Raymond Taavel to be memorialized with city park

HRM staff want to rename a small south-end park after the prominent LGBTQ+ activist, who was killed in 2012.


A small park at the corner of Barrington and Inglis Streets is set to be renamed after Raymond Taavel, six years after the celebrated LGBTQ+ activist’s tragic death.

Taavel was one of the city’s most prominent voices for gay rights—instrumental in bringing about HRM’s first public proclamation of Pride Week, raising the rainbow flag at City Hall as well as efforts to have equal marriage and transgender rights enshrined in Nova Scotia’s Human Rights Act.

“In the early 2000s—a time when the LGBT community across Canada was raising its profile with city halls in a very significant way—Taavel began a decade of work as one of the foremost leaders of Halifax Pride,” reads a staff report recommending the change, which comes to city council next week.

The 49-year-old was killed outside of Menz Bar in April of 2012 while trying to stop a fight. The next evening over 1,000 people filled Gottingen Street in an outpouring of appreciation. Similar vigils were held throughout the Maritimes and across Canada.

Efforts to celebrate Taavel's legacy began almost immediately thereafter.

Lieutenant governor JJ Grant posthumously awarded Taavel the QEII Diamond Jubilee medal, and his name currently adorns both a plaque on Gottingen Street and the commemorative display case for a rainbow flag within City Hall.

Last year, the department of Culture and Heritage chose Taavel as one of 30 Nova Scotians over the past 150 years responsible for “innovation and change in the face of diversity.”

He was an “activist without anger,” says close friend and former coworker Barry Boyce.

“To this day I think that’s his legacy,” Boyce said last month as a guest on The Coast’s podcast. “He knew how to be fierce and push an agenda but he also knew how to listen and care and not alienate people.”

click to enlarge Inglis Street Park will be renamed for Taavel, barring any objections from council. - WAYE MASON
Inglis Street Park will be renamed for Taavel, barring any objections from council.

Boyce and other members of the Public ART for Raymond Taavel initiative have been trying to find a way to honour their dearly departed friend’s legacy for several years.

A vacant lot on Gottingen Street was temporarily transformed into a healing garden by artist Brian Pace in honour of Taavel, but redevelopment plans for the property prompted recent discussions about finding a more permanent space.

Boyce says the group realized that the tranquillity of a community park would be the most fitting memorial for a peaceful man whose legacy was bringing together community.

“This is not about Raymond’s death. This is about Raymond’s life,” says Boyce. “No matter how long Raymond lived, it would have been fitting and appropriate to commemorate him and to commemorate him in a way that represents who he was, because he was about the community. He wasn’t about himself.”

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