Thousands celebrate Layton's family, political life
Erin DeCoste, CTV News.ca Staff
Published Saturday, August 27, 2011 10:38PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 5:47AM EDT
A "mischievous and musical" Jack Layton was remembered as the type of man who connected to all Canadians with authenticity and honesty, humanitarian Stephen Lewis said during Layton's state funeral Saturday.
Lewis, a former provincial party leader, was the first to deliver a eulogy at the ceremony at Roy Thomson Hall in downtown Toronto where dignitaries, family, friends and members of the public gathered.
Dignitaries in attendance included Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former prime ministers Paul Martin and Jean Chretien, and Gov. Gen. David Johnston.
"Jack was so alive, so much fun, so engaged in daily life with so much gusto and so unpretentious, it was hard to focus, when he was alive, how important that was to us," Lewis said to a standing ovation.
"He tapped into a yearning that politics, sometimes ephemeral, rarely articulated, a yearning that politics be conducted in a different way, and in that difference would emerge a better Canada," he said.
Lewis said Layton's civility and accessibility made him a politician that made it look easy.
"There was no guile. That's why everybody who knew Jack recognized that the public man and the private man were synonymous," he said.
Music and applause filled the hall where Layton's flag-draped coffin was centre stage.
His adult children, Mike and Sarah, remembered Layton as a fun-loving, generous and supportive father, a man who never backed down from a challenge and made the most of each moment.
The siblings thanked Canadians, in both French and English, for the support they've received after Layton's death on Monday.
Sarah reminisced about the occasionally embarrassing moments growing up, but also her father's generosity.
"Somehow he always made time for what mattered, daily calls to his mother, a hug and a listening ear," she said, adding that she will always remember Layton as "Grandpa Jack."
"Fun-loving, smiling, with all the time in the world, having a tea party on the floor with Beatrice," she said, referring to her two-year-old daughter.
Mike said his father was never one to take the easy road, sharing a story of an arduous bike trip on Prince Edward Island.
"We could've given up, walked our bikes back," he said of a trail ridden with broken sea shells. "But no, nothing would keep us from our goal; this is how my father lived his life."
Rev. Brent Hawkes opened the ceremony wearing his academic robes and was followed by both Jewish and Muslim blessings.
After the eulogies, Hawkes spoke on Layton's unwavering insistence on trying to make the world a better place.
"When all the chalk is washed away from the concrete at City Hall, and when our crying finally stops, the legacy of Jack Layton will not be on how much power we have but it will be how all of us exercises our personal power to have a better world," he said.
Shawn Atleo, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, also performed an aboriginal blessing.
About 2,300 people attended the state funeral, which started at 2 p.m. local time.
The music-filled ceremony featured performances by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Richard Underhill, former Barenaked Lady Steven Page and Parachute Club singer Lorraine Segato.
Those who didn't make it into Roy Thomson Hall watched the funeral from four large video screens in David Pecaut Square.
In keeping with Layton's wishes, guests had the opportunity to write down an idea to make the world a better place at the end of the funeral.
Layton's coffin was carried into the hall following a funeral procession through downtown Toronto on streets clogged with throngs of mourners.
The funeral procession for Layton was led by horse-mounted police, followed by pipe and drum bands and an honour guard.
Hundreds of mourners clapped in a show of support as Layton's widow, Olivia Chow, and family followed his casket carried over the chalk-lined sidewalk outside of Toronto's City Hall at the start of the procession.
Layton died Monday at the age of 61, just weeks after revealing he had been diagnosed with an unspecified cancer.
Lines started early
On Saturday morning, mourners began lining up outside Roy Thomson Hall before the sun rose in hopes of getting tickets to the memorial service.
Organizers planned to give bracelets to the first 600 members of the public in line, while the remaining 1,700 seats inside the Hall were reserved for family, friends and dignitaries.
By about 8:30 a.m., the line outside Roy Thomson Hall stretched around the building and down the block into David Pecaut Square, tweeted NDP press secretary Sally Housser.
The first person in line was Air Force veteran Rick Harrison who waited all night for his prime spot, according to Housser.
Interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel and MP Charlie Angus moved through a line of people waiting at Roy Thomson Hall at about 8:40 a.m., reportedly thanking them for coming.
Throngs of mourners also lined up outside of Toronto's City Hall to pay their respects to Layton lying in state. The line was cut off at 11 a.m., despite the large amounts of mourners.
Organizers said about 1,300 people passed through City Hall for the last two hours of public visitation on Saturday.
Canada in mourning
Supporter Kevin Chaplin said he isn't surprised that so many people feel compelled to pay tribute to the late NDP leader.
Chaplin told CTV News Channel that he followed Layton's career as a Toronto city councillor closely, saying he believes that the down-to-earth politician passed too soon.
"I think the country has lost a chance to see him at his best," said Chaplin. "The country will not see him the way we saw him in Toronto."
Jill Scott, a professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., said that their has been a shift in the way the public mourns high-profile people, with an increase in both men and women publicly expressing their emotions."
"These people are larger than life through the media and now, of course, social media as well. So when they come into our living rooms, we feel we know them," she told CTV News Channel on Saturday morning.
"When they do pass, we feel those emotions quite vividly and they are authentic."
With files from The Canadian Press