What a sad, horrible thing to return to Canada to. Jack Layton, the leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party, has died of Cancer. Just four months ago, my Canadian political interest and optimism peaked in the weeks leading up to our federal election, at which point Mr. Layton inspired a nation of cynical lefties (and the entire province of Quebec) to do something extraordinary: Give the NDP their very first official opposition and all-but-destroy the long standing centrist Liberal party. Long a strong, Canadian voice for the working class, for social programs, for minorities, for hope… Layton finally saw his efforts come to fruition that night. I was at the Toronto Convention Centre to watch his victory speech, and while my heart was at a loss for the frightening move 40% of my fellow Canadians made in giving Stephen Harper and his Conservative party a majority, it was just as heavy for Layton and my NDP party as I witnessed what I could only hope was the beginning of the end for Canada’s half-decade of Conservative rule.
That a healthy man can bring me to tears by making Canadian political history on May 2nd, and then bring me to tears by succumbing to cancer on August 22nd of that same year, is a hopeless, hopeless truth of human existence.
Jack was an inspiring and charming advocate for queer rights on the full range of issues from HIV to bath houses. Layton was the only party leader to whip the historic vote on same-sex marriage in 2005 noting that it was a non-negotiable matter of equality and rights and all NDP MPs would vote in favour. When NDP member Bev Desjarlais didn’t, she was shown the door and forced from the NDP caucus.
R.I.P. Jack Layton. You will remain a remarkable inspiration for the rest of so many Canadians’ precious lives.
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