08/23/2011 01:54 EDT | Updated 10/24/2011 05:12 EDT

Thanks Jack


My fondest memory of Jack Layton was back in December 2009. The Copenhagen climate talks were entering into their second week and a wave of sit-ins had been rolling through the offices of Members of Parliament across Canada.

Along with a five other youth, I had just been arrested inside the House of Commons for occupying a meeting of the House Environment Committee as they deliberated the future of Canada's Climate Change Accountability Act. The six of us were arrested, detained and charged with trespassing before being released a few hours later.

As we were escorted from the hill, we walked past the late NDP leader who took a darting look around and with a curt nod snuck us a thumbs up and mouthed "thanks."

Since my entrance into the realm of climate justice organizing in Canada, I've crossed paths with Mr. Layton more than once and although our politics often did not align, I was happy to know that the youth climate movement in Canada was able to call him an ally. Even when our actions, like shouting down the House in Commons in 2009, blew back on him and the NDP, he remained a supporter of our fight for a just and sustainable future.

And his final letter said, we are still faced with "the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth." The torch has not passed or dimmed, for the fire to change this country and the world has always burned in our hearts. We must remember that regardless of who occupies the chairs in the House of Commons, the power in this country lies in the hands of the people, we need only to use it.

Thank you Jack for reminding all of us to be loving, optimistic and hopeful. But I'll raise you one, and call on all of us to put the rubber to the road and transform that into real change, to create the true lasting legacy of that better nation and world.

As Martin Luther King once said, "Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love."

At his best, Jack Layton reminded me that there were politicians who still wanted to fight for the people, and he reminded us that we had friends inside a system that often seemed designed to alienate our generation.

For all this and more, on behalf of the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition... thanks.