On May 2nd 2011, many of us at The Gaily gathered around a small tv, in a small apartment, with fuzzy reception, listening to the familiar voices and the familiar faces of the CBC, as the orange wave overtook this province where many of us live as foreigners to the political system, where federalism, and a federalist candidate never seemed possible, and where Quebeckers of all stripes took pride and took a chance in a man with a moustache, a man with a vision for Canada and for our generation.
Several weeks earlier, I gathered with friends in Montreal’s gay village, in Gilles Duceppe’s former riding no less, for the first political rally of my life. I was struck by the diversity of race, language, and age as we lined the streets waiting for Jack Layton’s arrival.
The skeptic and critic in me felt disconcerted about pinning on my PND/NDP button, and waving a sign for the camera, listening to and swallowing the political rhetoric that is so central to election fervour and partisan politics. I wanted to hear more depth than just party bi-lines. I wanted to hear more than FAMILY, JOBS, EDUCATION. Those are important. They are things he stood for. My disconcertion was more about the way our political system works, the way the divisiveness falls and caters to simple rhetoric and simple conversations, rather than deep and meaningful ones about what it means to be Canadian, or what we value most. That said, I was too overtaken by the simple joy of people around me. I had a conversation with an elderly francophone – former seperatist – gentlemen that couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face. He was enamoured. People were singing, and dancing, and genuinely excited to be in his presence, and to ponder a different future for Canada, and definitely, and with difficulty, a different future for Quebec. It was a great moment.
I woke this morning to devastating news for Canada, and I think for the NDP and ultimately for Quebec, but I remain hopeful that we have seen a possibility for change, for a different kind of nation, and for a different and more hopeful future.
He was an LGBTQ ally, he was a feminist, he was an advocate for youth, for education, and for the environment. He was a real light for Canada; a mark, a time, a person of which to be proud.
This is an open thread for our team and for our readers to share their thoughts, their memories, and hopes.
Executive Editor, The Gaily
(Feature Photo by JANA CHYTILOVA, The Ottawa Citizen)
Having rarely ever been a political person, I have decided only with this past election to fully get involved with platforms and reforms. I was so sick of hearing the same old arguments between the Liberals and the Conservatives. Mr. Layton offered a new and refreshing outlook that was coupled with a personality that was down to earth and reminiscent of the days when my trust was complete in parliament. I saw that and was curious enough to want to get to know him and see what he could do to change how we live as Canadians. He won’t be forgotten, and his influence on this generation and the next will live on.
– Tyrone Smith, Co-Founder, The Gaily
As I sifted through the news articles this morning, ignoring a much pressing editorial deadline, learning and re-learning things new and remembered about Layton, I am drawn again and again to his ability be many things at once. He was both a Quebecker and Canadian and his fluidity in being both those things won over the heart of Quebec the last election. He was a hetero man who spoke up for the rights of LGBT persons, a man that came from financial means who published a book on the homeless in Canada, he was from a conservative home; his father a MP and cabinet minister in the Mulroney government in the early 1980’s (his grandfather a cabinet minster of Quebec’s Duplessis government), but Layton came to his own economic and social conclusions. Layton married Olivia Chow, a Chinese immigrant and accomplished politician/activist in her own right and adopted much of her culture as he could; learning Cantonese, accepting that Chinese values dictate that elderly parents live with their adult children, he publically praised his mother in law’s traditional cooking often, noting that his MIL acted as his nutritionist while recovering from his first bout of cancer. Jack Layton stood up for women who have been silenced by violence.
This morning I woke up to a Canada without Jack Layton, this morning I woke up a Quebecker. Moving to Quebec gave me the opportunity to have my vote count. I voted, like so many Quebeckers, NDP in the last election and for the first time in my life, I saw my vote for the NDP become a reality. For me Jack’s death reified that my home has become Quebec, with its’ complicated politic and a language I am only really beginning to understand, I know that I will never be fully accepted by the Pur Laine but that’s okay too. I recognize a duality in myself today; I am a Quebecker born in Alberta and today I feel Jack’s death today as a Quebecker. Quebec has given me so many opportunities to be multiple things at once, in the same way that Jack Layton was and his death today has given me resolve to cultivate those many things in taking up his torch of service to community.
Bon Jack; bon courage, merci beaucoup.
– Ashleigh Delaye, Contributor, The Gaily
Why I voted for, admired, and am mourning the loss of Jack: (please excuse me for going on a first-name basis should you find it disrespectful; I feel like I “knew” him too well to call him Mr. Layton…)
1) He proudly walked, rode a bike or (more recently in Toronto in June) journeyed in a rickshaw during countless pride parades across the country. I will miss his presence at these events for years to come.
2) My 85-year-old grandfather doesn’t remember much, but he can still recount the day he met Jack at a hospital in Toronto while my grandmother was in for knee surgery. Jack made him feel valued, understood and consoled.
3) I attended an NDP rally in Montreal earlier this year. His energy was inspiring and his words genuine.
4) He was kind, he was sincere, and he was a fighter. Perhaps of most importance was that he was there for US. Throughout his career he stood up for the minorities, the disenfranchised, the little guys.
Thank you, Jack.– Jaime, Contributor, The Gaily