Gerald Vandezande: How did his life's work inspire us?

Rene's picture

“Mr. Speaker,
I rise today to place into our national record my commendation of a very extraordinary Canadian; a man who was not only a champion of justice, a voice for the voiceless, and a man deep and compelling faith, but a mentor and cherished friend. His name was Gerald Vandezande.”

This was the introduction of the mention that Gerald Vandezande received from John McKay MP in the House of Commons on November 29, 2011, after his passing on July 16. Gerald was a co-founder of Citizens for Public Justice, a member of the Order of Canada and a tireless Christian activist throughout his life.

Gerald invested as Member of the Order of Canada by Adrienne Clarkson in October 2001

In honour of his memory and to celebrate his life’s work, CPJ, together with our co-organizers, has put together a special event called Hungering for a New Politics: The Life’s Work of Gerald Vandezande. This memorial event over two days will take place on February 17-18 in Toronto.

“I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). While constantly being in touch with countless people within the different political parties, Gerald worked across party lines and never formally joined a political party. His vision for a new politics was a cooperative politics rooted in people’s heart convictions rather than doing politics in a partisan way.

He strongly believed that this focus on reconciliation through cooperation and the development of contacts with many different people across party lines is what helps build a political consciousness and national identity that makes real biblical sense in terms of the long term future of Canada.

Being pragmatic, Gerald was not against controversy, but he was controversial in a different way. Rather than an either/or logic that produces ‘us versus them’ controversy, Gerald talked about being “authentically controversial” through a both/and logic. This is a logic that overcomes the black and white thinking of strict opposites and enables us to embrace the difference of the other, our neighbour.

By listening first, we can then engage in a constructive dialogue that makes people think and creates change by stimulating discussion in churches and in the community. Gerald was convinced that if we want to be known as people of faith with an alternative vision for the future, we need to create meaningful discussion through a challenging position that is firmly based on the common good.

As Christians, we then need to lead by example. Gerald said that, “Faith is relevant to the degree that you show it has power”. Being a persuasive and not a coercive power, living faith is when people see the power of our actions, and when they get inspired by this power; this is when faith comes alive.

The event Hungering for a New Politics: The Life’s Work of Gerald Vandezande, has been created to make Gerald’s memory and life’s work come alive.

Friday evening February 17 at 7pm will be the memorial evening with family and friends of Gerald, where all are invited to celebrate his many contributions to public justice. On this evening you will be able to hear speakers and view a video of Gerald, while visiting with his family.

On Saturday morning, February 18 at 9am – 12 noon, you are invited to come and hear speakers and participate in workshops on the issues that motivated Gerald to take action and inspire us all through his faith. The morning will begin with a panel of speakers, who knew Gerald and worked with him: Linda Tripp (World Vision), Javed Akbar, and John Hiemstra (former CPJ staff).

Then participants can choose to take part in one of four discussion groups on some of the issues that Gerald cared the most about: Housing and Family/Child Poverty (with Greg de Groot-Maggetti and Murray MacAdam), Government interaction (with Joe Gunn and Kathy Vandergrift), Becoming Neighbours (with Lorriane Land and Chris Pullenayegem), and Environment (with Lynn MacDonald and John Hiemstra).

Memorial Evning: Friday evening February 17, 2012: 7 p.m.
Place: First Christian Reformed Church of Toronto 67 Taunton Rd., Toronto (one block east of Mount Pleasant Rd., just south of Eglinton Avenue East)

Workshops: Saturday morning, February 18, 2012; 9 a.m. – 12 noon
Place: Wycliffe College, Leonard Hall, 5 Hoskin Ave. University of Toronto

The event is free but on Friday evening donations will be accepted in support of the event and the work of CPJ and The Institute for Christian Studies. We hope to see you all at this special memorial event to honour Gerald’s life’s work and inspire us all to live our faith.

For more information, please see or call Kathy Lynch (ICS) at 416-979-2331

Rene Joergensen is CPJ's former Development Officer.

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