I was incredibly saddened when I checked my Twitter this morning and saw that NDP Official Opposition Leader Jack Layton had passed away.
Jack Layton’s 2003 leadership campaign was the first campaign I worked on, back when I was in Grade 12. I supported Jack then and for the next 8 years of his leadership because he was an optimist, a fighter, and a true feminist.
Jack co-founded the White Ribbon Campaign in 1991, which organized men to take responsibility in the fight to end violence against women. Throughout his time on City Council and in the House of Commons, he understood how factors like poverty, racism, and colonialism interact with and exacerbate women’s inequality, and he fought to end all these things. He listened to the most vulnerable people and helped bring their stories to Ottawa.
Women’s representation soared in the NDP under Jack Layton. He took an active role in reaching out to recruit outstanding women candidates to run for office across the country, including my former boss, retired MP Penny Priddy. He truly believed that the House of Commons should reflect the diverse faces of Canada, and he worked tirelessly to make that happen.
He fought for LGBT rights, too. He was an early supporter of HIV/AIDS activism, and was the only Party leader to whip votes in favour of marriage equality in 2005.
Another outstanding thing about Jack was how he inspired young people. He didn’t do it by being patronizing or moaning about how the young people don’t appreciate everything his generation fought for. He did it by listening to them, showing faith in their leadership, inspiring them by speaking truth to power, and recruiting them as candidates. In his last letter to Canadians, he dedicated a special section to young people, saying:
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.
Today we lost a great fighter with a big heart.
His letter closes with these inspiring words:
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,
You can read his final letter to Canadians here: http://beta.images.theglobeandmail.com/archive/01310/Jack_Layton_s_lett_1310744a.pdf.
You can send condolences to Olivia Chow and Layton’s children and grand-children through the NDP’s website at http://www.ndp.ca/express_your_condolences.
Here are links to some tributes to Jack on other feminist/gender blogs:
- Opposition Leader and LGBT Advocate Jack Layton Dies at Age 61 – Joe. My.God
- A Serious Loss for Canadian Progressives – Shakesville
- Rest in Peace, Jack Layton – Womanist Musings