Chalk memorial for Jack Layton in front of Toronto's New City Hall

Responding to the death of Jack Layton, head of Canada's New Democratic Party and a former Toronto City Councillor, Torontonians thronged Nathan Phillips Square, a large public space in front of New City Hall, and chalked memorial messages over every surface.

Remembering Jack Layton at Nathan Phillips Square (Thanks, Emily!)


  1. This is an incredibly beautiful and inspiring living memorial to an inspiring politician and hero (with a tip of the hat to Kyle). RIP Jack Layton. I hope your life and legacy inspire another generation to work for positivity and hope.

  2. Unfortunately, the big storm the other day in Toronto washed away a lot of the messages seen in that picture, however new messages are filling back in. Without the storm, I wondered if all of Nathan Phillips Square could have been covered.

  3. I went by the square today at lunch, the line for his viewing wrapped all the way around city hall – it had been like that since they opened in the morning.

    The chalk messages have spread almost across the whole square, covering probably double the amount that you see in the picture above.

    Truly an inspiring tribute to an inspiring man.  RIP Jack.

    1. It was tweeted to me, and I submitted it to them – I’m so glad you found it! I’m a complete ignoramus when it comes to Flickr, & couldn’t figure out what to do about letting you know. It’s such a glorious picture! The friend who tweeted it to me said “This is now my go-to answer to anyone who says that people don’t care about politics or politicians.”

  4. When he left Ottawa for the last time, John Lennon’s “Imagine” played on the peace tower’s carillon.

    It’s something I would have never thought I’d ever hear. It was such a beautiful moment despite the sad circumstances.

    1. That was a genuinely moving gesture, but man does “Imagine” sound weird played entirely on bells.

  5. I’m so proud that even in these divided political times, Canadians have come together to agree that a good, decent, honest man was just that. Thanks so much for posting this. Layton’s replacement has some big shoes to fill.

  6. I barely knew who Jack Layton was before he died, and the more I learn, the more I wish I’d been smart enough to pay more attention to our neighbors to the north beforehand. All the love being poured out across the internet is a marvelous, humbling thing, and he so clearly deserved it.

    (And, may I just say, by way of PS: Quite honestly, seeing my name on your front page is one of the coolest things to ever happen to me in the blogosphere. OMG SO COOL).

  7. What a great picture.

    As someone mentioned above, this is the third set of chalk at Nathan Philips Square since there’s been at least two rainstorms since the start.  I went on Wednesday, and there was live music and it was quite moving.  It looks like I should go again.

  8. One thing is certain: you won’t see this show of emotions from canadians when Harper passes away…

    Bonne nuit Jack.

    1. I can imagine there’ll be a show of emotion when Harper passes away, but it’ll be of a completely different variety.

  9. This is really touching.

    As a side note, it also underscores the value of genuinely public space.  You’d never see something like this at a mall food court.

  10. This is about Jack and the positive space he created, let’s leave the negativity at the door. Mr Harper is who he is. Nobody is the bad guy in their own movie. 

  11. I went down again last night, didn’t have a lot of time so I couldn’t get a large photo of the square, but it’s gotten big again.  Anywhere there is concrete, there is chalk.  Walls, staircases, inside AND outside the wrap-around walkway, up and down the arches over the reflecting pool… everywhere.  I can honestly say I have never seen something this large.  Photos are here:

  12. Whether you agreed with Jack Layton’s politics or not, you had to respect the passion, optimism, and dedication he brought to the job. Jack was never afraid to stop and talk with the average Canadian on any topic, and to give a straight answer, or merely admit he did not have an answer. I met Jack once, and you got the real impression he valued your input, and discounted nothing. Canadian politics has lost one of it’s true great visionaries.

  13. The thing is, it’s really quite rare to have a great political leader – you know, someone who is charismatic, visionary, and really sincerely gives a shit. You’re lucky if your nation gets one every fifty years or so. Jack was one of these guys, and to have him snatched away just when he was on the verge of having real power feels like a mistake – like historians will look back and note how, shit, we were really on the brink of something there – only to have that nascent moment extinguished. I’m really sad we didn’t get to see him bring all of his brilliance and passion to fruition. But he did lay down some groundwork, and hopefully we can continue where he left off – but god, it’s so handy to have a great leader, and so shitty for him to be gone.

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