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Home » The Scene

State funeral a celebration of the life of Layton

Submitted by on September 1, 2011 – 3:34 pmNo Comment

Former NDP leader Jack Layton’s state funeral Saturday signaled not only the end of an era, but also a new beginning, for New Democrats.

Over 6,000 Canadians, many wearing orange outfits and draped in Canadian flags, lined the streets outside Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto to mark the late opposition leader’s passing, while millions watched the procession for a man referred to as “”an island of idealism in a sea of political cynicism” from home.

Condolences have come in many forms in the last week, from loyal followers writing chalk messages on the walls of Nathan Phillips Square, to the City of Toronto lighting the CN Tower orange for the night of his funeral.

Layton’s wife MP Olivia Chow asked, not for flowers or gifts, but for mourners to make donations to the Broadbent Institute, an NDP-affiliated think tank for developing social democratic ideas.

Layton was eulogized by Stephen Lewis, Canadian diplomat and former UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS to Africa, in a powerful speech that embodied the depiction of hope Layton has left in his wake.

“Somehow, Jack connected with Canadians in a way that vanquished the cynicism that corrodes our political culture,” said Lewis.

Many compared the ceremony to the procession held following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997, after a fatal car accident claimed her life at the age of 36.

Layton was revered by peers as both an honest man and a revolutionary politician.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered the state funeral to Layton’s widow, who readily accepted the prestigious honour. State funerals are automatic in the deaths of governor generals, as well as prime ministers, but can be offered by the current PM.

The last state funeral in Canada was held on July 3, 2009, for former governor general Roméo LeBlanc. In 2000, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau had his lying-in-state.

The question now for New Democrats is where to go from here, to ensure Layton’s effort securing the party’s official opposition status, was not in vain.

While talks of a possible merger between the NDP and Liberals had surfaced, interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae put those rumours to rest in a speech Monday, stating that is “not in our agenda.”

Layton’s death came as a shock to many on Monday, Aug. 22. He passed away quietly at his Toronto home, surrounded by family and friends, of cancer, which brought on his untimely death at the age of 61.

Story by Devin Size; photos by T1000

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