There are few involved in promoting biblical principles on matters of law and public policy who have not at least encountered Gerald Vandezande. Gerald was a giant among men – and women – who understood, intuitively, educationally and theologically, the importance of loving both God and one’s neighbour (Mark 12:30-31) and how that applied to public policy consideration in Canada. On Saturday, July 16 at the age of 77 years, Gerald Vandezande slipped into eternity, promoted to Glory.

I first met Gerald when I was a young Salvation Army officer who had only months previous become the general legal counsel for Canada. Part of my responsibilities included membership on the SA’s council dealing with moral and ethical issues, including public policy. Appointed to attend a multi-faith coalition meeting, I went armed with my own perspective on the issues to be discussed. The room was buzzing with conversation when I arrived. Gerald was the man whose entrance into the room caused a hush as others waited for him to speak or to invite their comment. I was brash and arrogant enough to think that I had more to offer on certain points. Gerald was patient, allowing me to talk myself out before expressing from his depth of knowledge and experience the strengths and weaknesses of my suggestions – strengthening the strengths with his restatement without belittling the value of thinking through the weaker points in the process.

That’s not to say that Gerry couldn’t raise his voice, get a little angry or seem stubbornly wed to his own theological understanding of a point; but rarely would he be unable to provide a well-reasoned supportable argument for the position he thought was best.

As his obituary in the Toronto Star notes:

Caring mentor and friend to an extended family and community. After his love for his family, Gerald lived and embraced social responsibility. His legacy was his belief in “fairness” and a voice for the voiceless. 40 years of experience in public policy development and political advocacy reflected his extraordinary dedication to his pursuit of public justice, a commitment rooted in a clear and integrally Biblical life perspective and a love for his God. Born in Holland on December 25, 1933 to Annie and Gerald, he always remembered with gratitude the Canadian liberators entering his village during the Second World War. Gerald immigrated to Canada in 1951. Former Public Affairs Director of Citizens for Public Justice, he was also actively involved with the Campaign against Child Poverty and during his life, a member of numerous social advocacy coalitions. Gerald received the Order of Canada in May of 2001. His order citation described him as a “powerful and respected voice for social justice”.

Gerald multiplied his work through involvement in coalitions and networks. He multiplied the Lord’s work through advising, mentoring and exampling across the generations. His speech grew quieter in recent years, but his voice remained strong. And, through those whose lives he touched, echoes of that voice will continue to be heard for generations to come.

“What does the Lord require of us? To do Justice, To love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8)

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