Vigil held for late NDP leader

Yesterday, mere hours after news had broken that Jack Layton passed away, a group of Waterloo region New Democrats Party (NDP) supporters created a Facebook group to organize a vigil for the late NDP leader. Held at Speaker’s Corner in Kitchener, a small group of mourners slowly grew as the evening progressed.

Murmurs of “I’m sorry,” along with sympathetic embraces passed throughout the group as everyone waited for the speakers to begin. Right from the start, a heavy air of sadness was felt.

Many people took their turn to say words on Layton’s behalf. It seemed no matter which political party they supported, everyone had a kind word to say about Jack Layton. Harold Albrecht, Member of Parliament (MP) for Kitchener-Conestoga, came to the centre of the group to say that though they worked for different parties with different goals, Layton was always compassionate. “I didn’t know him that well,” Albrecht said, “but he always treated me with respect and his family will be in my prayers.”

Most speeches talked about Layton’s personality, his continuous optimism and new style of political campaigning. Everyone in attendance seemed to agree that Layton came to politics with a different idea — he proposed civility. Provincial NDP candidate for Kitchener-Centre Cameron Dearlove said that Layton brought “positive politics to the table, where you conduct yourself with dignity and respect.” He continued to add, “May Jack Layton rest in peace; we’ll take it from here. Now that Jack is gone, the rest of us will have to try a little bit harder.”

Andrea Horwath, leader of the Ontario New Democrats, was unable to make it to this specific vigil but did send along her thoughts in the form of a letter, read aloud to the group. “[Layton] inspired a generation of voters with his principles of compassion and fairness and equality.” The NDP supporter trusted with Horwath’s letter continued to read, “He set an example. He brought us together.”

One woman couldn’t hold back a flood of tears as speakers continued to talk about Layton’s ever consistent fight on behalf of people and for people, no matter what walk of life they were from.

After the speeches had been made, a moving round of the national anthem was sung, followed by a moment of silence.

“I want to pass on Jack’s favourite Tommy Douglas quote tonight,” Dearlove said to the crowd, smiling. “Courage my friends, it’s not too late to build a better world.”

A state funeral, traditionally an honour given to a prime minister rather than a leader of the official opposition, was offered by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to Layton’s widow, Olivia Chow. It will be held for Layton this Saturday in Toronto.

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