By Jordanna Tennebaum
Sept. 20 marked the inaugural launch of the Jack Layton lecture series at Ryerson and while the event commemorated the life of the politician, activist and humanitarian, it effectively breathed new life into his legacy via Professor Myer Siemiatycki’s appointment of the newly founded Jack Layton Chair.
Siemiatycki and Layton share similiar socially progressive ideals.
They both served on the faculty boards of Ryerson University’s department of politics and public administration, championing ambitious policies and causes.
“While Jack was teaching at Ryerson he ran for city council and once elected, engaged his students in many of the activities and issues taking place at City Hall, an excellent learning environment, especially for the journalism students,” said Gerda Kaegi, coordinator of the Chang School’s certificate in nonprofit and voluntary sector management.
In a similar manner to Layton, Siemiatycki has also gone to great lengths to enrich the lives of his pupils and fellow co-workers as the leader of Ryerson’s Holocaust Education Programming and the Ryerson Union Fair.
“Professor Siemiatycki’s unique mix of research and social justice commitments bring to life so many of Jack’s passions for people and community,” said Dean of Arts Jean-Paul Boudreau.
Among the chair’s duties is organizing activities related to sustainability, homophobia, sexual identity, women’s rights and the processes of democratic government, causes that were essential to Layton’s career as leader of the New Democratic Party.
“Jack defended a number of issues,” said Siemiatycki. “Environment and worker’s rights, full sexual identity rights and equality, the importance of maintaining a democratic voice in government. These are all issues that the Chair will engage in and promote.” Siemiatycki plans to follow this intricate mandate however, once established, the immigration and labour expert aims to engage students in local and international politics just as Layton did.
“There will have to be initial funding to generate resources for the Chair to successfully carry out its mission,” he said.