HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — A prominent Canadian LGBT activist and journalist was found beaten to death outside a popular gay bar in Halifax early Tuesday morning.
Raymond Taavel, 49, the former editor of the LGBT magazine “Wayves” and former co-chair of PrideWeek Halifax, was found bleeding and unconscious outside the Menz & Mollyz bar in Halifax at about 2:30 a.m. by a passerby who called authorities.
Constable Brian Palmeter, a spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Halifax, told LGBTQ Nation that according to witnesses, Taavel and another man were accosted by an individual outside the bar.
One witness told police that he saw a large man attack two smaller men, one of whom fled as the attacker slammed the other man’s head into the street. Two other witnesses told police the attacker used homophobic slurs during the beating.
Palmeter said Taavel died at the scene as a result of his injuries.
A police K-9 unit was used to track the assailant to a nearby alley where he was hiding behind some trash cans. Andre Noel Denny, 32, is scheduled to appear in Halifax Provincial Court Wednesday on a charge of murder according to Palmeter.
Denny is a psychiatric patient from the nearby East Coast Forensic Hospital who failed to return to the facility after a one-hour leave. He is one of three patients who did not return to the hospital Monday. One of those patients is still at large.
Capital Health, the private organization that runs the hospital, told LGBTQ Nation that it has launched an internal review into the matter and will not make further comment pending the outcome of that inquiry.
The CBC reported that Denny was sent to the facility after being found not criminally responsible on a charge of assault causing bodily harm in Sydney.
In court documents, the man is described as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. He is also described as being grossly psychotic with a history of aggressive impulsivity and unpredictability.
Tributes to Taavel have been expressed by scores of Halifax citizens and fellow activists shocked by his murder. “I think I have the same sense of shock as everyone else who is connected to the community,” says Kevin Kindred, of the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project.
“It’s incalculable, he was such a beautiful spirit,” says Halifax activist Hugo Dann.
“Anyone who got involved in gay rights in Halifax, knew Raymond. Raymond took his knocks, but he never stopped smiling and he never failed in kindness. That’s the loss that will stick with me because he was unfailingly kind … I think people will want to go out, to be together. I don’t think our community ever hides,” Dann said.