Published August 24, 2012 | 8:01 pm
Dear Jack: it was one year ago that you left us and it was a tremendous loss for all Canadians, no matter where one’s political allegiance lay. Over the years working for you and the NDP, you instantly became my mentor and a good friend, especially when always insisted we call you Jack – just Jack.
You were fearless and brave. You were a leader with a vision, taking up the concerns of everyday Canadians. You were our voice in Parliament and an activist who stood with us, shoulder-to-shoulder on the ground.
I fondly remember one of the first occasions I worked for you – it was at an event in Toronto, where you suddenly decided to hold a press conference on the outrageous and ballooning gas prices in the city. I was shocked and scared of this unexpected issue thrown onto my plate – at the time, I was new and a novice to my job.
“No problem,” is what you said to me.
Then you sat me down at your kitchen table, handed me a telephone and a list of local media outlets and told me to call them and pitch the story. Now I was double-stunned – I had to sit in front of you, the leader of the NDP, and convince media to show up at an impromptu press conference!
Maybe I was lucky (or maybe it was a slow news day), but that press conference was a success with great media turnout. At the end of the day, you gave me a high-five and congratulated me on the “good work”. You taught me a valuable lesson that day – to never underestimate yourself when others believe in you.
Another highlight for me was in 2007, when I helped organize a campaign to urge the federal Conservatives to recognize and apologize for the Komagata Maru tragedy of 1914. I remember how appalled you were when you learned of this dark chapter in Canada’s history, and then how committed you were to working to on the issue.
Jack, the fact is that you weren’t just a champion for a select group of Canadians – you were a champion for all Canadians. You played an instrumental role in convincing Prime Minister Stephen Harper to apologize on the floor of the House of Commons to the First Nations and Aboriginal communities for the residential schools and forcible removal and conversion of their children. You worked with local Tamil leaders in coordinating and pressuring the Government of Canada to intervene and work with the United Nations for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Sri Lanka.
Your political goals included dignity for seniors, lifting people out of poverty, ending homelessness, ensuring the sick had access to doctors and proper medical care – you were a true fighter and it’s hard to believe that something like cancer would ultimately beat you.
I’m really proud that I had the opportunity to be a part of your team. Under your leadership, the NDP went from fourth-party status to Official Opposition in the House of Commons, with a historic number of NDP MPs representing the entire country.
In your farewell letter to Canadians, you concluded by saying: “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.”
Jack, I never got a chance to tell you this in person – thank you. Your words of love, hope and optimism will guide me, and all Canadians.
Thank you for teaching me to have courage when all I want to do is run and hide.
Thank you for showing me that it’s more rewarding to walk the walk than talk the talk.
Thank you for reminding me that it’s never too late to build a better world.
(The writer is press secretary of New Democratic Party of Canada .The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Saanj News)