With NDP Leader Jack Layton’s passing yesterday morning, a wave of condolences began pouring in for his family from all throughout Canada. This sad occasion has helped to transform Canada into a unified nation – for the time being – collectively mourning the loss of one of the nation’s great leaders.
Although Layton was never Prime Minister, his leadership of the NDP helped to make the party the official opposition of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in the federal election a few months back. This feat, in and of itself, has garnered Layton a tremendous amount of respect throughout the nation.
His political accomplishments aside, Layton is well respected as a humanitarian and all-around inspiring individual as well. It’s no wonder that even those who vehemently oppose his politics provided words of sympathy and respect to his family over the past 24 hours. On his Twitter account, Jack Layton’s son Mike thanked the country.
“You amaze me Canada,” he tweeted, “All the kind words, love and condolences are giving us strength through this very difficult time.” In today’s edition of The Toronto Star, Lesley Ciarula Taylor highlights just how much respect Layton has received. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has offered Layton’s family the opportunity to have a state funeral.
“Canadians will have an opportunity to salute Jack Layton’s contribution to public life,” said the Office of the Prime Minister. Taylor writes that traditionally, state funerals are reserved for either current or former governors general and prime ministers. The honour is also bestowed upon current members of cabinet.
In what seems a fitting send off for Jack Layton, the state funeral will be held this Saturday. It will be the pinnacle of what is planned to be a week of honouring his memory. In a number of spots across Canada including federal buildings in Ottawa and Toronto, flags are flying at half-mass.
State funerals are fairly rare and quite the tribute. Taylor writes that the first Canadian state funeral ever was held for Thomas D’Arcy McGee who was a sitting MP and former cabinet minister, assassinated in April 1868. The last one that was held in Canada took place in 2009 for former governor general, Romeo LeBlanc.
Obviously, not all those who are mourning Layton’s passing will be able to attend the funeral. However, those wishing to leave their words of condolences for Jack Layton may do so on the New Democratic Party’s website.