Layton’s optimism remembered on anniversary of death
Published Wednesday, August 22, 2012 8:37AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 22, 2012 8:12PM EDT
A multi-coloured chalk tribute featuring messages of love, hope and optimism reappeared in Nathan Phillips Square, as Torontonians gathered to commemorate the one-year anniversary of NDP leader Jack Layton’s death on Wednesday.
The chalk messages were just part of a tribute to the late leader, which also featured well-known Canadian actors, musicians and politicians who remembered Layton, the man whose popularity carried the NDP to official Opposition status for the first time in history, just three months before he died of cancer on Aug 22, 2011.
Layton’s ashes were interred in Toronto’s Necropolis Cemetery during a private ceremony for Layton’s friends and family earlier on Wednesday.
The day was a tough one, said Layton’s son, Toronto Coun. Mike Layton, as he stood in the Nathan Phillips Square.
“It’s a sad day and an emotional day,” Mike Layton told CP24. “But it’s also a joyous day, to remember a message of love, hope and optimism. And that’s really special.”
Layton’s widow, NDP MP Olivia Chow, addressed the crowd, thanking all Canadians “for making it possible to get through this very tough year.”
“There were difficult days and traumatic moments. I’ve experienced times that have tried me to the core,” she said. “And each of those times I have had the loving embraces of so many of you.”
Speaker earlier to CP24, Chow said that Layton’s message of co-operation lived on, one year later.
She said she hoped people would remember Layton’s confidence in change and his efforts to unite, rather than divide.
“His faith and his belief that people can make a difference is a belief that there is this goodness inside us that, if we unleash it, is very powerful,” Chow said. “And unleash it in a way that connects with other people. That when we can really make change.”
The chalk messages that appeared Wednesday were reminiscent of the initial days after Layton’s death, when an outpouring of support consumed Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square for weeks, as supporters and mourners took over the park outside city hall, leaving mementos and writing tributes in chalk on walls and the ground.
Layton’s popularity was credited for leading an “Orange Crush” that led the NDP to record heights in the 2011 federal election and helped form the official Opposition.
Shortly after the election, Layton stepped down as party leader to focus on his fight with cancer.
Tom Mulcair, the current NDP leader, was also in Toronto Wednesday to remember Layton.
The NDP remains in a strong position, even without the man who led the party to Opposition status, Mulcair said.
“We’re optimistic, as Jack was. We’re also very hopeful and we want to bring a very positive message for the future,” Mulcair said. “We think that we can make Canada a better place, a fairer place for everyone, and that’s exactly what we’re going to continue to work on.”
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath paid her respects in Nathan Phillips Square Wednesday, remembering Layton as a friend and mentor who gave her much-needed advice.
Horwath told reporters that she can’t bring herself to remove the former leader’s number from her phone.
“I think that Jack could really give me some good advice right now,” Horwath said. “Many times, I wish that I could have just called him up. I mean, I would call him up, or he would call me up, and he’d say, ‘How’s my leader?’ and I’d say, ‘How’s my leader?’ and that was the way we would start our conversations. That’s a conversation I wish we were having now.”
Horwath also urged citizens to remember Layton’s good work and his belief that, together, change was possible.