TORONTO, Ont. – They cheered, cried and clapped, but most of all they stood together as one, as thousands of Canadians gathered to say a final farewell to Jack Layton, one of Canada’s most beloved political leaders.
About 1,700 invited guests and 600 members of the public, some who waited in line overnight to get tickets, were inside Roy Thomson Hall for the ceremony.
Several large video screens were set up outside at David Pecaut Square where the overflow crowd watched the ceremony live..
The ceremony, which lasted just under two hours, featured an uplifting combination of music, scripture and eulogies.
Perhaps most profound was the eulogy by Layton’s friend and mentor Stephen Lewis, who drew a standing ovation when he characterized Layton’s final letter to Canadians as “a manifesto of democracy.”
Other speakers included the reverend Brent Hawkes, a friend of Layton’s who was asked to arrange and execute the funeral.
“When the chalk is washed away, when our crying finally stops, the legacy of Jack Layton will not be in how much power you have, it will be in how all of us exercise our personal power for a better world,” Hawkes said.
Layton’s children Sarah and Michael also spoke, and Layton was blessed with a ceremonial feather from the Aboriginal community.
A great musician in his life, it was only fitting that there were several touching musical performances at Layton’s funeral.
Steven Page, formerly of the Bare Naked Ladies, sang Leonard Cohen’s Hallellujah, while the funeral ended with a rendition of the Parachute Club’s Rise Up.
The crowd stood and clapped during the rendition, honouring and remembering the “always smiling” life and legacy of Layton.
Video: Jack Layton’s casket is taken into Roy Thomson Hall for his state funeral. (Video by: Cormac MacSweeney/680News)
In keeping with Layton’s wishes, those in attendance were asked to write down something they’ll do to make the world a better place.
After the funeral Layton’s ashes will be spread in three different locations across the country.
They will be spread in Quebec where he was born, on the Toronto Island where he and Olivia Chow were married in 1988 and in St. James Cemetery.
A tree will also be planted on the island in his honour.
- Submit your condolences
- John Stall’s memories of Layton
- Live chat transcript: Layton’s impact on Toronto
- Layton’s letter to Canadians
Although the official state funeral was Saturday, the outpouring of support for Layton began immediately after this death.
Layton died Monday, August 22 at the age of 61, just weeks after revealing he had been diagnosed with an unspecified cancer.
Hundreds of people lined up outside Toronto City Hall on Friday to view his flag-draped casket.
Many thousands said their farewells to Layton earlier during the week as he lay in state on Parliament Hill.
The motorcade carrying Layton’s body arrived at Nathan Phillips Square Thursday night, to the applause of dozens of people waiting to pay their respects to Layton.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath joined Layton’s family as they followed the casket into the rotunda.
The funeral cortege travelled along the “Highway of Heroes” as the casket made its way from Ottawa to Toronto.
A 15-gun salute sounded as the casket was carried out of the Parliament buildings by eight Mounties in red coats on Thursday.
The casket carrying Layton’s body was carried out of Centre Block at Parliament Hill, just before 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
Video: The hearse leaves Parliament Hill to a round of applause from the thousands of supporters on hand. (Video by: Cormac MacSweeney/680News)
The hearse then headed on the Alexandra Bridge and turned left on Laurier Street, in Gatineau, Que. It proceeded to the Canadian Museum of Civilization where it made a short stop before slowly passing by Gatineau City Hall. Sixty-one doves were released as the hearse drove by the Museum — one for every year of Layton’s life.
Video: Sixty-one doves released at the Museum of Civilization for Jack Layton (Video by: Cormac MacSweeney/680News)
After departing Quebec, the motorcade made its way back to Toronto, along Highway 416 and then along Highway 401. The hearse arrived at Toronto City Hall at around 9:45 p.m.
The casket was brought into the City Hall rotunda by pallbearers from the Toronto Police Service. A vigil guard was mounted by Toronto police.
Earlier on Wednesday, the hearse carrying his casket, which was draped in a Canadian flag, left Rosar-Morrison Funeral Home in Toronto just after 4 a.m.
Upon arrival in Ottawa, a lone bagpiper led the procession as the casket was placed in the middle of the room. A grieving Olivia Chow accompanied her husband’s coffin.
Family, dignitaries, politicians and the public paid final respects to the late NDP leader. Layton’s flag-draped coffin was carried up a red carpet by eight mounties, followed by Chow, his children, Mike and Sarah, and granddaughter Beatrice.
Chow shed tears as she placed a single hand on top.
One by one, cabinet ministers, current and former MPs, former prime ministers and good friends walked to the casket.
In honour of Layton, the CN Tower was lit in orange on Saturday from sunrise to sundown.
A state funeral is traditionally offered only to current and former governors general, current and former prime ministers and current members of cabinet; however, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the PM offered Layton’s wife MP Olivia Chow the option of the state funeral and she accepted.
The Layton family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the recently announced Broadbent Institute, a left-leaning think-tank.
Condolences followed Layton’s death almost immediately, with everyone from the prime minister to several former mayors of Toronto chiming in on the late politicians life.
Former mayor Mel Lastman, who often went toe-to-toe with Layton on political issues, summed up his feelings toward Layton’s legacy.
“Yes, (we went toe-to-toe), but only on the issues, never personally,” Lastman said. “I liked Jack, I respected Jack, and you can’t help but respect a guy like that.”
His sentiments were repeated by other leaders, most of who echoed their respect and admiration for the late politician. A complete summary of the reaction can be found here.
Following his death, a collection of flowers, notes, oranges and other items were placed outside Jack Layton’s constituency office on Broadview Avenue in Toronto.
June told 680News she was a student in Jack’s office during his city council years.
“He’s just one of the kindest people I have ever know. I am just very grieved to hear that he’s gone. There will never be anybody else quite like him ever. Never.” June said.
Hugh also worked with Jack while he was in city council and told 680News he always fought for the people he represented.
“He was our original civic warrior here in Toronto. Stood for social justice, communities, families. We’re going to be really sorry to miss him. I think the nation is going to be sorry to miss him.” Hugh said.
His office was not the only place people gathered to remember the charismatic leader. Hundreds headed to Nathan Phillips Square for an impromptu memorial.
Copies of Layton’s final letter to Canadians were circulated among the crowd and read out loud.
Several people copied quotes from his letter on the concrete walls in chalk while others broke out into “O Canada.” Some quietly sobbed while others went inside City Hall to sign the condolence book set up in the rotunda.
Flags at City Hall, Metro Hall and Toronto civic centres were lowered to half-mast, and remained lowered until the end of Saturday.
Born in Montreal, Que., in the summer of 1950, Layton was a charismatic leader who was well liked across the country. His father was a politician by trade, serving as a Conservative cabinet minister in the Brian Mulroney government.
Layton was first elected to Toronto City Council in 1981, where he spent 20 years as a thorn in the left side of Conservative mayors. He ran for mayor of Toronto twice, and although he lost both times, he managed to become the leader of the NDP in 2003.
In the years that followed Layton would bring the NDP from something of a third party to mainstream success, winning the title of Official Opposition in the most recent election.
During his storied career Layton also taught at Ryerson University and served as chair of several committees in the city, including a stint as the chair of the Toronto Board of Health.
Layton’s first marriage to high-school sweetheart Sally Halford produced two children but ended in 1981. Layton would eventually marry Olivia Chow, another active politician in Toronto.
The two become known as a power couple across the city, fighting for social action and the rights of all Canadians. It was his brash personality and unwillingness to back down that earned Layton the reputation as a passionate and tough politician.
That reputation as a fighter would stay with Layton until, and even after, his death.