Ontario-born Raymond Taavel chose to make Nova Scotia his home, a decision that helped make the province immeasurably better and more inclusive than it was when Raymond moved here in the 1990s.
Raymond grew up in Sault Sainte-Marie, where he first discovered community engagement. He moved to Toronto in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS crisis and was deeply touched by the suffering and discrimination he saw. The experience transformed him into an activist on behalf of those afflicted. He would bring to Halifax that passion and humanitarian commitment.
In Nova Scotia, Raymond found his sexuality was a professional stumbling block. The barriers he encountered ignited his passion to "Be the Change". He served on various committees of Halifax Pride, including as Co-Chair in the early 2000s. Two early victories were convincing Halifax to proclaim Pride Week and to fly the Pride Flag at the Grand Parade. He joined NSRAP and Inter Pride and was a founding member and National President of Fiérté Canada Pride. That organization championed official recognition of LGBT rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and in the Equal Marriage. Along the way, Raymond befriended and lobbied politicians at all levels. He opened dialogues, built bridges and helped people see there was nothing to feel threatened about.
On April 17, 2012, Raymond died following a brutal attack after leaving a Halifax gay bar. While not the initial target, he and another patron were verbally and physically attacked by a mentally ill man. Raymond protected his friend, who ran for safety. Raymond suffered a lethal head injury and died on the scene.
Raymond touched many with his passion and compassion, ever advancing the view that gay rights were simply human rights. More than 1000 mourners showed the evening of his death to honour him. The Premier made a speech in the House of Assembly acknowledging Raymond's contributions and the Legislature held a moment of silence. Hi memorial service was preceded by a large public march to Saint Mathew's Church. Posthumously, Raymond received many honours, including the QE II Diamond Jubilee Medal for community engagement and the advancement of LGBT rights in Canada. Locally, the Halifax Pride Flag was dedicated to his memory and placed at the entrance to City Hall and the Gottingen 250 committee installed a plaque near the spot where he died.