NDP Leader Jack Layton, who recently led his party to become Canada’s Official Opposition, died at his Toronto home at age 61 after a battle with cancer.
Layton died peacefully early Monday, according to a statement from his wife, Olivia Chow, and his children, Sarah and Michael Layton.
The family released a letter from Layton to Canadians where he thanked people for their well wishes but acknowledged his treatments were not going well.
“Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue,” Layton said in the letter.
Layton’s death comes less than a month after he announced he was fighting a new form of cancer and was taking time off for treatment.
In late 2009 Layton was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent treatment for it.
Premier Christy Clark released a statement on the passing of Layton in which she said, “It was with great sadness that we learned today of the passing of federal New Democrat Party leader Jack Layton.”
Clark went on to talk about the positive aspects she saw in Layton’s career as a public servant.
“A passionate Canadian, Jack Layton was a tireless advocate and his energy, dedication and intelligence have been at the service of Canadians since his days as a municipal politician,” Clark said.
“Mr. Layton inspired Canadians during his first battle with cancer and we were all behind him during his second courageous fight. He was a dedicated public servant who earned the respect of Canadians for his clear desire to build a better country and his constant goodwill. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Olivia and the entire Layton family.”
David Wilks, Kootenay-Columbia MP also responded to the passing of Layton.
“It’s very sad news. Jack was very well respected on the Hill. He was a tremendous leader and he will be sadly missed, because he brought so much to Canadian politics.”
When parliament resumes (September 19) “I think it’s going to be quite somber for the first little while. Certainly the New Democratic Party will have to go through a leadership convention and they will need to get their house in order, shall we say. I think all parties in the house will treat each other with utmost respect, recognizing Jack’s contributions to Canadian politics,” Wilks added.
Wilks went on to explain that even though he was saddened by the news he was not surprised.
“I was not surprised. I had sat with Jack and Olivia on the bus after the filibuster and he didn’t look well then, and then when all of Canada saw him on television a few weeks ago when he announced that he was stepping down and allowing an interim leader to come in he looked much worse than when I had seen him. It was quite obvious to me that there was something very wrong. He’s in a better place.”
Even though Wilks and Layton sat on different sides of the political spectrum in Ottawa, the Conservative member of parliament had respect for the NDP leader.
“It’s a sad day for Canadian politics. Certainly Jack was on the other side of my political beliefs, but he was a great leader and brought a ton of passion to Canadian politics. He will be sadly missed, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family today.”
NDP MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke, Norm Macdonald, explained the passing was not something he had been expecting.
“I think that even though everyone knew he was really unwell and battling with cancer, it still came as a shock. Like most Canadians I am deeply saddened to hear that he has lost his battle with cancer,” Macdonald said.
“For the NDP he represented tremendous leadership. He was very positive and incredibly energetic. He was very successful at the federal level at moving the party along. The values that he spoke about are ones that most Canadians share with him. The belief in social justice. The belief of strengthening families through safe employment. His dedication to environmental issues.
The last time Macdonald saw Layton was at a convention in June in Vancouver.
“He was just as energetic as ever. Of course the convention was positive because of the success of the federal election. People were looking forward and talking of the next step which would be a NDP government with Jack Layton as the Prime Minister,” Macdonald said.
In his final letter Layton had a message to others who struggle with cancer on a daily basis.
“To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.”