'He was really fearless': Trailblazing LGBTQ activist remembered

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Gerard Veldhoven, a well-known champion for LGBTQ rights in Nova Scotia died Sunday at the age of 81.  (Town of New Glasgow - image credit)
Gerard Veldhoven, a well-known champion for LGBTQ rights in Nova Scotia died Sunday at the age of 81. (Town of New Glasgow - image credit)

Gerard Veldhoven, one of Nova Scotia's well-known champions for LGBTQ rights, died Sunday in Truro, N.S. He was 81.

The town of New Glasgow lowered its flags to half-mast to honour the life and legacy of the long-time champion of LGBTQ people. One of those was a rainbow flag — largely thanks to him.

Through his activism, Veldhoven rallied municipalities to hold rainbow flag raising ceremonies and organized Pride celebrations in both Amherst and Pictou County.

Veldhoven served as president of the board of directors for the Pictou County Centre for Sexual Health, a volunteer for the Town of New Glasgow's Pride committee and race and discrimination committee, and he wrote a weekly column on LGBTQ issues that was printed in several newspapers.

Veldhoven's 2020 autobiography, A Passion for Equality, My Personal Journey, chronicles his story from birth in the Netherlands, to his immigration to Canada as a teenager in the 1950s, and his struggle as a closeted gay man.

Trailblazer

In October 2004, Veldhoven and his husband, Norman Carter, were the first male same-sex couple to be married in Nova Scotia. Their Amherst ceremony was a public affair that took place in front of TV cameras, reporters, and other media.

Brent Noiles was a friend of Veldhoven and a fellow member of the Cumberland County Pride Committee.

Noiles says Veldhoven's story is one coloured by bravery.

"I really couldn't imagine how difficult it would have been being gay couple in a small town in the '70s in Cumberland County," Brent Noiles told CBC's Information Morning host Steve Sutherland. "He was really fearless."

Town of Amherst
Town of Amherst

Noiles described his friend as smart, thoughtful, intelligent — and forceful when he needed to be. "He would push a point or go the extra mile and call things out."

Creator of spaces

Veldhoven was dedicated to creating spaces for members of the LGBTQ community. He organized gay dances, Pride parades, and flag raisings in rural communities.

Noiles remembers a gay dance Veldhoven and Carter held in Amherst in 2009.

"In a small town, it was quite remarkable. Every person there that evening enjoyed themselves and felt comfortable. That would have been the first time that anything like that ever happened in our community," he said.

"They went out of their way to create those spaces because people didn't have those spaces. And you had to fight for them and you had to work for them and go out there and do it. And that's exactly what they did."

Veldhoven penned his own obituary, writing, "My goal was only to fight for equal rights, opportunity, marriage, and dignity."

A celebration of his life will take place in New Glasgow at a date to be determined.

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