As the sun lowered and a warm August evening prevailed at Surrey’s Holland Park Thursday, hundreds of residents turned up to remember Jack Layton at a candlelight vigil.
Peter Leblanc, constituency assistant for Surrey-North NDP MP Jasbir Sandu, said people started gathering at the park around 7:30 pm, joining a long line to pen their condolences; four books were filled with words of encouragement for the family of Canada’s fallen NDP leader.
“It was a very diverse group,” said Leblanc.
Around 8:15 pm, 10-year-old singer JJ Cepeda, who hails from Surrey’s Filipino community, led the crowd in a stirring rendition of ‘O Canada’.
“He’s a fantastic young singer with such a beautiful voice,” described Leblanc.
Local singer/songwriter Carolyn Smith also performed, singing ‘Angel’ by Sarah McLachlan.
Surrey MLAs Sue Hammell, Jagrup Brar, Harry Bains and Bruce Ralston were on hand to pay their respects.
MP Sandu spoke about his special moments with Layton.
“On Monday I had to explain to my young son, who met Jack many times and loved him, that Jack had passed away,” Sandhu said in a speech. “He asked me, ‘Who will fix Ottawa now?'”
Layton often reached out to Canadian youth – encouraging them to get involved in their communities.
“Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change,” said Layton, in his final letter to Canadians.
Thursday evening’s vigil ended after 45 minutes with a moment of silence.
Leblanc noted that a lot of people in Surrey had been talking about a local memorial for Layton in the days following his death.
Within two days – through the power of social media – the event had been organized.
“We called the (City of Surrey) and asked to use Holland Park, and they said this is the type of thing an urban park is meant for,” explains Leblanc.
MP Sandu left early Friday morning for Toronto where he will be attending Layton’s funeral at Roy Thomson Hall tomorrow.
“The NDP is my other family – and when you lose the head of a family you do have to grieve together,” said Sandu, by phone from Toronto late Friday afternoon.
He spoke about Layton’s love for Surrey and how the rising star in federal politics had visited the area a dozen times since 2006.
“[Layton] knew Surrey was a place where [the NDP] could pick up a seat or two,” said Sandu. “There are working class people with families here. Jack is the type of politician that reached across different spectrums.”