Each week the Legislature is in session we’ll give out four prizes for the best and worst moments, as recorded in Hansard.
Except this week.
In 2008, Pictou banned the pride flag from flying on government flagpoles. It was a low point for encouraging diversity. The outpouring of grief and solidarity we saw after the murder of Halifax human rights activist Raymond Taavel last week was heart-breaking and hopeful.
We are giving out just one prize this week, the Honey Bee, for Premier Dexter’s words the next day in the legislature. We reprint his statement in full:
Premier Dexter: I rise in my place today to talk about Raymond Taavel. Last night hundreds attended a vigil for Ray on Gottingen Street here in Halifax. The vigil, in fact, grew so large that police shut down the street. Someone there pointed out that Ray lived the kind of life that brought all these people out last night. His co-worker from the Shambala Sun, Barry Boyce, called him “a compassionate activist, without anger.” That is the description of a fine person by anyone’s measure.
The 52 members of the House represent all Nova Scotias. I’m sure I speak for all of us, as well as the people of the province, when I extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ray Taavel. Nova Scotia has suffered a tremendous loss. We lost a person who chaired Halifax Pride and was an editor of Wayves Magazine. We lost a person who devoted his life to fighting discrimination, violence and intolerance. We lost a person who made Nova Scotia a better, more open and more inclusive place for everyone and on behalf of my colleagues, the member for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island (Leonard Preyra) and the Minister of Health and Wellness (Maureen MacDonald) – both of whom Ray worked on campaigns with – you can imagine that this loss is felt very deeply.
Mr. Speaker, I read an article today from Wayves Magazine. It read:
“It’s tempting in this day and age of legislated liberties to think that a personal or collective vigilance is no longer required. It’s easy to lull ourselves into complacency, thinking there’s nothing more left to fight for, or nothing more to achieve. Fighting back comes in many forms: reaching out, building bridges, educating and, if need be, defending ourselves from physical harm.”
Ray wrote those words in 2010. Mr. Speaker, Ray was right. We are not done yet. We must continue to sharpen our collective vigilance. There is more to fight for, more to achieve, more bridges to build. This is not a time for complacency. It is tragic and so sad that it takes the brutal killing of someone like Raymond to remind us all of what he so clearly understood.
Mr. Speaker, the facts of this tragedy are not yet confirmed. It will take time to discover what happened that Tuesday morning and why. In this House and in this province we must all reaffirm our support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and we must also reaffirm our support for the many other communities that have been the object of hate and misunderstanding, including those who suffer from serious mental illness. Fear, misunderstanding and hate – that was not the way of the compassionate activist Raymond Taavel.
I would like to close with a quote that Ray posted on his Facebook page, a quote that I’m sure many of us have heard before but I believe shows Ray’s great character and wisdom and will serve as sound advice long after his death: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” I think we owe it to Ray to seek answers and define ways to protect ourselves, not through revenge but in the same manner that Ray would have, by understanding, by building bridges, by reaching out, and by educating.