T.O. mourners flock to pay respects to Jack Layton
Tears flowed down the faces of some of Jack Layton's many mourners on Friday as they finally made it inside the rotunda of Toronto's City Hall to pay their respects to the popular NDP leader.
Richard Harrison was the first person in line on Friday, arriving at 5 a.m. He said he was there to pay tribute to a great man, remembering the few times he had met him.
"Jack gave so much to this country and to myself. It was the least I could do," he told CTV Toronto.
By the time City Hall opened its doors at 9 a.m., there were hundreds of others behind him waiting to enter the building.
By 6 p.m., officials estimated that more than 3,880 mourners passed through City Hall to pay their respects.
Some people knew Layton as the charismatic face of the New Democrats, or as the man who had served as a city councillor so many years ago.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told reporters that as a rookie councillor, Layton was a mentor to him.
"He said you and I are not going to agree on a lot of things and at the end of the day, I don't think we agreed on much. But he taught me respect. And you never saw Jack yell or scream," Ford said.
Ford was joined by former mayors David Miller and Barbara Hall who paid their respects to Layton, in the hour before the doors to City Hall opened to the public. Ontario Lt.-Gov. David Onley and provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath also attended the visitation.
They were greeted by Layton's widow, Olivia Chow, and his grown children, Sarah and Mike who is a current city councillor in Toronto.
Horwath told CTV News Channel she was "completely surprised" by the turnout and knew that "Jack is smiling down" on the crowd.
"This is something that is so moving," Horwath said.
Her sentiments were shared by many mourners, including Todd White, who had personal memories to reflect on as he lined up to see Layton's flag-draped coffin up close on Friday morning.
He recalled a moment from his student days when he had the task of showing Layton around the grounds of Hamilton's McMaster University.
Back then, White was the head of the NDP club and had plans to show Layton a number of sights at the university.
But he found himself only able to give Layton a partial tour, because the gregarious NDP leader kept stopping to talk to the students he met along the way.
"He was just such a personal person, somebody you could sit down and have a great conversation with," White told CTV News Channel.
"And he would look at you as if you were the only person in the room."
Layton's body is lying in repose in Toronto until 8 p.m. on Friday and again on Saturday morning.
On Saturday afternoon, he will be honoured with a state funeral that will take place at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall.
Members of the public who were unable to obtain tickets to the memorial service will be able to pay their respects in an overflow viewing area at David Pecaut Square, adjacent to Roy Thomson Hall. Speakers and large viewing screens will be set up.
Thousands honour Layton in Ottawa
A lying-in-state was held in Ottawa on Wednesday and Thursday, drawing thousands of Canadians to the House of Commons foyer to say their own goodbyes to Layton.
Anne McGrath, who served as the NDP leader's chief of staff, said the outpouring of grief from Canadians is something that she wishes Layton could have seen with his own eyes.
"I have the overwhelming sense that he would have loved all this," McGrath told CTV's Canada AM from Ottawa on Friday morning.
"I wish he had been there, I wish he could have seen this. Because it's the kind of thing that is both political and emotional and that's the way he lived his life and I think he would have been very, very touched."
McGrath said Saturday's service will feature three eulogies -- one from Stephen Lewis, the former leader of the Ontario NDP; another from Karl Belanger, who served as Layton's long-time press secretary; and another from the NDP leader's children.
There will also be musical performances by singer Steven Page, formerly of the Barenaked Ladies, and Lorraine Segato of Toronto's Parachute Club.
Segato was a close friend of the late NDP leader and his wife for many years and performed at their 1988 wedding.
Segato said she last saw Layton during May's Hope Rising benefit concert in Toronto, one day after the NDP made historic gains during the federal election.
Segato, who had produced the show, remembers hearing the audience roar when Layton and his wife walked down the aisle of the Sony Centre.
"It was that kind of, ‘whoaaa,' rock-star reaction," Segato told The Canadian Press during a telephone interview on Friday.
"Jack had just walked in with his cane, and the whole sold-out audience jumped to its feet like he was the star of the show."
Segato, who's been a friend of Layton since the mid-80s when she was fighting with the then-Toronto city councillor for causes such as gay and lesbian rights, said she understood the fervour.
"He was a really unique and extraordinary human being, quite unlike any other in that he was unwavering in his path and his dedication around the issues that he believes in," she said.
Segato said she will be performing a gospel version of "Rise Up," a Parachute Club song that was among Layton's favourites at the funeral.
"What I'm hoping for is that Jack is going to hear me," Segato CTV's Canada AM from Toronto on Friday morning.
Layton had told those closest to him about his preferences for the funeral that would take place after his passing.
McGrath said he wanted it to be a "celebration of life," as well as an opportunity to recognize some of the issues that Layton cared most deeply about.
"He wanted it to be motivating, uplifting, to talk about the movement and social issues that he was so deeply connected to," said McGrath.
"So, he wanted it to be joyous, musical...he wanted it to be inspirational, he really saw this as an important moment not just to grieve the loss, but also to grow and to build."
The former Toronto city councillor led the federal NDP for more than eight years and took the party to its greatest-ever success at the polls.
After the May election, the NDP became the Official Opposition for the first time ever, after picking up dozens of seats in Quebec and reducing the Bloc Quebecois to a caucus of just a handful of MPs.
But Layton did not get to serve as Official Opposition leader for long.
In July, he announced that he would take a leave of absence to seek treatment for an unspecified cancer. Four weeks after that announcement, Layton passed away at the age of 61.
Layton had previously fought a battle with prostate cancer, though he said in July that the disease he was fighting this summer was a different type of cancer.
He was the first Opposition leader to die in office in more than 90 years.
With files from The Canadian Press