Canadian opposition leader Jack Layton dies of cancer

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TORONTO, CANADA (BNO NEWS) — Canadian opposition leader Jack Layton died after a long battle with cancer on Monday morning, his family said in a statement. He was 61.

Jack Layton was the leader of the Official Opposition of the 41st Canadian Parliament and leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) since 2003. He died fighting a second bout of cancer.


A statement by his wife, NDP member Olivia Chow, and his two children, Sarah and Michael, said Layton passed away at about 4.45 a.m. local time on Monday. “He passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved one,” the family said.

In February 2010, Layton announced he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer but said he would not interrupt his duties as a Member of the Parliament and as leader of the NDP. Last month, however, fellow NDP member Nycole Turmel took over as interim leader of the party after Layton announced he was fighting a new bout of cancer.

In a letter which Layton left to be released after his death, he thanked Canadians for their well wishes and encouraged other Canadians battling with cancer to keep up their fight and cherish every moment with their loved ones as he did this summer.

“Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well,” Layton wrote. “I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.”

Layton also recommended Turmel to continue her work as interim leader and advised the party to hold a leadership vote as early as possible so the new leader has enough time to re-consolidate the team and prepare for the next election.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he was “deeply saddened” by the news and offered his condolences to Layton’s family, colleagues and friends. “On behalf of all Canadians, I salute Jack’s contribution to public life, a contribution that will be sorely missed,” he said.

Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, also offered his condolences. “My wife, Sharon, and I join all Canadians in deeply mourning the loss of Jack Layton today,” he said.

He added: “As leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, Mr. Layton was held in great esteem by Canadians for his passionate dedication to the public good. Throughout his career as a community leader and politician, he constantly strived to bring people together in the common cause of building a better Canada, and he did so with great energy and commitment. His fundamental decency and his love of our country serve as examples to us all, and he will be greatly missed.”

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