Canadian opposition leader Jack Layton died early Monday morning after battling cancer. He was 61 years old.

According to a statement released by his wife and immediate family, Layton died peacefully at his home surrounded by family and loved ones.  The statement was posted on the New Democratic Party of Canada's website.

Funeral arrangements for Layton have not yet been announced.

Layton's death was not unexpected. Saturday, he publicly released a letter thanking his colleagues, constituents and the country for supporting him while he was ill.

He also offered hope to other Canadians battling with cancer. In his note, he wrote:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don't be discouraged that my own journey hasn't gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

Layton was the leader of the New Democrats in the Canadian Parliament since 2003. Nycole Turmel took over the  position once Layton stepped down from office earlier this summer. She will continue leading the party on an interim basis until new elections are held.