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    Jack Layton: in memoriam

Immigration is an important topic for many of us. I never tire of promoting immigration as one of the solutions to Canada’s future, extolling the features of our great land nor defending the right of all Canadians to benefit from those things distinctly Canadian.

At this time I am at a loss for words as I join other Canadians in mourning the loss of one of the great political leaders in our country’s proud history, Jack Layton. Like many of you I was aware of seriousness of his illness, expected the worst and yet am still in shock. I met him on the campaign trail in the fall of 2010 and he appeared full of vim, vigour and vitality, even though my wife remarked on how pale he looked. He battled for his life with cancer but still led the NDP to a historic second place in the recent federal election. Jack Layton was the leader of the official opposition and poised to become the first NDP Prime Minister of Canada and now, too soon, he is gone.

Most will remember him not as the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, or as Professor Layton or even as Mr. Layton but just as plain “Jack.” This is the way he wanted us to address him and remember him. Jack is gone but he left us with his legacy and last words, which we can all use to help Canada grow and realize it’s great potential as a nation.

The dying leader of the opposition took time out from his transition from this world to the next to leave all of us with something to remember him by. He wrote:

Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice and opportunity.

These are the things many of us hope and work for. I share Jack’s vision of what our country can be and work to ensure that Canadian immigration embodies the same principles of “equality, justice and opportunity.” His eloquence emphasizes the basic fundamentals of Canadian life that are sometimes missed, sometimes forgotten, and sometimes overlooked by applicants and immigration officials alike. All Canadians, new and old alike, deserve the same rights and privileges under the law. This is entrenched in laws such as the following reference from the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and Regulation (IRPA), which lists one of the goals as “to support the development of a strong and prosperous Canadian economy, in which the benefits of immigration are shared across all regions of Canada” (Section I.3.I.c).

The purpose of this column is to highlight the legacy of Jack Layton, because, like other great political leaders of our country, he has helped define who we are as Canadians. He is not alone amongst the greats of Canadian politics. I was fortunate in my lifetime to have been proudly Canadian under great leaders like Pierre Trudeau and John Diefenbaker to mention just two. The first is remembered for his strong support for immigration and the second for defending Canada against American incursions into our economy. (See George Grant, Lament for a Canadian Nation). The reason I chose to mention three leaders by name is because, first, they earned the admiration and respect of all Canadians and, second, they come from different political parties; NDP, Liberal and Conservative. Yes, we have been made better as people and stronger as Canadians by having experienced representation from people like Jack. In his final words he gave us the prescription for immigration policies and practice, and by extension, life in general:

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.

Thank you, Jack.

Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. He can be reached at 838 Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg, (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail:

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