Thursday, August 22 marks exactly eight years since NDP Leader Jack Layton passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. The 61-year-old politician was widely respected and well-liked across Canada, particularly in the later years when he became a symbol of physical courage and hope in the face of adversity. Today, Canadians across the country are sharing memories of Layton, and sending their love to the family that he left behind.

Aside from his personal popularity as a Canadian politician, Layton is survived by his notable contribution to the NDP, who, under his leadership, gained significant support with each election. In the federal election on the same year that he died, Layton led the NDP to their most successful result in history, winning enough seats to form Canada’s Official Opposition. The federal support for Layton was described as “unprecedented,” particularly in his hometown of Quebec.

Today, eight years later, Canadians nationwide are taking to social media to pay emotional tributes to Layton, and to send their respects to his family. Layton left behind his wife, Olivia Chow, and two children, Sarah and Michael Layton.

In an emotional tweet on Thursday morning, his son shared a picture of his dad and wrote, "Eight years ago today we held hands, we sang a last song and we whispered our goodbyes. We miss you dad, but your spirit lives on."

Layton’s wife, Olivia Chow, also took to Twitter to share a memory of her husband, posting a video of him spending time in Alsek River, learning about the melting glaciers and climate change. She wrote, “On the 8th anni of losing my loving partner, I am reposting Jack’s video on melting glaciers. I returned last night after 15 days in Yukon’s wilderness and felt the intensity of Jack’s love of nature and his call for action.”

Following Chow’s tweet, the hashtag #dearjack took off, with many Canadians using the thread to share their personal memories of the husband, father, and politician. In particular, a number of present Canadian politicians shared their memories of Layton, speaking of the encouragement and inspiration he provided to them throughout their careers.

While many Canadians took the time to thank Jack for his individual contributions to their personal lives, many took the opportunity to share quotes from a letter he wrote to the Canadian public, shortly before he died.

In the letter, Layton wrote, “Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one — a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world.”

Layton ended the emotional letter by writing, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

In a final tweet, Layton’s son thanked the Canadian public for sharing their kind words and happy memories of his father, and encouraged them to keep doing so.

He wrote, “To everyone that mourned with us — you have our deepest thanks. To everyone that continues to share with me their stories about Jack’s work and his impact on their work, please continue, they fill my heart with warm memories and love. #dearjack.”

In his last letter to Canadians, Layton wrote, “My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.”

Signing off, he wrote “All my very best, Jack Layton.”


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