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Orange linings playbook

Orange linings playbook

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Olivia Chow on smilin' Jack's gay legacy and the CBC's biopic of his story
For the late Jack Layton, a smile was worth a thousand words.
 
On March 10, Layton’s legacy will shine bright when the CBC airs the biopic Smilin’ Jack: The Jack Layton Story. It follows the 2011 election campaign that saw Layton — played by Rick Roberts — lead the NDP to its largest mandate since the party was formed.
 
It also traces the love story between the NDP messiah and his wife, Toronto MP Olivia Chow — played by CBC radio host Sook-Yin Lee — when Layton was a scrappy, idealistic city councillor and Chow was a school board trustee. Together, the power couple shared a historic ascent in the national political arena before their personal and professional union was cut short tragically when Layton died of cancer in 2011. Many had surmised he was on his way to becoming prime minister. To lose Layton, who was a loyal and passionate gay ally, was a brutal loss for many in the community.
 
Despite losing the “love of her life,” Chow is still smiling, even though earlier this year she was diagnosed with a viral infection that temporarily left part of her face paralyzed. “It’s a new year, a new look,” the passionate politico joked at the time.
 
It’s that kind of humour that has gotten the 55-year-old Hong Kong native through the gruelling grieving process.
 
“If we allow it to, grief can paralyze us,” she tells Xtra. “That’s the last thing the person we lost wants to happen. We have to continue to live and love, even more so, in their honour.”  
  
Long before it was popular, Layton and Chow were relentless champions of gay rights. Why did the gay community resonate so profoundly with Jack?
 
“We are nothing if we don’t put our values into action —and Jack proved that with the gay community,” Chow says. “He initially stood up publicly when the bathhouse raids were going on. He thought the raids were outrageous and it was destroying people’s lives. He rallied against the cruel police treatment of the gay community.”
 
And that was only the beginning. “When the AIDS crisis struck, he thought it was important to have a defence plan in place,” she says. “As a result, he got millions of dollars in support to help the sick and dying. In Toronto, in terms of the AIDS crisis, it was very hard, but there was at least financial support to help the sick.”
 
Once the AIDS crisis was seemingly under control, Layton set his sights on a bigger — almost impossible — human rights issue: gay marriage.
 
“He passionately maintained that gays and lesbians had every right to get married like the rest of us. In fact, when we got married, we built that belief into our wedding. In 1998, we had a friend affirm during our ceremony that it was time for all couples to be able to wed legally. As a leader, he was able to make that a reality,” Chow says. “In fact, gay marriage was one of the first agendas he fought for when he became the leader of the NDP.”
 
Ironically, Chow maintains, it was the inspiring, relentless gay spirit and community that taught Layton the most — not the other way around.
 
“Despite all the inequality and death, he found that love can conquer . . . and he learned that from the gay community. He found that love could conquer death, and the power of a community coming together through love to extinguish hatred, bias and fear was powerful. He learned that from the [Metropolitan Community Church], Casey House and through all his friends in the gay and lesbian community.
 
“Jack may not be here,” she says, “but his legacy and values are still alive – whether they’re ones of justice, equality or of living a life that is more loving. Jack’s spirit is eternal.”
 
    

Comments

I gather Kevin does not understand film financing
Somebody tell Kevin how film financing works in Canada before he shoots his virtual mouth off again that “CBC”' paid Olivia Chow.
How much was Chow paid by the CBC?
SUN media exposed the fact that Olivia Chow was a paid consultant to the CBC for their bio-pic of Jack (see link below). How much did she get paid? I think it is disgusting that we taxpayers have to pay for this "biopic" which is nothing but a free campaign ad for Olivia Chow - and it is DOUBLY DISGUSTING that Chow would be paid by the CBC. In essence she is profiting off of her husbands death. She seems to be milking his death for all its worth. http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/video/featured/prime-time/867432237001/a-year-later-jacks-still-no-saint/1799535668001
@co-op dweller
No we can't put that "old saw to bed for once and for all". Layton & Chow lived in a "market rent" unit. Then as now "market rent" is anything but. These units are heavily subsidized. For example the newest TCHC Tower in the Railands features a brand new 5 bedroom - three-bathroom - two-den - 2500 sq/ft apartment with large terrace spread over two floors - for the grand price of $1,700 a month! This is the "market" price! This would not even cover the common element charges in a true market condo. The fact is they Layton's occupied a highly subsidized unit - not rent geared to income - but highly subsidized none-the-less. At the time they had a household income in the six-figures! They could afford to pay FULL price for housing but chose instead to occupy an apartment that could have served a low-income person.
@Joe Clark
Joe, why not a movie about Brian Mulroney? Wherever there is conflict, there is usually a good story. Producers in the United States and the United Kingdom don't seem to have a problem making political dramas about right-wing politicians (popular or unpopular, warts or no warts) that are critically acclaimed, watched by many people (right and left) and profitable. For example, HBO's Game Change movie about Sarah Palin. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOa98P_Mv68 Or, Oliver Stone's movie about Richard Nixon. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dO2LWKpeyI8 Or, the recent movie about Margaret Thatcher. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtscJqh8FqY But, the CBC may only be capable about making movies that fawn over Liberal and NDP party leaders, as opposed to a film that critically examines the life of a national politician.
Dear Ron of Vancouver
I can't comment on the "whorehouse" part in your Comment because I'm unfamiliar w/ that allegation...but as far as the "social housing thing" goes, many if not all non-profit co-op buildings in Toronto are designed to be mixed income communities, where some folk pay market rent housing charges and others on fixed incomes pay subsidized fees...so can we put that old saw to bed once and for all?
Scrap the CBC
Will there be scenes in the "Jack" movie showing him and his high paid politician-wife living in a social housing unit while thousands are homeless in his constituency? How about a touching episode of him busted naked in a whore house while fucking an underage illegal immigrant prostitute? How long until CBC's love letter to dead communist Hugo Chavez?
You would prefer _Mulroney: The Opera_, Ray?
In one guise or another every single television broadcaster in Canada is subsidized. Why, even Sun News Network is looking for government-imposed funding! And some of us react badly when right-wing assholes show up to denounce a work they have not seen.
Stop taxpayer funding of cheesy CBC movies
It's interesting that the CBC doesn't even bother to give equal time for the Conservatives. A couple of years ago, the CBC released a cheesy movie glorifying Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Now, the CBC is about to realease a cheesy movie glorifying NDP leader Jack Layton. Personally, I'd prefer that the Government of Canada stop giving tax dollars to the CBC for their clumsy anti-Conservative political agenda. There's no shortage of entertainment on TV or the Internet. This is not an industry that needs to be subsidized by tax dollars.
Get the title right
It is simply "Jack"
Great
Now let's hope Pride Toronto doesn't bump Jack's party from the Community Fair for CSIS or the RCMP this year.
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