State funeral for Layton to close downtown streets
Long lines of people wait to pay their respect to the Jack Layton at Toronto City Hall on Friday, Aug. 26, 2011. (Ryan Remiorz / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Thousands are expected to line downtown streets on Saturday to watch the state funeral for NDP Leader Jack Layton, causing some localized, temporary road closures in the downtown Toronto area.
The event will begin at 2 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall. With limited seating available for the general public, organizers will give bracelets to the first 600 people in line. The remaining 1,700 seats inside the Hall will be for family, friends and dignitaries including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The funeral cortege will use the following route as it leaves City Hall:
- west on Queen Street West
- south on University Avenue
- west on King Street West
- south on Simcoe Street and arriving at Roy Thomson Hall
Toronto police say there will be traffic disruptions in the area from noon to 5 p.m. There road closures will be bounded by:
- Bay Street to the east
- Queen Street West to the north
- Wellington Street to the south
- John Street to the west
Four large monitors will be set up in the square on the west side of Roy Thomson Hall so mourners without bracelets can still watch the service.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church at 73 Simcoe St., is directly across the street from the Hall and will also welcome people inside to watch a broadcast feed of the funeral.
Reverend Brent Hawkes will lead the service and former Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis will deliver the eulogy. Layton's children will also make statements.
Police recommend those individuals coming to the downtown core on Saturday afternoon use the TTC.
Layton died early Monday from an undisclosed form of cancer, although he had survived an earlier bout of prostate cancer. He was 61.
While Layton grew up in Hudson, Que., the son of a Progressive Conservative politician, he got his own start in elected politics after moving to Toronto.
Layton served a total of 18 years on City Council and Metro Council for Toronto. He married a fellow city councillor who would become a federal NDP MP -- Olivia Chow.
Layton ran for mayor twice and lost. He was also unsuccessful in his first two attempts for a federal NDP seat.
His federal political career began in earnest when he succeeded Alexa McDonough as party leader in 2003, winning a seat in Parliament in 2004 as MP for Toronto-Danforth.
In the May 2011 federal election, the NDP achieved unprecedented success under Layton's leadership, forming the official opposition by winning 103 seats.
Layton campaigned with a crutch and cane, as he was recovering from a broken hip.
But some of Layton's endearing qualities include his resilience, energy, optimism and general fighting spirit.
At Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square in front of City Hall, hundreds have left farewell messages saluting him for being an inspirational figure to them.
While the chalk was initially washed away by a storm that hit Toronto on Wednesday night, hundreds of condolences have been re-written. The city also has condolence books available for Torontonians to sign in City Hall's rotunda and at the East York Civic Centre until Saturday evening.
"Flags at City Hall, Metro Hall, East York Civic Centre, Etobicoke Civic Centre, North York Civic Centre and York Civic Centre are at half staff and will remain lowered until Saturday evening in respect for Mr. Layton," the city said on its website.
After the funeral has taken place on Saturday evening, the CN Tower will light up in NDP orange as one final honour to mark Layton's passing.
With files from CTV Toronto's John Musselman.