Islamic Foundation of Toronto and Muslims of Greater Toronto Give Posthumuous Award to Late NDP Leader

October 21, 2012

TORONTO – Jack Layton was a champion for diversity and working together across the boundaries of religion, culture and heritage to advance Canada. The strong ties to Muslim community in his riding and Toronto in general were testimony to this.

The Islamic Foundation of Toronto and the Muslims of Greater Toronto have posthumuously honoured the late leader with a special award. Olivia Chow gave the following remarks upon receiving the honour:


Dear friends – thank you – thank you all so much.

I thank you for your warm welcome.

I thank you for inviting me to celebrate with you tonight – this is such a joyful celebration of the magnificent  Muslim community of Toronto, which has done so much to enrich our city as a model of multiculturalism.

I thank you for this beautiful tribute to Jack Layton – on behalf of all our family, I want to say how moved and proud we are of this great honour.

And most of all, I thank you for everything that you are doing to make a difference and build a better world! The work you are doing – together – is so important. Every day, you build bridges of tolerance, understanding and respect, you bring comfort and relief, you promote human rights, inclusiveness and diversity –  you work individually and collectively to build a better world.

Your work is so important.

Your humanitarian work – in responding to relief efforts around the world when disaster strikes – brings hope and comfort to those in despair. And so does your work to support healthcare and hospitals here at home. And so do your hot soup days – which feed so many hungry families, here in Toronto.

And then of course – there is the project which touches my heart very deeply – and that is your partnership with Christians and Jews for the Breakfast at the Second Base Youth Centre of Scarborough. This partnership of Muslims, Christians and Jews to feed street kids and homeless youth was very important to Jack. And it is very important to me.

The humanitarian values we share are also based on our shared commitment to human rights and social justice. And as you know, our rights can be threatened at any time.

As Chief Bill Blair said, safety, peace and harmony come through mutual understanding and mutual respect. They come through from the good work you do. That’s why we do not need the return of the Anti-terrorism bill.  A bill that allows the government to suspend the human and civil rights of Canadian citizens.

Like so many members of this community, we said it was wrong for Canadian citizens to be arrested without a warrant and imprisoned for up to a year without a trial or criminal charges. We all know the damage that can be done, when a government suspends human rights. We all know the story of Maher Arar, and we shared the outrage. In 2007, as leader of the NDP, Jack was proud to work with many leaders of the Muslim community, and lead the opposition to the renewal of these clauses in Parliament.

But now – once again, rights are threatened by the Canadian government – which wants to renew the bill. And once again – we must be vigilant. Just a few days ago, I stood in the House of Commons, and spoke out against Bill S-7.

I said then, as I say now – “We can have a secure country without having to violate the civil and human rights of individuals.’ We must be vigilant – if we threaten the rights of one individual, we threaten the rights of everyone in our society. And that is why we must stand together.

Jack Layton knew that – and he was very proud of the work he did with the Muslim Community. It was his wish that his state funeral be inclusive and respectful of all faiths, and have a reading from the Qu`ran.

Jack would have loved your beautiful and universal theme for this celebration tonight – “Collective Achievements – making a difference”. That was his greatest message – and his last message to Canadians of all faiths – together, we can change the world.

Thank you all.