Like millions of Canadians, my heart was crushed on Monday when I heard the news that Jack Layton, the Official Opposition Leader had passed away.
We all knew that he was declining quickly from cancer. Though he'd successfully treated his prostate cancer following a 2010 diagnosis, the cross-country federal election he ran this past spring took its toll. In leading his party to an historic, political-landscape-changing victory, Jack Layton developed another undisclosed form of cancer, from which he did not recover.
On the day of his passing, Layton's family released a letter to a nation in mourning. Here are thirteen excerpts from this astounding gesture - so typical of a man I've admired since I moved to Toronto in the mid-80s.
1 - "Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.
2 - Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.
3 - I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.
4 - To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future.
5 - My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.
6 - To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party. Our cause is much bigger than any one leader. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.
7 - To the members of our parliamentary caucus: It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.
8 - To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided to work together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.
9 - To young Canadians: 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. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.
10 - And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity.
11 - Your vote matters. Working for change can actually bring about change.
12 - Consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.
13 - My friends, 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."
Jack Layton's family have asked for donations in lieu of flowers be made to the Broadbent Institute.
"Drawing on contracted studies and volunteer work, the small, Ottawa-based organization will pursue the development of social democracy through research, education and training. It will rely on private fundraising." - Les Whittington, Toronto Star