SPECIAL REPORT: The death and legacy of Jack Layton

Jack Layton is remembered as a political leader known for his dogged determination and devotion to trying to make life better for Canadians.

Jack Layton: 1950-2011

12 years ago
Duration 5:03
From his first election as a city councillor to his place in history as the first NDP Opposition Leader, a tribute to Jack Layton's colourful political career.

The latest: Thousands attended Jack Layton's state funeral in Toronto on Saturday at Roy Thomson Hall, including family, friends and politicians from all parties. Many more paid tribute to the former NDP leader last week as he lay in repose at Toronto City Hall on Friday and in Ottawa on Wednesday and Thursday.

The 61-year-old Official Opposition leader died peacefully at his Toronto home in the early morning of Aug. 22. Within hours of his death, Canadians and politicians of all political stripes were paying tribute to the passion and determination of the former city councillor who led the federal NDP to its historic electoral result of 103 seats and becoming the Official Opposition in the spring 2011 election.

Layton's letter: In a letter dated two days before he died, Layton offered words of gratitude, compassion and inspiration for Canadians. The two-page missive began with thanks to the tens of thousands of people who had wished him well in recent weeks and ended with simple thoughts and hopes: "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." READ THE LETTER FROM JACK LAYTON TO CANADIANS

Layton remembered: Politicians including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Gov. Gen. David Johnston and Shawn Atleo, National Chief for the Assembly of First Nations, praised Layton as a caring, passionate voice in Canadian politics at his state funeral Saturday. Tributes continued to pour in throughout last week in the wake of Layton's death, with public figures speaking of his courage and determination.

Public reaction: Layton's death prompted an outpouring of reaction. Social media recorded tributes from across the country and Canadians left flowers at memorials to the man known to many simply as Jack. In Montreal, hundreds of people gathered at the foot of Mount Royal for a vigil in his memory. In Toronto, an impromptu memorial was held at city hall, where a chalk tribute to Layton also spread quickly on the concrete surface of a raised walkway.

New Democratic Party legacy: Fifty years ago, at the NDP's founding convention, Tommy Douglas said he believed the newly formed party would one day form the government of Canada. It's not quite there, but Layton led the party as close as it's ever been on May 2. After his death, party members vowed that his work will go on. Interim Leader Nycole Turmel says she will stay on until the NDP chooses a new leader.

Toronto legacy: Years before he stepped onto the national stage, Layton was an outspoken Toronto city councillor known at first for his bushy hair and blue jeans. While he was often portrayed as a fighter in the city political arena, he is also remembered for his ability to inspire others into action.

Quebec breakthrough: Born and raised in Hudson, Que., just off the island of Montreal, Layton was the key to the NDP's surprising victory in Quebec in the 2011 election, which followed the leader's strong performance in the French-language leaders' debate and on the popular French-language shows such as  Tout le monde en parle.