A think tank founded to advance Jack Layton’s social-democratic ideals is asking Canadians to share their thoughts about how the former NDP leader’s final message of love, hope and optimism has affected their lives.
Mr. Layton, whose fight with cancer forced him to step away from politics a year ago Wednesday, died on Aug. 22 2011, leaving behind a letter to Canadians that ended with the words: “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.”
In his memory, the Broadbent Institute has established a social media internet site at DearJack.ca where people who were moved by that message can post their thoughts in words, pictures or video. Tweets featuring the hashtags #dearjack and #cherjack will also appear on the site and there will be a Dear Jack Facebook page.
Mr. Layton’s family and friends will then attend a ceremony at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square on the anniversary of his death where multimedia highlights from the Dear Jack initiative will be screened.
Mike Layton, Mr. Layton’s son who is a Toronto city councillor, said the family wanted the anniversary of his father’s passing to be marked by his message of optimism.
“That was clearly what resonated so strongly with Canadians across the country,” he said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “And we wanted to make sure that people were able to rekindle that spirit and put the focus back on what they have done in the past year, what do they want to do to continue on.”
Olivia Chow, Mr. Layton’s widow who is also a New Democrat MP, said in a statement that her husband proved that being compassionate and loving in politics can and will lead to success. “I’ve seen Canadians across the country embrace Jack’s message,” said Ms. Chow. “I’m excited to see his legacy recognized through DearJack.ca,”
Mr. Layton’s death came just months after he led his party to the benches of the Official Opposition for the first time in its history. The federal election of last spring saw the NDP climb from 37 to 103 seats based on a surge in Quebec that was largely attributed to Mr. Layton’s own personal popularity.
Although he started that campaign limping from hip surgery, Mr. Layton seemed to rebound in the weeks before the vote. But the cancer caught up to him shortly after he moved into Stornoway, the residence of the leader of the Official Opposition, and on July 25, he handed the leadership of the New Democrats over to rookie MP Nycole Turmel on what he hoped would be an interim basis. He passed away less than a month later.
Kathleen Monk the Executive Director of the Broadbent Institute said the family was deeply moved by the outpouring of grief and respect expressed by Canadians after Mr. Layton died and the tributes have continued throughout the past year.
“We wanted to have one central forum where people could share and express how Jack’s vision is still living on in their lives,” said Ms. Monk.
The tributes are meant to be non-partisan, she said. “Obviously Jack was the leader of the NDP, there is no denying that. But I think his message and his letter and his fight with cancer and his success, and the campaigns that he ran really reached out and touched a broader audience.”