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Late NDP Leader Jack Layton Honoured With a Statue

A bronze statue of Jack Layton was unveiled this afternoon in front of the newly renamed Jack Layton Ferry Terminal.

A young man poses with Layton’s memorial while MP Olivia Chow addresses a crowd.

Eariler today, on the two-year anniversary of New Democrat leader Jack Layton’s death, the late politician got his first permanent, public memorial. The Toronto Island Ferry Terminal was renamed the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal, and, just in front of the terminal, a unique monument to Layton was unveiled.

Called, Jack’s Got Your Back. Stronger Together: The Layton Memorial, the monument is a bronze sculpture that depicts Layton on the back seat of a tandem bicycle. Toronto sculptor David Pelletier created the statue with design tips from Layton’s widow, Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow (who is herself a sculptor), to ensure that the features were accurate. The front seat is open, to encourage people to sit and take photos.

“I actually was in the back. I had Jack’s back,” Chow laughed during her speech to a crowd of dignitaries and reporters. She described how she and Jack would ride tandem everywhere.

“Now,” she said, “he has your back.”

Layton, Chow and their family members were known to ride tandem bicycles throughout Toronto and on family trips. “When you ride together, you’re stronger, faster. You move forward, just like a community,” Chow said.

Jack’s son, Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) also spoke, as did Mayor Rob Ford, Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan, and author Bill Freeman. Councillor Pam McConnell (Ward 28, Toronto Centre-Rosedale) hosted the ceremony. A slew of Layton’s family and supporters were also in attendance. Around 300 people were there, in total.

Each speaker talked about how the sculpture and the renaming reflects Layton’s deep love and passion for the Islands and the people who live there. He was a “driving force in protecting our islanders’ homes,” Councillor McConnell said. “It was where he found tranquility and was re-energized. It was where he got married.”

Mayor Rob Ford brought the politics. “Although we had different views,” he said, “Jack was always kind and respectful…This is Toronto’s way of saying thank you. Thank you to Jack Layton for the way he lived.”

The speakers touched on Layton’s other passions. They spoke of his drive for equality, justice, and the environment, and the way he dedicated himself to ending violence against women and improving worker’s rights, among many other causes.

A passage from Layton’s now-iconic farewell letter can be found alongside the memorial monument

The Ontario Federation of Labour fundraised $350,000 to cover the costs of the statue on behalf of workers in Ontario, whose wellbeing, Ryan argued, was perhaps Layton’s greatest legacy.

In 2010, Layton made a public appearance to announce that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He continued with his duties until after the 2011 Federal Election. Then, on July 25 that same year, he said he would be taking a temporary leave of absence to battle an unspecified new cancer. He died shortly after, in the early hours of August 22, 2011.

Before he died, he wrote a now-iconic letter to Canadians. A passage from this letter can be seen inscribed on the dedication plaque alongside the sculpture. It says: “So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Photos by Sheena Lyonnais/Torontoist.


  • Moonmoth

    I don’t want a statue of Jack Layton – I want Jack Layton. His death is just so unbelievably sad.

  • The Man With No Name

    Jack, I’d just like to thank you for hoisting Harper on us with your selfish attempt at a power grab in 2005.

    By the way, what makes Layton worthy of a public statue? He led his party to official opposition status, and it had less to do with the merits of the NDP than it did disenchantment with the Liberals and Bloc. When did our standards of idolatry become so low?

    • Functionalist

      Actually, it was his message to improve health care that resonated with people as he himself was in the hospital battling illness. The NDP actually stood for something in that election, unlike the Liberals. The NDP was most credible on the subject of health care; they were first government in Canadian history to launch a universal health care system in Saskatchewan. People trusted Jack’s leadership and saw substance in the NDP. I think he could have sustained the momentum if he had recovered from cancer.

      • The Man With No Name

        The NDP were the most “credible” party in that you (and I) agreed with their reality-based policies. However, that was true of 2008 and 2006 and they did poorly. People chose the Conservatives. Layton is solely responsible for giving Canadians the opportunity to elect Harper. Had the NDP supported the Liberals in 2005, we’d have national child care and likely would have met our Kyoto targets, among other things that would have benefited Canadians and that Layton would have been sympathetic with. Instead, he wanted more power and sold out the country for his own ambitions. He accomplished very little and is undeserving of the adulation he receives.

        • bobloblawbloblawblah

          “Layton is solely responsible for giving Canadians the opportunity to elect Harper.”

          Is Layton responsible for a poorly run Liberal campaign? Is he responsible for Ignatieff’s overall terrible performance as leader? For the disenchantment with the Bloc in Quebec? Layton did campaign well in 2011 and his battles with cancer and relentless cheerful despite it resonated with the general public. It’s far too simplistic to blame him for the Tory Majority when so many other factors played into the results of the 2011 elections.

          • The Man With No Name

            He is responsible for bringing down the government in 2005. The Tories won in 2006. Therefore he is responsible for giving Canadians the opportunity to elect Harper.

            It’s pretty simple, really.

          • tyrannosaurus_rek

            Canadians would have had the same opportunity soon enough.


      Not only are you inaccurate, your spelling needs work, too. The word you’re looking for is “foist”.

      You’re pretending Martin was some kind of saint, and the years of Liberal entitlement and complacency were some kind of mirage conjured up by Liberal enemies. Martin and the Liberals brought it on themselves. Indeed, when did standards of idolatry become so low that you by inference laud a man who only had a death-bed conversion (politically-speaking) to a national childcare program, when his party somehow missed this in the 12 years they’d had in power?

      Anyway, the statue is awesome. No-one’s stealing that bike without a jackhammer and a blowtorch.

      • The Man With No Name

        Pretending Martin is a saint? How? My typing may be careless, but at least I can understand what people write. As for someone having a deathbed conversion, it’s better than no conversion at all. The fact remains that had Layton not brought down the government we would have a national childcare program.

        I liked Jack, thought he would have been a great PM, and cried when he died, but he was still a minor figure in Canadian politics and someone who accomplishes so little doesn’t deserve to be treated as though he were a great statesman.

    • Mark
  • Punned_It

    Jack’s genius was in taking ideas that were “out there” and bringing them into the mainstream. Jack championed many things we take for granted because they are now a part of our culture. Things like recycling, banning smoking, bicycle lanes, those posts that are used to lock up bikes (which he designed). He started the white ribbon campaign that is now in 60 countries around the world.

    I don’t know if he would ever have made PM, but he would be in there slugging it out every day, fighting for the 99%.

    • Functionalist

      That’s a good point. If Jack Layton took up a cause with the NDP, no matter how grassroots or obscure it was, after a years it would usually be part of the national conversation.

  • Adumb Vaughan

    Would it not have been better to have donated the cost of the Statue to Prostate Cancer Research instead of creating an idol for himself?