Brown died from liver disease early Friday morning. He was 58.
Brown began his activism in the late 1980s as a board member of AIDS Action Now!, a non-profit organization that played an instrumental role during the reform of Ontario’s life-saving Trillium Drug Program to assist HIV/AIDS patients.
“Glen had a passion for helping others who needed help,” said his brother, Keith. “Not only was he passionate, but he was effective . . . He wasn’t done making a contribution.”
Originally from Saskatchewan, Brown was an accomplished leader for non-profits working on a variety of causes. While he was best known for his work advocating for the LGBTQ community, he was also board chair at Greenpeace Canada and worked with the City of Toronto on safe injection sites.
When Brown took over as interim executive director of Pride Toronto in 2011, the organization had been facing enormous financial struggles and was still reeling from the resignation of its former head. Brown was credited with helping to pull it back from the brink and pulling off fantastic Pride celebrations that summer.
Though many at Pride Toronto wanted Brown to stay on permanently, he insisted he had to move on — there were other troubled organizations that needed help.
“He knew what buttons to push and who to talk to,” said Tim McCaskell, a friend who worked with Brown at AIDS Action Now in the 1990s, adding that Brown’s work on Trillium saved countless lives across Ontario.
“It was his strategizing and brilliant use of mass politics that led us to success.”
He was a sharp-minded thinker, friends said, who love to travel. He was, above all, a kind-hearted person.
Joanna Kerr, the executive director of Greenpeace Canada, said Brown was not only an incredibly passionate and practical worker, but a warm mentor who was difficult not to become friends with.
“The kindness, the smiles, the optimism that he would bring . . . , ” she said. “We were lucky to have him.”
Ryan Lester worked with Brown at Pride Toronto, and currently works as director of development at Egale Canada Human Rights Trust — a position Brown helped him find.
Long after they stopped working together, Lester said he and Brown would meet in the Village to catch up and strategize.
Following the controversy around last year’s Pride parade and the Black Lives Matter protest, Lester recalled Brown’s plan to invite members of the group to speak with him over dinner, and his “strong belief in the power of dialogue.”
“Glen posted to his Facebook that he had seen a number of posts about the behaviour of ‘invited guests’ (referring to BLM Toronto) to which he said, ‘when I invite guests, I expect them to bring their passion and their politics with them. If not, my dinner parties would be dreadfully boring,’ ” Lester said.
Walking down Church St. in the days since Brown’s death, Lester said he could almost picture Brown sitting near the front of their favourite spot, the Churchmouse and Firkin. He was always a bit early, reading a community newspaper with quiet, wise look about him and a twinkle in his eye.
“He was easy to talk to, (he had) a deep-hearted kindness,” Lester said. “I really never got to tell him what impact he had on my life.”
He is survived by his sister Marj, and brothers Larry and Keith.
A small private service will be followed in the spring by a community memorial to celebrate Glen’s life and work.