A great man died today – Jack Layton was a hero to Canada’s Veterans. 1950-2011.

Jack Layton in his recent political campaign championed the cause of Canada’s veterans.  He recognized what the other two major political parties ignored: Canada’s debt to our veterans –for their sacrifice of life, limb and, in too many cases, mind, in carrying out peacekeeping and combat missions on Canada’s behalf around the world. His was a voice we looked forward to hearing in Parliament. It is with deep sadness that we have learned that Jack succumbed to cancer early this morning. His courage and spirit set a high bar for us all, but his inspiration can also become the driving force to carry on his purpose — to love Canada and Canadians. We all extend our condolences to Jack’s family, friends, constituents and all NDP party members. I hope that you veterans will leave your thoughts and comments in memory to Jack here at Homecoming Vets. BONNIE

CTV breaks the sad news closely followed by CBC


Jack Layton’s last letter to Canadians

CBC News

Posted: Aug 22, 2011 12:30 PM ET

Last Updated: Aug 22, 2011 1:51 PM ET


Toronto, Ontario

Dear Friends,

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.

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.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

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.

A few additional thoughts:

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. 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.

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 and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. 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.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. 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.

To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. 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.

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. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. 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. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. 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.

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. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and 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.

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.

All my very best,

Jack Layton




The way Lisa LaFlamme, CTV’s National Affairs Correspondent, saw Jack is the way our veterans will always remember him:

Lisa LaFlamme interviews Jack Layton on budget day, March 2011.

Lisa LaFlamme interviews Jack Layton on budget day, March 2011.

Lisa LaFlamme, CTV National Affairs Correspondent
Date: Mon. Aug. 22 2011 12:19 PM ET

Jack Layton was on the phone to his mum when I walked in his Parliament Hill office.

“Yes Mum, I ate some soup. I slept well.”

It was March, on the day of the federal budget. I listened to his side of a daily ‘how ya doing’ conversation between mother and son.

“I’m about to do an interview with Lisa LaFlamme,” he said then put his hand over the receiver to say: “My mum says hello.”

I was touched at how, on such an important day and under such obvious, physical frailty, he was eager to tell me how his mother was a news junkie and how the whole family had cheered when they heard I would move into Lloyd Robertson‘s chair in September.

Was this the politician in him talking — just trying to get me on his good side?

No. This was Jack. So natural and comfortable in his skin, not pretentious or self-absorbed. Just Jack. The guy you could sit with for hours and discuss everything from Tommy Douglas to Justin Bieber. Whether he was talking with someone who supported his politics or not, he loved a good debate, loved to be challenged, and loved his country.

So professional but so personal. That was Jack, and his office walls screamed it. They were covered with photos of family, his own famous father, and more photos of world leaders he had met.

He was happy to give me the who’s who of his wall of fame, leaning on his cane, unwilling to give in to the pain that he must have been feeling. Twice I saw him wince as he settled into a chair for the interview.

We discussed the politics of the day, the importance of the budget vote and his own dream for a better country. What struck me though, was our discussion about his own health. He was reluctant to reveal too much about his prognosis, unwilling to let it cloud the public’s perception of his ability to lead his party into another election, should one be necessary.

He admitted he was frustrated by the limitations cancer had so harshly imposed on him but determined not to let it influence his decision on whether he should support the budget. He would do, he said, what was right for the country.

A 15-minute interview turned into an hour and he was now late for the budget lockup. He wouldn’t reveal which way he was leaning but it was pretty clear he was trying to convince me that if anyone thought his health made him a weaker opponent, they were grossly underestimating his strength of mind.

Jack’s decision that day, ultimately led to an election call. I watched him on the campaign trail, cane in hand, or at times, waving in the air, and constantly asked myself where he found the strength. The answer, I think — his family and his passion. Not medicine enough for the long-term but enough to see this man reach an historic height: Leader of the Official Opposition.

Jack Layton was an inspiration to anyone suffering a debilitating disease, a daily reminder that it’s not over ’til it’s over, that even when the body falters, the mind is still vibrant and there is still a lot to say, change, and sing about. It’s a message even (maybe especially) the healthy should hear and heed also.

It is heartbreaking that Jack Layton achieved the greatest accomplishment, not just in his life, but NDP history and was only allowed to taste it ever so briefly. Never allowed to savour the victory or perhaps even unpack his boxes in Stornoway.

I’ve thought about that interview a lot over the last few months — it never aired until today. Canada has lost a leader and a genuinely good man.



About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
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