Canadians Mourn Loss of Opposition Leader

Jack Layton passed away Monday morning from complications with cancer

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Canadians mourned the loss of former leader of the opposition, Jack Layton, after it was announced he had passed away Monday morning. Layton was the leader of the New Democratic Party until he was forced to step down in July after his cancer prognosis took a turn for the worse. Layton was quite popular in Canada, especially among young people, and was well-respected by his peers. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported reactions to his death Monday, saying, "Friends and political foes alike praised Layton on Monday for his warmth, optimism and respect for opponents." Layton's NDP made huge strides in the last election to become the official opposition party for the first time, a development credited to Layton's popularity with Canadians.

Federal buildings flew flags at half-mast Monday, a testament to Layton's impact, as flags are only meant to fly at half-mast for the death of a head of state, the Prime Minister, or of a federal minister. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, of the Conservative Party, offered to have a state funeral held for Layton over the weekend.

A commenter on Metafilter relayed his story of meeting Jack back in 1993: he was a sophomore in college in Toronto, and a kid from the NDP party knocked on his door. He dismissed the kid quickly, stumping him with a question about politics. When the kid couldn't answer, he told the commenter, "hang on a minute, I'll go and get Jack." Let's let him take it away from here:
Five minutes later, another knock on the door, and it's Jack Layton. He introduces himself and I invite him into my shitty residence common space and he comes in and sits down and we have a ten-minute conversation. I'm 20, I'm a shitty kid that doesn't know anything about anything, and he comes in and sits down and treats me as seriously as a Fortune 500 CEO or a labour leader or whoever the hell.

On the way out, he gives me a tea towel with his picture printed on it, riding information, all that. I'm a bit baffled, and he says "I was thinking before the election of how wasteful all those posters are, and thought it might be a good idea if I gave people something useful for a change."
Layton wrote a final letter to Canadians, dated April 20, in the event he would lose his body to cancer. In the passage directed to young Canadians, Layon wrote, "All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.