Jack Layton: a true change maker

By now you have heard or read the call to action from Jack Layton in his last words to Canadians: “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 will change the world.”

Photo by Peter J. Thompson

A profound sentiment from a true change maker and leader. Every day at SiG we are privileged to work with Canadians, young and old who not only believe in a better Canada, they are actually working towards it. These Canadians often choose to make a difference through social entrepreneurship, Jack chose to do it through politics, and others like David Pecaut (someone who I can’t help but think of when I read the tributes to Jack) choose to do it through community building.

Jack was clearly a social innovator, as the co-founder of the white ribbon campaign he charged us to think differently about the issue of violence against women and about how men can contribute to this work. This was a fundamental change in approach from the work many of us were doing – focusing on the immediate needs of women to get them into shelters and keep them safe. Of course men had a role, we just needed the leadership of a man like Jack to take it on.

Like many people in Toronto, I worked with Jack on several committees, primarily addressing the challenge of homelessness. He would chair the meeting, calling everyone by name while taking notes (this was pre-Blackberry) and at the end of what were often challenging meetings, he would read out the summary he had written and produce a statement that all could accept. That skill, finding the common ground among a room of dissenters, finding the one thing we could all agree on, was something at which I marveled – it is a rare skill indeed.

So Jack, on behalf of all of us who believe we can do better in addressing our social challenges, thank you. Not only for your vision but for your ability to implement and create change, for your ability to show us that we too can make difference. Our future depends on it.

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About Allyson Hewitt

Allyson Hewitt is the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation's Senior Fellow in Social Innovation at MaRS Discovery District


  1. Can’t say I agreed with Jack politically, but I respected him as a person with a sincere opinion. Hopefully there are more like him who are not afraid to go against the grain.

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