Third anniversary of Jack Layton's death

Jack Layton. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)

Jack Layton. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)

TERRY DAVIDSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

Late federal NDP leader Jack Layton was remembered Friday as an advocate for young people and the political and social change that he believed they can foster.

Layton lost his battle with cancer three years ago Friday — Aug. 22, 2011 — just months after he led Canada’s NDP party to official Opposition status and created the “Orange Crush” political movement synonymous with his ideologies.

Around 200 people, including family, friends, supporters and admirers, gathered at Ryerson University on Friday to pay tribute to Layton. Featured was a discussion panel of former students of Ryerson programs developed in honour of the lifetime politician, as well as a former president of the university’s student union, and a student from Ryerson’s Jack Layton Book Club.

All spoke of Layton’s call for youth to become engaged in the political process.

“The theme is ... young Canadians (who have been) inspired by Jack Layton,” said Ryerson politics professor and host Myer Siemiatycki.


Olivia Chow and Toronto City Councillor Mike Layton, along with other family members, attended the 3 year anniversary of Jack Layton's death at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ont. on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. Stan Behal/QMI Agency

Panelist Leigh Bursey, 27 — a Brockville city councillor and former student of Ryerson’s Jack Layton School for Youth Leadership — recalled how Layton was approachable. Young people found that quality both attractive and inspirational, he added.

“Before I was able to vote, I knew who Jack Layton was, (and) the more research I did on him, then more I began to respect the man versus the (politician),” Bursey said.

Layton set himself apart by being “kind to people” as opposed to being a stereotypical cutthroat politician, Bursey said.

“I never felt intimidated by him. Even though he was this rock star ..., there was no problem for me to shake his hand ... That’s exactly what we need to see ... in all parties, of all stripes, at all levels (of government), of all colours.”

Also in attendance Friday was Layton’s widow, Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow, who on Friday went for an early-morning swim. It was an activity she and Layton did regularly as a couple.

Chow, however, wouldn’t comment on the current state of the federal NDP, which has reportedly seen four of its members leave the party since the 2011 election.

“I’m no longer a federal member of parliament,” said Chow. “I’m running to be the mayor of ... Toronto. And it’s hard to run a campaign without your life partner being with you, but I keep hearing people want a change ... and that is something that Jack and I worked for.”


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