APTN National NewsOTTAWA–In a final letter, written before he died, NDP leader Jack Layton called on Canadians to build a more equal country where love trumped anger and hope trumped fear.The letter was released shortly after noon Monday, mere hours after Layton died in his Toronto home surrounded by family and loved ones.“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair,” wrote Layton. “So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”Layton died Monday morning at around 4:45 a.m. from a still-undisclosed form of cancer, his family said in a statement. He was 61.Layton had been fighting prostate cancer and a fractured hip during the last election campaign where he took his party to an unprecedented showing, leading them to the cusp of power as the Official Opposition in the House of Commons.Layton announced he was fighting another form of cancer last month and appeared at the press conference in Toronto looking thin and weak.Layton, however, said he believed he’d be back by the start of Parliament on Sept. 19.“Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped,” wrote Layton, in his final letter.The country’s political leaders all issued statements of condolences and the flag atop the Peace Tower was lowered to half-mast Monday where it will remain until after his funeral.“I was deeply saddened to learn this morning of the death of Jack Layton,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper. “When I last spoke with Jack following his announcement in July, I wished him well and he told me he’d be seeing me in the House of Commons in the fall.”Harper later told reporters that he and Layton–both play musical instruments–always talked about having a “jam session,” but it never happened.“We always talked about getting together to jam, but it seemed we were always too busy. I will always regret the jam session that never was,” said Harper.While they were two politicians on opposite sides of the spectrum, Harper and Layton never displayed the level of bitter acrimony that often flared in the relationship between Harper and the Liberals.Harper actually credited Layton influencing the Conservative government’s decision to formally apologize for the Indian residential school system in 2008.Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo said he considered Layton a “friend” who would be missed by many First Nations leaders.“Jack understood the challenges of poverty and was determined to give voice to all struggles, including our struggle for fairness, equity and justice,” said Atleo, in a statement.In his letter to Canadians, Layton called on the country’s young to use their power of youth to change the country for the better.“As my time in political life draws to a close, I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and the world,” wrote Layton. “There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that exclude so many from our collective wealth…I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today.”Layton also offered words of encouragement for others who are battling cancer.“You must not lose your own hope,” wrote Layton. “Cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.”In the letter, Layton also left some final instructions for his party, saying he wished that the leadership vote to replace him be held early next year and that controversial NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel should remain at the post until a permanent replacement emerged.“Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one, a country of greater equality, justice and opportunity,” wrote Layton.
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