Mr. Lastman, who served as mayor of the Canadian city of Toronto for eight years between 1993 and 2003, died on Monday, after being hospitalized for pneumonia, according to The Globe and Mail. He was 88.
Mr. Lastman is considered one of the biggest progressive voices in Canadian politics during the Liberal government of Jean Chretien. He led Toronto from a rough period in the years following the massive ethnic violence in Scarborough, when neighborhoods erupted in violence between North African and East Indian residents in the area’s Chinese community, The Globe and Mail reported.
“Some of the immigrant neighborhoods, in which they were new and in which they had new land and in which they were afraid for the future, went on full-blown riot, which turned the whole city upside down for a period of time,” Mr. Lastman said, according to CBC News. “And I didn’t like to see that.”
After the riots, Mr. Lastman brought in multicultural forums in which police, politicians and citizens could come together to discuss issues of concern. More than a decade later, the riots spurred the City of Toronto to build a mosaic-mural, which is a mosaic of a mosaic, designed by six different artists from Toronto’s multicultural groups.
Some of Toronto’s most significant political contributions came through Mr. Lastman’s work on the arts and culture committee. To mark Canada’s 150th birthday in 2014, Mr. Lastman organized a huge celebration and sold more than 8,000 tickets to the plaza, which included the likes of Willie Nelson, Sarah McLachlan and Kiefer Sutherland.
“Mr. Lastman really understood the importance of the arts and culture, and how they contribute to the economic, social and civic life of an entire city,” Toronto mayor John Tory said in a statement released by his office. “He loved Toronto, and every day, he took tremendous pride in being the mayor of this great city. He was fiercely proud of our welcoming culture, our vibrant neighbourhoods and our intellectual capital. My deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends.”
In his speech at the Canada 150 luncheon, Mr. Lastman talked about the fight against stereotyping, which he also called “a scourge in today’s society,” and said he believed that diversity is as important as “being Canadian,” according to The Globe and Mail.
Mr. Lastman also pushed for the private school system to be merged and encouraged his administration to adopt a just-say-no policy to “ensure safe neighbourhoods where all peoples are respected,” according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
While in office, Mr. Lastman became friends with Sarah Palin, a Republican politician in Alaska, and one of the biggest promoters of the city’s ice bucket challenge. He was also known for pranking Jennifer Aniston, which was the subject of a 2013 “Letterman” sketch.