Monday, August 22, 2011

A Tribute to Jack Layton

The entire White Ribbon Campaign (WRC) family is shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of Jack Layton today. He died peacefully with his family by his side. We extend our deepest condolences to Olivia, Mike and Sarah and his entire great, big family.

Jack was one of the co-founders and visionaries of the WRC, back in 1991. He felt men had to have both a role and responsibility in working to end violence against women, that we needed to step up our efforts in promoting gender equality, and be accountable to challenging the most harmful aspects of masculinity.

Along with Michael Kaufman, Ron Sluser and others, Jack launched his indefatigable energy into the WRC. Recently his son Mike shared with me the fact that the very first WRC office was actually in Mike’s bedroom – the bed just got cleaned off when Mike was back home from school!

I have talked to many men who never otherwise would have understood the positive role they could play in working to end violence against women, if it weren’t for Jack. Handing out ribbons in Union Station, making donations, offering up everything from office space to websites, few people could effectively say no to him when it came to the WRC.

From those humble beginnings, WRC is now the world’s largest effort of men and boys working to end violence against women and girls. From Mike’s bedroom to over 60 countries around the world, men have taken up the dream of ending gender based violence. Governments around the world, NGO’s, and the UN have all recognized the importance of this effort.

This is a truly remarkable accomplishment, one that would not have happened without Jack. As one small piece of his legacy, it will continue to have a tremendous impact.

When I took on the role of Executive Director at WRC, I had the chance early on to meet with Jack one-on-one. While he freely shared stories from those early years, it was very clear his intentions were not to discuss the past with me, but the future.

He felt the time was right for great things to happen, for men to begin to move en masse to this idea that we could do better, be more caring and compassionate in our lives. That as men we could stop being afraid of equality, that we could stop being defensive about male privilege, that we could embrace the fact that we all benefit from a world with less violence against women and girls, and ultimately against each other.

I am honoured to call Jack an inspiration, a mentor, and a friend. Another time, feeling overwhelmed by the scope of the work, he told me “Always have a dream that will outlast your lifetime,” and I have thought about our work to end violence against women in that way ever since.

There are too many dreams left after your passing my friend.

But I choose to leave with another favourite quote of yours, “Don’t ever let them tell you it can’t be done.” Rest in peace Jack, we will all miss you dearly.

Todd Minerson
Executive Director
White Ribbon Campaign

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