Saturday, August 23, 2014
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Legacy of Le Bon Jack reflected in celebration of the man's life

A Town Crier Community Column
By Carolyn Bennett

Originally published in our Forest Hill print edition(s).

Canada has suffered a terrible loss with the passing of Jack Layton, a fierce defender of our parliamentary democracy and social justice.

Le Bon Jack was a people person. He rarely saw me without a cheery ‘How’s it going doc’ and usually boasted to anyone nearby that I had looked after his children in the practice I shared with Jean Marmoreo.

As a Torontonian, our paths had crossed many times. Layton was an honoured rose bearer at our annual December memorial service because of his pioneering work in the White Ribbon campaign of men against violence against women.

I was at the Canadian Medical Association meeting in St. John’s when we received the news of Layton’s passing. The doctors admitted that they had been concerned when they saw Layton at his press conference where he announced his second cancer and his need to step down.

As a family doctor, I once again felt so impotent that we have no magic wand that can reverse the course of cancer and prevent the untimely death of our patients and family and friends.

We are grateful for his legacy of fighting for the things that matter so much for our patients — violence against women, LGBT rights, homelessness, smoking in restaurants, making it possible for people to leave their cars at home and cycle or take public transit. He has left Canada a better place for all of us. We thank him and will miss him terribly.

On the day of the funeral, I spent the morning at the Wychwood Barns with the book of condolences.

There was an amazing outpouring of sadness, but also many able to seize the joy in the celebration of Layton’s life.

In spite of the prevailing cynicism, the life of an authentic politician was being praised. Whether one agreed with the policies or the tactics, people from all political stripes had to admit that Layton had entered public life to make a difference in the lives of Canadians leaving no one behind.

At 61, Layton was in his prime and therefore the body betrayal that took him away seems even more unfair.

From the moment of the news of his passing to the flag-draped coffin leaving Roy Thompson Hall, Canadians experienced a pause in the partisanship and a renewed shared sense of humanity. The torch has been passed and we must all redouble our efforts toward a more generous and inclusive Canada.

Layton’s legacy should also mean that great people will consider running for public office, and that more citizens will be inspired to get involved and fight for a real democracy between elections in which they can see that their ideas and solutions are truly listened to and that they can see that getting involved can really make a difference.

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