Carroll Holland


Like many women of her pioneering generation, Carroll Holland came out relatively late in life – near age 40 – and only after much inner struggle. But once past that hurdle, she embraced lesbian pride and community activism with her trademark commitment and enthusiasm. She was what author Jane Rule termed a “hot-eyed moderate,” passionate about change but always through bridge building rather than confrontation.

A journalist by profession, Holland volunteered her skills to GO Info, the Gays and Lesbians of Ottawa newspaper, through much of the 1980s and into the 1990s. She supported GLO and its sister association, Pink Triangle Services, in other ways, too, participating in the often stormy debates and endless meetings through which the community thrashed out its growing pains. She was there for the early Pride marches in the 1980s, a time when marchers were few and it took courage to be so visible.

In the 1990s, in the wake of serious gaybashing incidents and deteriorating relations between queer people and the police, Holland became involved with a ground-breaking initiative. Together with David Pepper, she brought the police and the community together to address their differences, from which arose the Ottawa Police Service’s liaison committee for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. For 12 years Holland devoted herself to this new body, work that included spearheading same-sex-partner violence-prevention initiatives. Though she was on contract, in typical Holland fashion, she put in many more hours than she was paid for. Her efforts earned her a Pioneer Award from the Ottawa police in 2011.

Holland embraced other causes, too, all interconnected in her mind. She supported George Wilkes in establishing the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights monument, which has been an Ottawa landmark on Elgin Street since its unveiling in September 1990. In 2007, she worked with Bob Acton to create an alternate audio guide to the Canadian War Museum – one that discussed the exhibits from a peace activist’s perspective. She played a role in many other initiatives related to world peace and human rights.

Holland drew much of the vision and energy for her activism from her practice of Buddhism. In the early 1980s, she joined the Soka Gakkai International, a Buddhist movement devoted to peace, culture and education, with practitioners in 192 countries and territories. She became an inspirational member of the Ottawa-area chapter, introducing many friends and acquaintances to SGI practice. She was also key in founding a Buddhist Pride group, thus promoting queer visibility within the SGI movement.

(excerpt from Xtra article by Gabriella Goliger)