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.”
Gerald was one of the founders of Citizens for Public Justice in 1963, and continued to be involved as an active member and supporter all the days of his life. He worked as Executive Director until 1988 and then National Public Affairs Director of CPJ for another decade thereafter. Gerald passed away in the summer of 2011, leaving a rich legacy.
An unusual person has left our company on this earth, he who was a relentless, indefatigable and blessed peace-maker. Gerald changed the direction of my life for good, as he did for many others.
Wynne, Jan and Paul, Karen and Steve, Gerald and Wynne’s grandchildren, extended family and friends:
Gerald asked me to share a few memories and reflections at this event, and I am honoured to do so.
It has not been easy for Gerry in the last years. Sometimes in conversation he would tap the side of his head to get that thought out. But even with that, Gerald was still phoning politicians, involved with social advocacy groups, helping family.
Gerald was driven by His God, driven by social responsibility.
But social responsibility sometimes meant that he was not there with his family, even when he wanted to, especially in the early years when Gerry was criss-crossing the country building an organization. And for that we thank you Wynne, Janice and Karen.
Gerry referred to me with his slight Dutch lilt as his brother, so I am pleased to be asked to say a few words in tribute to “my brother” today.
You know, when Gerry called or visited, you knew he was going to bring “an ask,” and that whatever he asked you were going to give him. He couldn’t be denied!
Tributes to Gerald Vandezande, given at the funeral service in Toronto, July 21, 2011:
Born on a snowy Christmas Day in 1933, in Ymuiden, the Netherlands, Gerald Vandezande lived his life reading and sharing the Gospel with others. Gerry, as he liked to be known, believed that as Christians it was our duty to integrate the teachings of the Bible into all aspects of our life. Gerry came to Canada in 1950, at the age of 17. After completing night school classes where he studied cost accounting, he moved to Sarnia, Ontario where he worked for the Bank of Montreal. It was in Sarnia that Gerry met the woman who would become his life companion, Wynne.
If, as Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, the ultimate measure of a man is where he stands at times of challenge and controversy, Gerald Vandezande was truly an exceptional man. Gerry, as he liked to be known, never backed down from a challenge when it came to the causes he believed in. During his career as a public policy analyst and social justice advocate, Gerry took to his public justice pulpit to speak on a number of different issues affecting Canadian society.
One of CPJ's founders and a recognized name in religious and political circles, Gerald Vandezande's life has been one of faithfulness, commitment and passion. Starting with his humble beginnings, the article outlines some life lessons from this Christian social activist.