The current story line of The Secret Life of a Naturist was written and conceived earlier in March and it wasn’t until I had roughly sketched Part 2 that I knew I would dedicate it to Human Rights and Gay Activist Raymond Taavel.
Raymond Taavel moved to Nova Scotia in the early 1990’s in hopes to help the conservative province to be more inclusive and accepting of the gay culture.
Born in 1962 in Sault Sainte-Marie Ontario, Raymond knew from an early age that he could make a difference by taking part in community engagement. At the height of the AIDS crisis in the late eighties, he moved to Toronto and was devastated by the suffering and discrimination around him. It was at moment that he became an activist and be a strong voice to help those afflicted. When he moved to Halifax, he brought with him the passion and humanitarian commitment he started in Toronto.
Like many in the LGBTQ community at the time, Raymond found being an “out and proud” gay man a stumbling block to gain acceptance in the professional world. The barriers he faced ignited the fire in him to “Be the Change” and served on various committees of Halifax Pride that included being co-chair in the early 2000’s. Two milestones included getting the Halifax City council to proclaim a Pride Week and have the Pride Flag wave at the Grand Parade.
Later on, he joined NSRAP (Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project) (see link here: http://nsrap.ca/) and was a founding member and National President of Fiérté Canada Pride which championed for recognition of LGBT rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedom and in Equal Marriage. With these organizations, he opened dialogues with prominent politicians to help people understand that the gay community was not a threat.
Raymond was killed after brutal attack on April 17, 2012 upon leaving a Halifax gay bar. The circumstances of his death was tragic as he was not the initial target. Raymond was protecting a friend from a verbal and physical attack by a mentally ill man. His friend ran to safety while Raymond suffered a lethal blow to the head and died on scene.
Raymond Taavel was a true champion and voice for the gay community and wanted everyone to know that gay rights were human rights. On the evening of his death over 1000 mourners went to site to honour him. The Premier of Nova Scotia Darrell Dexter, gave a deeply heartfelt speech and held a moment of silence in the House of Assembly in recognition of Raymond’s contributions for the LGBT community. A large public vigil and march to Saint Mathew’s Church followed his memorial service.
Many of his honours, include the QE II Diamond Jubilee Medal for community engagement and the advancement of LGBT right in Canada. Halifax City Hall dedicated the Pride Flag at the entrance to his memory and a plaque was installed near the area that he died by the Gottingen 250 committee.
May he rest in peace.
This is: “The Vigil” Part 3