Toronto

Layton's early Toronto battles remembered

Those who work in and around Toronto's city hall took time on Monday to remember the causes Jack Layton championed during his early days in politics as a councillor.

Fought for AIDS awareness, promoted cycling as city councillor

A tribute to Jack Layton written in chalk adorns a Toronto bike lane. As a member of city council, Layton promoted city cycling. ((Martin Reis/Flickr))

Those who work in and around Toronto's city hall took time on Monday to remember the causes Jack Layton championed during his early days in politics as a councillor.

Layton, the federal NDP leader, died of cancer Monday morning. He was 61.

Layton's death has triggered memories about his work during his early days in politics before his rise to the NDP leadership vaulted him onto the national stage.

One cause Layton started was the White Ribbon Campaign, a coalition of men vowing to end violence against women. The movement was started in response to the 1991 Montreal Massacre.

Its first office was in the Layton home. The campaign is now active in more than 60 countries.

Layton tribute wall

Click here to read the personal messages written on Jack Layton's tribute wall in Toronto.

"[He] offered to put up his home as some equity to generate some funds to keep the campaign going," said Todd Minerson, the executive director of Toronto's White Ribbon Campaign. 

Former city councillor Joe Pantalone said Layton's work on another issue — AIDS awareness — was well ahead of its time.

"When the issue of AIDS was new in the world, Toronto was one of the leaders because Jack Layton championed it," said Pantalone.

Gay marriage was another issue Layton fought for.

"He whipped the vote at the federal level around gay marriage, saying it is an undeniable human right," said author Jane Farrow.

An early cycling advocate

Toronto cyclists rang their bells as they rode past Toronto's city hall on Monday, a tribute to Jack Layton's work to promote city cycling long before it was fashionable.

Flowers left my mourners cover the front steps of Jack Layton's constituency office in Toronto. ((Lucy Lopez/CBC))

In the 1980s Layton helped develop the city's metal ring-and-post bike locks. They now number 16,000 and are a mainstay on sidewalks throughout the city. Layton also pushed to allow cyclists to carry their bikes aboard TTC vehicles.

"We have him to thank for the early days of bike advocacy in Toronto," said urban cycling co-ordinator Yvonne Bambrick.

Andrea Bowker co-chaired the city's cycling committee with Layton more than a decade ago and remembers Layton's early advocacy work.

"Jack was there at the start, he politicized cycling," said Bowker. "He rode his bike to work like it was a normal thing to do. He set an example. Everything he did, everything he talked about. That's what he lived."

now