current cabinet ministers and governors general, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper used his discretion to offer one to Mr. Layton's family.
Mr. Layton's death on Monday touched off an extraordinary outpouring of national grief, not often seen in Canada.
Thousands of people have lined up for hours for the chance to spend a few seconds paying their respects at his lying-in-state, split between Parliament Hill in Ottawa and Toronto City Hall, where Mr. Layton began his career as a city politician.
People have set up makeshift memorials at his Toronto home and constituency office, often marked by orange flowers, the colour associated with the New Democratic Party.
Cans of Orange Crush have been left by the public to symbolize the wave that swept the NDP to Official Opposition status in the May 2 federal election.
Heartfelt messages in tribute to Mr. Layton are still being scrawled in coloured chalk all over the grounds of City Hall.
Niagara Falls, an iconic symbol of Canada, will be illuminated in orange at various times Saturday night and the CN Tower will also be to be lit in orange from sundown Saturday until sunrise Sunday in honour of the late NDP leader.
The man who inspired so many across the country will have three final resting places. Some of his ashes will be planted along with a memorial tree at the cemetery affiliated with Wyman United Church in Hudson, Que., where Mr. Layton was raised.
The family plot includes Mr. Layton's grandparents, John and Constance Steeves, and his father Robert Layton.
Mr. Layton's ashes will also be scattered on the Toronto Islands, where Mr. Layton married his wife MP Olivia Chow in 1988. A memorial tree will also be planted at the site on the islands.
The remaining ashes will be buried at the St. James Cemetery in Toronto, not far from where he and Ms. Chow lived.
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