TORONTO – A bronze statue of Jack Layton was unveiled on Thursday at the Toronto Island ferry terminal, which was also renamed after the then NDP leader who died two years ago.
The ceremony was attended by Mayor Rob Ford, city councillors, Layton’s widow Olivia Chow and other members of his family.
It was the mayor who first proposed renaming the ferry terminal. Though Layton and Ford often disagreed during their time together on Toronto city council, Ford said Layton was very kind and helpful to him and “taught him a lot about politics.”
“He said, ‘Rob, never take things personally. It’s politics.’ I’m still trying to learn that,” Ford said during the ceremony.
“This dedication is Toronto’s way of saying thank you. Thank you to Jack Layton for the life he lived.”
The sculpture, called Jack’s got your back. Stronger Together: The Layton Memorial, is a life-size bronze statue of Layton on the back seat of a tandem bicycle. The front seat is empty so that others can symbolically ride along with Layton.
Layton and Chow married on Toronto Island and a tandem bike was their wedding gift to each other, Chow said. The couple always had fun riding that bike on the island, at Pride Week celebrations and across Canada, she said.
“Actually I was in the back,” Chow said. “I got Jack’s back. Now he has your back.”
She says the statue will make people smile for years to come.
“And it will help them understand that love is better than anger, and hope is better than fear and optimism is better than despair.”
Layton’s death on Aug. 22, 2011, just months after the NDP became Canada’s official Opposition for the first time in its history, touched Canadians of all political stripes.
His flag-draped coffin was carried into Parliament on Aug. 24 and lay in state for two days. A state funeral was held in Toronto on Aug. 27.
Layton’s son Mike, a Toronto councillor, who also married on Toronto Island last year, said that the statue is “a great symbol of his public life.”
“A tandem bike requires trust, trust in your partner and trust in others. It’s also about co-operation, working towards a common goal and is more fun because the experience is shared with others,” he said.
“That’s how he lived his life,” Layton’s son continued. “He worked hard; he co-operated with others in his job; and he had fun through it all.”
The bronze statue was created by Toronto Island resident David Pellettier and MST Bronze Ltd.