This month (August 2012), it has been a month since Jack Leyton passed away. He never knew me, but I knew him. Many people have made similar statements, as Jack reached out to everyone as a friend, creating the feeling that you knew him personally.
When I moved to downtown Toronto twelve years ago, because I was the only person in our condo who was retired, I attended a City Hall meeting about a change in a parking by-law that affected our building. Because of constant delays, it was two days before the by-law in question was finally addressed by council. As a result, I observed the meetings for two days. This was when I first experienced Jack Leyton in action.
On the second day I was there, an irate woman addressed the council and demanded a change in a by-law. Her request was totally unreasonable, but she insisted that she represented her neighbours and that her entire community wanted the change. Jack politely asked her who these neighbours were, as the previous week he knocked on doors and was unable to find a single person who wanted the change that the woman was demanding. He informed her that if she gave him the names of her supporters, he would visit them and seek their opinions. The woman slinked away in defeat. It floored me that Jack would check with the people who would be affected to allow council to make the right decision. During my two-day stint as City Hall, I saw how Jack researched issues carefully, sought compromise, and voted accordingly. I realized that I was watching an exceptional man.
Several years later, in community meetings, I met Olivia Chow. She was instrumental in affecting positive changes in our community. One Christmas, I attended a Christmas party in the Layton/Chow home on Huron Street. At one point during the evening, I observed Jack talking to an elderly man who was showing him several photographs. There were over two hundred guests in the house, but Jack treated the man as if he were the only person there. His kindness and patience never waned, and when the elderly gentleman was ready to depart, Jack went to the third floor of the house to retrieve his coat.
The image that Jack projected was real, not a contrived personae for political gain. He marched in the gay pride parades when it was considered political suicide. He championed the white ribbon campaign to draw attention to violence against women. He urged the city to go green at a time when no one cared about environmental issues. Jack Leyton was the real thing. It has been a year now since his death, and I still miss him. He made the harshness of the political scene appear human, and proved that not all politicians are motivated by personal gain.
The photos below were taken the week that Jack passed away.
Floral tributes placed outside the Leyton home.
Messages of tribute written with chalk on the ramp and cement slabs at City Hall
Tributes to Jack at City Hall
People wait to sign the condolence book inside City Hall
Among those who wrote in chalk at City Hall, many said that he caused them to vote for the first time in their lives. What an amazing and meaningful tribute.
Remembering Jack. A rare man – great Canadian.