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With bells, applause and 15 guns, Layton leaves the Hill a final time

With his widow, Toronto MP Olivia Chow, and children looking on, Jack Layton's casket is carried out of Centre Block on Aug. 25, 2011. The late Opposition Leader had been lying in state for two days on Parliament Hill.

BLAIR GABLE/REUTERS

Jack Layton is on his way home.

Just after 2 p.m., the NDP leader's flag-draped casket was carried out of Centre Block to a 15-gun salute. There was spontaneous applause from the crowd, waiting under bright sun on Parliament Hill, as his casket came into view.

O Canada rang from the Peace Tower bells as it was moved to the waiting hearse. Just after that, the Dominion Carillonneur, Andrea McCrady, played John Lennon's Imagine on the 53 bells of the Carillon.

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Mr. Layton's widow Olivia Chow, his children, Sarah and Michael, and other family members, stood on the centre steps as the Dominion March written by Phillip Layton, Mr. Layton's grandfather, also played on the bells.

A lone piper led the procession from the House of Commons foyer, down the long corridor lined with the portraits of past prime ministers, into the Hall of Honour and then, finally, down the centre steps under the Peace Tower.

NDP MPs lined the rotunda again as their leader left the Hill for the very last time.

Earlier in the day, Ms. Chow and the Layton family had visited Parliament Hill, viewing the memorial of letters and flowers and Orange Crush cans that has been growing and growing since his death early Monday morning.

Mr. Layton's casket, which was lying in state for two days, is now on its way to Toronto. It's bound for City Hall, where there will be more public visitations Friday and Saturday morning, before the state funeral at Roy Thomson Hall.

But it was not a direct route the procession took. A brief but symbolic detour was planned.

His hearse, with a motorcycle police escort, drove across the Ottawa River and into Gatineau. It was a gesture to Quebec voters, who embraced Mr. Layton's message and brand of politics in the May 2 election, electing 59 MPs from the province.

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Although he had called Toronto home for decades, Mr. Layton was born and raised in Quebec.

The procession turned into the driveway of the Museum of Civilization, directly across the river from Parliament. A crowd had been gathered, including several Quebec MPs, NDP staffers and others, and it also erupted into applause.

Sixty-one doves were released in Mr. Layton's honour. The NDP chief had celebrated his 61st birthday just last month.

The hearse also slowed down in front of Gatineau City Hall before it crossed the bridge back into Ottawa and headed to Toronto.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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