BY JOHN DECOSTE
Kings County Advertiser/Register
Canadians took time last week to pay tribute to former NDP Leader Jack Layton and celebrate what he meant to the country.
The traditional Saturday morning peace vigil Aug. 27 in Wolfville was staged in Layton's memory, and a special memorial service was held that afternoon at Acadia's Irving Centre, allowing those in attendance to view Layton's state funeral on television.
The way in which Layton struck ordinary Canadians was evident in the more than 100 people who attended the vigil and close to the same number who attended the service.
"We're here today to honour the memory of a great Canadian whose values we share, and to work toward a better Canada - the kind of Canada Jack would have wanted, based on love, hope and optimism," said longtime NDP supporter Joan Boutilier.
While many of those in attendance at the service were NDP supporters, the sadness of Layton's passing, and the outpouring of grief over the past week leading up to his funeral, transcended both political and geographical lines.
"We didn't want to feel that anyone would be alone at this important time. We also didn't want to exclude anyone, regardless of their political stripe," said event co-organizer Dr. Karen Diadick Casselman.
"I met Jack many times, usually in the company of candidates," she explained. "I never wanted to take up his time, but most of us knew that when he took hold of our hand and talked to us, he was just Jack."
"He was a very approachable man," she added. "He would have said that no party is dependent on any single individual for its sustainability, but he will certainly leave a hole in our hearts."
Speakers at the service included Mark Rogers, NDP candidate for Kings-Hants in the 2011 federal election; NDP MLAs Jim Morton and Ramona Jennex; and Kings-Hants Liberal MP Scott Brison.
"Today is not a day for sorrow, but to regroup and carry on," Rogers said. "It's a day to rejoice, for Jack Layton, his accomplishments and his vision of Canada."
He would have said that no party is dependent on any single individual for its sustainability, but he will certainly leave a hole in our hearts. - Karen Diadick Casselman
He admitted, "Jack was a huge inspiration in a lot of aspects of my life. I've been a New Democrat most of my life, but I lacked the inspiration to really make a difference. Jack inspired me, and I appreciated how he inspired others. It's what led me to run in the last election."
Layton's concern for everyday Canadians struck Brison.
"I want to thank Jack for all he did for all Canadians who fight for equity and social justice," he said.
"Jack also raised the bar in politics, and I thank him for that. The best tribute we can give Jack is to keep the bar raised, and to continue to be loving, hopeful and optimistic."