Goodbye, Mr. Layton, we are going to miss you !
Like most of you, it was with great sadness that I learned of Jack Layton’s death this morning. I thought that 61 was way too young to leave and leave so many people, things behind. I also considered myself privileged to have already met this great man and to have been able to exchange with him long enough. I had already discussed this earlier, but this meeting had been imbued with authenticity and an unusual presence.
My interview with him took place very simple. I happened to be at Parliament for a press conference announcing the introduction of Bill C-51 by the NDP. This project called for the Employment Insurance Act to bring the number of weeks of sickness benefits in the event of serious illnesses to 52 weeks. It will be renewed this fall. We passed through his office. He was there, working with different colleagues. With disarming simplicity, he simply interrupted what he was doing to take the time to come and sit with me. The natural with which he made this gesture was something fascinating.
The mere glance of this man and his warm handshake impressed me deeply. During our discussion, I felt very touched. I also realized that he knew my story well, one of many for him, but also that he was perfectly aware of the crusade that I had undertaken to change this archaic law. In short, he was touched, present, moved. Deeply human. and sick too…
Is it necessary to wait for the illness, the cancer, to look into this societal problem that I have denounced for two years now? Mr. Layton took the time to leave a farewell letter of the most valuable in inheritance. This paragraph is beautiful:
“To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.”
He’s right, obviously. On every point. You have to take advantage of this precious life. Don’t have to wait to surround yourself with those you love. We have to fight. Believe. Never stop hoping. On the other hand, how is it that in hundreds of thousands of Canadians, this hope is hampered by financial difficulties that quickly become insurmountable? How is it that this Canada, which represents the hopes of the whole world, according to Mr. Layton, is the only country of the G-8 to bear so miserably its citizens when they go through a serious illness?
Remember that in Canada we only have 15 weeks to recover from a serious illness, such as cancer. It should also be recalled that this law has never been amended since its introduction in 1971. Let us also remember that all the other G-8 countries (except USA) give more than one year of benefits and sometimes up to 100% of the salary. Here we have to settle for a meagre 55% of our income, moreover, is taxed.
How long are we going to endure this situation? So, on behalf of all those who go through such hardships, and all those who will face it, I ask you to unite your efforts with mine by circulating and signing my petition. Let us continue to unite to change things and maintain our dignity, even in sickness. That’s how we get a better Canada, and a healthy society at all levels.
I thank you. I thank Jack Layton for this wonderful legacy he leaves behind. I thank life for giving me the opportunity to know him a little. I offer my sympathies to all his family and to all those who were close to him. He was a great man. A real one.