Raymond Taavel was murdered on Tuesday in the Canadian city of Halifax when he tried to intervene in a fight outside of a bar.
Taavel was a gay rights activist.
Anchor Lisa Mullins talks to Taavel’s close friend Hugo Dann about his life and the outpouring of grief over his death.
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Lisa Mullins: This week a random act of violence shook the Canadian city of Halifax. It happened in the early hours of Tuesday morning; there was a fight outside a bar in Halifax. A 49-year-old man named Raymond Taavel tried to break it up. That was the last thing that Taavel did. He was beaten to death by one of the mean involved in the fight. Police have since arrested a suspect. What brought Raymond Taavel’s story to our attention was the community reaction to his death. Taavel was a gay rights activist in Halifax. He helped to organize Halifax’s pride parade. He was once the editor of Waves magazine, that’s a local gay publication. Hugo Daan was a close friend and first, we are sorry for your loss, Hugo. I wonder if you can tell us about your late friend, Raymond Taavel.
Hugo Daan: Well, I can try. He was extraordinarily positive and upbeat. He always tried to take any negative comment and turn it around into a positive opportunity. He was just unfailingly kind.
Mullins: Maybe tell us a little bit more about how you know him.
Daan: I had gone to university in Halifax, then I moved to Toronto and based myself there for 30 years. So I came back in 2004. And I wanted to reintegrate myself into the queer community and so I saw they were having an open pride community meeting, and at that time Halifax pride was a very, very small affair. And so they used to have meetings at a coffee shop and anybody could just drop in. So I dropped in and they were all very busy and they said oh, are you here for pride? And I said yes, then they would all go back to doing what they were talking about, and so I felt kind of ignored. But Raymond was sitting right across from me and very, very handsome big smile on his face. And he grinned at me and reached across the table and said hi, I’m Raymond. I go back to that first meeting all the time because that really was him in a nutshell; he was so engaging and welcoming, and he was a remarkable guy. It’s a huge loss.
Mullins: You know, a lot of people feel that way in Halifax because it seems as though he touched a lot of people’s lives and there are symbols of that now; there are restaurants and stores there that have posted rainbow flags and decals to honor the gay rights movement and honor Raymond at the same time. Does this surprise you?
Daan: It doesn’t surprise me. The neighborhood where this happened is the north end of Halifax. It’s a remarkable neighborhood. It’s very vital and there’s also a lot of social service agencies there. One of those agencies, the North End Health Clinic, the executive director called up a local queer friendly bookstore that sells rainbow memorabilia and bought up their whole stock of rainbow flags. And made sure that every business owner on Gottingen Street that wanted one would have one. And then people took that further and started a Facebook group getting people to put rainbow flags in their windows, and now you see them popping up all across the city.
Mullins: Including on the Halifax Regional Police website. It should not go unnoticed that the man who is being held right now, Andre Denny, in the death of Raymond Taavel, is a man who has been institutionalized for a long period of time. There is a certain amount of compassion for this man. Tell us about that.
Daan: He apparently has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, it’s a pretty severe mental illness. Initially, there’s a lot of anger, right, when this happens and of course, one things of homophobia. Now you can’t, if somebody is that wounded in their mind, you know, and if they’re influenced by homophobia, it’s not really their fault.
Mullins: So what do you hope will be your friend’s legacy?
Daan: When you have a guy who did so much to make our city, our neighborhood, our country a better place to live, then you have to kind of try, to want to carry that on. You wanna make sure that his work doesn’t stop just because he’s no longer here to move it forward.
Mullins: Well, we’re very happy you talked to us, Hugo Daan, close friend of Raymond Taavel. Taavel was murdered on Tuesday outside of a bar in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Daan: Can I say one more small thing?
Daan: It’s wonderful to have this opportunity to talk about his life and to share it. He was a great guy, but it’s also very hard as LGBT people that we only seem to ever get on the news when something awful has happened to us. And we’re in our communities 365 days a year. It would be great to tell positive stories about people like Raymond when they’re still with us.
Mullins: We’re glad that you told us even now. And thank you for saying that, thank you for adding that on too, Hugo Daan, thank you.
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