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Messages, flowers and other mementos are left at the Centennial Flame as people pay tribute to NDP leader Jack Layton, on Aug. 22, 2010, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, where a makeshift memorial has been forming after Mr. Layton died early Monday.FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A state funeral will be held Saturday at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto for NDP leader Jack Layton, an honour that is not usually given to opposition leaders.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, however, made the offer of a state funeral to Mr. Layton's widow, Olivia Chow, who is also a Toronto NDP MP. She accepted.

Mr. Layton's body is expected to lie in state on Parliament Hill this week. This would give even more Canadians an opportunity to pay tribute to Mr. Layton's life.

In a statement Monday, the Prime Minister's communications director Dimitri Soudas explained that the government's practice since Confederation has been "to offer a state funeral to current and former governors general, current former prime ministers and ministers of cabinet."

But a special exception was made in Mr. Layton's case.

"It is possible for the Prime Minister ... to accord the honour of a state funeral to other eminent Canadians, should it be deemed appropriate," Mr. Soudas said. "Prime Minister Harper has exercised his discretion and has offered Ms. Chow a state funeral for Jack Layton."

Canadians, he added, will "have an opportunity to salute Jack Layton's contribution to public life as well as offer their heartfelt condolences, their thoughts and prayers to Mr. Layton's family."

More details are expected in the coming days.

Mr. Layton died Monday morning, after succumbing to cancer. He was 61. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked Canadians to donate to the Broadbent Institute.