LGBT activist Ted Northe dead at 76

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Members of the Canadian chapter of the world’s largest LGBT charity organization are in mourning after the loss of founder and figurehead ted northe.

In 1964, northe (who preferred his name be spelled in lower case) founded the Imperial Court System of Canada, the purpose of which is to raise money for charity through annual formal balls and numerous events throughout the year, like bake sales, drag shows and luncheons. Northe was born in Cooking Lake, Alberta, in 1937. He died Sunday, March 30 at 6:10 a.m. in St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

“Ted northe lived his life by example,” said Jaylene Tyme, drag performer and “Empress XXXV” under the court system, which bestows the royal title and corresponding numeral annually on a new representative for local fundraising initiatives. “He fostered countless amounts of people to support each other and never stop the fight for equality. It is because of people like ted that LGBTQ individuals enjoy the rights and freedoms we have today. A true example of leadership, passion and pride.”

Once labeled a menace leading a “lavender mob” by Vancouver Sun journalist Jack Webster, northe ultimately received many awards during his lifetime for his instrumental role in the raising of over $50 million for various charities. Northe won the Canadian Red Cross Humanitarian and Distinguished Citizen Award, the B.C. Cancer Society Citizen’s Award for Fundraising, the Governor General’s Special Service Medal for Distinguished Citizen and Humanitarian, and a Certificate of Special USA Congressional Recognition.

“He taught me to never stop fighting for what’s right and what’s owed to you,” said drag performer Raye Sunshine (designated Empress XXXIX in 2010). “Normally, that was respect. He may be gone now, but his work is going to continue through the new Empress of Canada and the heirs of the foundation.”

During a speech at a gala for the 2013 Q (queer) Hall of Fame, into which northe was previously inducted, northe recalled the day in 1969 when he received a phone call from then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who wanted to congratulate northe on letter-writing campaigns and activism that helped lead to the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada. “Our fight for equality never ended discrimination,” northe said. “We needed to change people’s perceptions and have (Trudeau) understand we were not the danger the media proclaimed.”

Northe also recalled that Trudeau began the call by greeting northe as “your majesty.”

“I have lived a life that is filled with experiences which I will never, never forget,” northe concluded the speech. “And I’ve had the privilege to be a part of so many great moments. Thank you for that.”

Northe was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011. Vancity Buzz could not confirm the cause of death at the time of publication. He was 76.

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Derek Bedry is a writer whose work has been published in magazines, newspapers, online and on radio. He is interested in LGBT issues, news, zombie fiction and sports.

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