Torontonians Remember Jack Layton, Five Years Later
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Torontonians Remember Jack Layton, Five Years Later

Public memorial celebrates the late politician's work, both locally and federally.

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Around 8 p.m. on Monday evening—the shade growing across leafy Riverdale Park West—a slow procession made its way across Winchester Street towards the Toronto Necropolis, Jack Layton’s final resting place.

Hundreds showed up to pay their respects on the fifth anniversary of the former federal NDP leader’s death. In 2011, Layton succumbed to cancer. He was 61 years old.

Torontoist was on hand to find out what the late politician meant to attendees.

David Orenstein

DAVIDORENSTEIN

Why did you decide to attend the memorial?

I’m a long-time Toronto New Democrat, and most of that time I was active in downtown Toronto. I got to see Jack and Olivia [Chow] quite frequently at all sorts of events. Also, I’d just see him go by on the street.

Do you have a memory of Layton that stands out most to you?

When we were canvassing an apartment building in Riverdale together, when he ran federally for the first time and didn’t win, his enthusiasm about it. And one little detail—it was fairly new at that time—is that his calling cards were also in braille.

More than anything else, what do you think Layton should be remembered for?

Getting people from all parts of Canada and a variety of commitments to vote NDP toward real, serious change.

What does his legacy represent to you?

With real, intelligent political thinking, anything is possible.


Bri Gardner

BRIGARDNER

Why did you decide to attend the memorial?

I was sort of young when Jack died…but the past two years I’ve been hearing about his legacy from a lot of people around me. He’s just always been this humongous figure in my mind. So I heard about this, and I figured it was a pretty good way to pay my respect.

Do you have a memory of Layton that stands out most to you?

My parents are super-conservative, so I was raised thinking that the NDP was bad…so I guess a memory for me is becoming aware and realizing that it’s not bad—it’s the opposite.

More than anything else, what do you think Layton should be remembered for?

He had a solid positive message of progressiveness. I feel like a lot of people trusted him. And, to be perfectly honest, a lot of people don’t trust many politicians, so I feel like that’s something that should be remembered.

What does his legacy represent to you?

Even five years after he’s dead, a ton of people are willing to come out. He’s still such a big figure, people still quote him, [and] there are still pictures of him in classrooms. I think it’s really obvious that he will be still a notable figure in 10, 50 years. He was a left-wing figure that continues to be relevant in our political discourse.


David Krause

DAVIDKRAUSE4

Why did you decide to attend the memorial?

I didn’t know Jack personally. Like a lot of people, I watched him for a long time. I did meet him once, and I met him at a time when I was starting to think about being involved partly in organized politics but also getting more involved in my community and trying to think about ways that that might happen, what that might look like, and it just seemed appropriate.

Do you have a memory of Layton that stands out most to you?

Jack reached out to [Rob Ford] when they first sat on City Council and got to know him a little bit and found some things that he could connect with him on, and read up on football scores and stuff. It’s important to connect with someone who’s a human being, but it’s also important to try and work with people to create a better, more fair, more just society.

More than anything else, what do you think Layton should be remembered for?

More than any one policy or campaign or campaign theme or campaign win—and while those are important things, important work to be done—there’s certainly a lot of constructive work that he did. For example, when he was here on City Council and then as a federal leader negotiating on health care spending. It’s about trying to move forward and not giving in to the meanness that we seem to get infected with and the meanness that can close down our capacity to imagine something different and something better that we can be a part of.

What does his legacy represent to you?

There’s no doubt that Jack was a professional politician with all that entails. Like any job, it has its pluses and its minuses, but I think [he was] someone who stepped up, took up the challenge, and didn’t lose his way.


Kelly Copeland

kelly-copeland

Why did you decide to attend the memorial?

I’ve met Jack before. I live in the co-op where Jack lived once, not during my years there, and we went to his funeral. We don’t know him personally, socially, or anything like that, but he’s come to our apartment a few times to talk about what we need and what needs to be changed. He’s an inspiring figure for us, for me and my family. My son’s here too with his girlfriend.

Do you have a memory of Layton that stands out most to you?

Maybe him on his bicycle. He was very pro-“let’s make bicycle lanes safe and not have as many cars on the road.”

More than anything else, what do you think Layton should be remembered for?

He didn’t believe in a hard, dark political climate, and he was more about peace and taking care of each other and making sure that everybody is okay—no matter how much money you make.

What does his legacy represent to you?

It’s kind of important to the political climate of our home I would say. I have a boy in his 20s and a teenaged girl, and they’re both well aware of Jack Layton and what his politics were. It introduced them to being aware and being caring about what goes on locally in our own riding.


Clarence Ford

CLARENCEFORDE

Why did you decide to attend the memorial?

Whenever we [United Steelworkers of America] were building the float for Labour Day on the road, [he] would always show up just to shake our hands and say, “Hi, how are you doing?” or hang a piece of plank, or something. This is why. Somebody who at that level reached to this level, I feel comfortable coming out [for].

More than anything else, what do you think Layton should be remembered for?

His ability to work in any environment. He didn’t feel challenged by the environment. He comes in and he deals with us. I deal with human rights, and I had him speak a couple times on different issues that we had within the labour movement and human rights…he was so comfortable speaking about it, and that’s what I think people should remember of him.

What does his legacy represent to you?

As an NDPer, our greatest hope [of having] a prime minister. That was Jack to me. I saw him as the prime minister of this country.

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