Photo: Let's honour Jack Layton's transcendent vision

(Credit : QUOI Media via Flickr)

By David Suzuki

With the death of Jack Layton, we have lost someone we could look to as a model of commitment to ideas and ideals. So few today can articulate a vision for Canada that transcends the short-term demands of politics and economics.

Jack was a man who lived his ideals. In Toronto, he was as green as they come, long before green came to mean a set of environmental assumptions. But Jack never forgot that justice and human rights were deeply embedded in issues of the environment. Today, too many of us act as if these are somehow separate, and so we are either environmentalists or workers for social justice. To Jack, they were a part of the same struggle for sustainable societies.

I didn't always agree with Jack, and I told him so. But he never held our disagreements against me or pouted. He had a vision and he was working to achieve it. Too many people get caught up in a little niche, and if one disagrees in any way, they are written off for not conforming to a party line. Jack wasn't like that.

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Now Canada is at a crossroads. The world has changed enormously in the past half century, and we seem to be caught up in the belief that the global economy is the very source of our well-being and identity. But the economy is a means to some other end, not an end in itself, and Jack understood that. As with great people like Tommy Douglas, he kept reminding us of what he stood for.

In my last letter to Jack, after he had announced that he was taking time to fight his cancer, I assured him that his legacy was already assured and it was a proud one. But, I told him, no great movement is dependent on one or a few people. I wanted him to rest assured that there were many Canadians who would take up his cause. I hope that was more than just my hope for the moment as I felt the pain of his potential loss. To honour Jack, we need to see many people ready to take on his vision and his work.

August 24, 2011

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Aug 31, 2011
10:09 AM

I am 27 years old and never had much interest in politics being that…"poli" means many..and"tics" are blood sucking insects ……UNTIL I BECAME AWARE OF JACK LAYTON ….i was convinced politicians were all in politics for their own selfish reasons …I WAS WRONG….Jack had become one of my heros overnight..(.just like david suzuki)…I will from now on research the politicians in my area and see who has the platform that represents my thoughts ,ideals , and morals best ……THANK YOU JACK

Aug 26, 2011
6:35 AM

It is time that we realize economies are man made constructs and that the environment is the only thing that truly matters. It is time to stop serving the fictional monster and realize what actually keeps us happy and well. We need to create new systems of living and exchange. I am glad some of us have this foresight

Aug 25, 2011
8:35 PM

I completely agree. While many around me have been, rightfully of course, mourning, I have been reminding them that our country has many more leaders and heroes that can and will step up. The world is always in need. Jack has shown us the way, and now he has passed it on…given to the next ones.

Aug 25, 2011
6:51 PM

Jack came alive for me. I was never interested really in politics and the leaders of the parties, however, Jack stood out to me. I loved his smile, his grace, his smiling eyes, his moustach and the passion expressed in his voice when he spoke about the things he cared about and about his vision for Canada and all Canadians. I never met Jack but he felt like he could be anybody's friend. He really did believe and live his life accordingly

Aug 25, 2011
4:04 PM

Thank you Dr. Suzuki for your heart felt piece. And thank you for helping Canada begin our national recovery as we look to the future and find peace as a nation to honour Jack Layton's contributions to our country.

Aug 25, 2011
7:34 AM

A great way to move forward after losing such a profound leader, the many can still continue his vision and work. We all need to be conscious of this, otherwise the cause is lost.

Aug 24, 2011
8:02 PM

Suzuki Elder members will be participating in the Aug 27 protest (Keystone pipeline, tar sands) 2-5 pm (Inlet Drive and Hastings in Burnaby) in solidarity with Bill McKibben and many others protesting outside the White House this week. Wilderness Cttee is organizing this one — see their website for info. Layton will be with us in spirit.

Aug 24, 2011
5:03 PM

Whatever the politics, you had to admire his passion. One wonders, if any other current politician would be thought of in the same context as he, if he gave his life for those recent victories. Seems he has united our country with his passing. What if…

Aug 24, 2011
4:40 PM

I have a little faith in politicians that can influence significant change for a better, greener and healthier Canada. He was ONE of the few who had the REAL potential to achieve his goals..I wish his legacy will live on in his Party.

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