Jack Layton dead of cancer at 61
By Meagan Fitzpatrick, CBC News
Posted: Aug 22, 2011 8:40 AM ET
http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2 ... tuary.html
NDP Leader Jack Layton, who led Canada's Official Opposition, has died at his Toronto home at age 61 after a battle with cancer.
Layton died peacefully early Monday, surrounded by family and loved ones, according to a statement from his wife, Olivia Chow, and his children, Sarah and Michael Layton.
"We deeply regret to inform you that the Honourable Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, passed away at 4:45 am today, Monday August 22. He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved ones," the statement read.
Details about funeral arrangements will be forthcoming, it said.
Layton's death comes less than a month after he announced to the country that he was fighting a new form of cancer and was taking time off for treatment. Layton had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2009 and underwent treatment for it. He continued working throughout that time and also battled a broken hip earlier this year. Layton used a cane for much of his time on the campaign trail this spring as he led the NDP to a historic victory on May 2.
His party claimed 103 seats, and was propelled to Official Opposition status. Layton and Chow, a fellow NDP MP from Toronto, moved into Stornoway, the residence of the Leader of the Official Opposition.
Layton and his party were getting used to their new roles in Parliament but he did not appear to be in good health near the end of June. He said he felt pain and stiffness, he underwent tests and they confirmed he had a new form of cancer. He did not disclose what kind of cancer.
Layton's chief of staff, Anne McGrath, said Monday that Layton's condition took a quick turn for the worse Sunday night.
She spent a few hours with him Saturday and had a sense that he was losing a battle, but he was still planning for the future and talking about the fall session of Parliament.
"It is a huge loss. It is a huge loss for me personally, but it's a huge loss also for our party and our country," she said.
After the news of Layton's death emerged shortly after 8 a.m. ET, friends, colleagues and Canadians reacted quickly and with shock, sadness and tears. The flag on the Peace Tower was lowered to half-mast.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement saying he was saddened to hear the news.
"On behalf of all Canadians, I salute Jack's contribution to public life, a contribution that will be sorely missed," said Harper. "I know one thing: Jack gave his fight against cancer everything he had. Indeed, Jack never backed down from any fight," said Harper.
Longtime NDP leader and MP Ed Broadbent told CBC News that he is "deeply saddened such a great Canadian is taken from us in the very prime of his life."
NDP deputy leader Libby Davies, fighting back tears, said Layton's death is "an incredible loss."
"Jack was not only a great leader of the NDP, he's someone that Canadians across the country came to love. We feel a tremendous sense of loss and grief," she said.
Davies said Layton brought a sense of humanity to Canadian politics and in his career and his life, especially his battle with cancer, "he gave it his all."
"We have only love and respect for everything that he did and he leaves some really important legacies in Canadian politics," she said.
Tributes to Layton poured in from across party lines.
Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said the news took his breath away and that Layton's death is not just a loss for his party, but for all Canadians.
"It's a loss for the country because he was a political guy who believed strongly in politics and who had a lot of resilience and a lot of guts," Rae told CBC News.
The leader of the Official Opposition announced on July 25 he was stepping away from the job to concentrate on his cancer treatment. He told Canadians he had recently been diagnosed with a new form of cancer, in addition to the prostate cancer he had earlier battled.
Wanted to get back to work
The NDP appointed Quebec MP Nycole Turmel to take over for Layton temporarily. Layton wanted to be back at work in time for Parliament's fall session in mid-September.
Reaction to Layton's death was widespread. American ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, also issued a statement to express his condolences.
"I just received the sad news that Jack Layton has passed away. On behalf of my family as well as the American people I want to express our sorrow to Jack’s wife Olivia Chow, his family, and his friends and supporters across Canada," he wrote on his website.
"I will never forget the image of Jack campaigning as the happy warrior. His energy, enthusiasm and passion for politics and for the Canadian people were undeniable. Something I will never forget. A standard for all of us."
Layton's chief of staff, Anne McGrath, said she last saw Layton on Saturday in Toronto and that they went over plans for the future, should he lose his battle with cancer.
"There's no question that my heart is broken," said McGrath, who worked with Layton for nearly a decade.