A life-size statue commemorating Jack Layton, the late leader of the federal opposition New Democrats and former city councillor, was unveiled on Toronto’s waterfront.
The day he died after a battle with cancer, Nathan Phillips Square in front of Toronto City Hall was transformed into a makeshift memorial for the NDP leader with hundreds of supporters scrawling messages in chalk on the square’s walls. Now, two years’ to the day later, this more permanent memorial was unveiled: a bronze statue of Mr. Layton on the back of a tandem bicycle. The Toronto ferry island terminal has also been renamed the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal.
The statue, entitled Jack’s got your back. Stronger Together: The Layton Memorial, was donated through approximately $350,000 of fundraising by the Ontario Federation of Labour. Sculptor David Pellettier worked closely with Mr. Layton’s widow, Member of Parliament Olivia Chow, to get the politician’s likeness just right.
The statue depicts Mr. Layton grinning on the back of a full-size tandem bicycle similar to one he owned. It was designed to invite people to hop on the front seat.
Ms. Chow, was on hand for the unveiling. She related memories of her late husband and the time they spent on Toronto island, where they were married in 1988.
“The Toronto island is truly a magical place,” she said to applause from the crowd of hundreds who attended the unveiling.
“In many years, after all of us are gone, this bronze sculpture will endure.”
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford also spoke, fondly recalling Mr. Layton and some advice he gave the mayor when they were both Toronto city councillors.
“I had the privilege as a rookie councillor to sit beside Jack for the first few years,” he said.
“He taught me an important lesson about politics. He said, ‘Rob, never take things personally. It’s politics.’ I’m still trying to learn that.”
Also attending were several city councillors, including Mr. Layton’s son, Mike Layton, as well as many of his family and friends. Mr. Layton explained the significance of the tandem bicycle as not only a cherished family item but a symbol of his father’s beliefs.
“A tandem bike is about co-operation: working towards a common goal. More ground can be covered when you’re working together,” he said. “That’s how he lived his life; He worked hard, he co-operated with others in his job and he had fun through it all.”