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1955 madeline 2023

madeline yakimchuk

August 9, 1955 — June 9, 2023


On June 9, 2023, madeline yakimchuk embarked on their last great adventure and passed away peacefully at the
Cape Breton Regional Hospital. madeline was born and raised in the Pier to a family with deep union roots. From the
very beginning, madeline saw life differently than those around them. madeline often wondered out loud if that unique
perspective developed because they experienced blindness as a child and subsequently were visually impaired for the
rest of their life. Leave it to madeline to become a visual artist and use the same unique perspective to their
advantage, leaving behind an impressive catalogue of video work that will live on forever.
At 17 years old, madeline decided to move to Ontario and soon after that, backpacked around European cities,
meeting people with different lived experiences and cultures. madeline was inspired by those encounters, learning
about global injustices and getting involved in civil right movements in Central and South America. madeline often
describes their life as being in chapters that start and end. This was a chapter about civil disobedience, youth
empowerment and anti-oppression actions. They spent over 15 years in Chile and Cuba, leaving a lasting mark on
madeline’s worldview and how to effect change in the world around them. When that chapter closed, madeline made
their way back to Canada and then Cape Breton to start writing new chapters in their life.
madeline thrived on social connections and collaborative work. They continued to use their skills and passion for
grassroots initiatives, notably producing many beautiful videos for UINR (Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources).
They looked for opportunities to get involved in their community about issues that mattered to them. This was around
the time madeline decided to become a gardener. To the very end, madeline never claimed to have much expertise in
gardening despite what they accomplished in gardens around the island. They transformed their own yard into a
cornucopia of produce which they shared with hundreds of people over the years. They launched a food security
program in partnership with BGCCB in their own neighbourhood of Whitney Pier. They taught children how to plant,
harvest and cook fresh food. They contributed their time and insight to the local health board, and they practiced an
inspiringly active and vegan lifestyle. Throughout this very engaged time of their life, madeline often remarked that
despite being from Cape Breton, they felt like an outsider in their own community.
Always curious about the thoughts and circumstances of the next generation, madeline became involved with the
Youth Project Society. madeline lived a fearless life and they delighted in their own journey towards self-discovery.
They had long conversations with queer youth and learned about new ways of describing themselves. They
discovered previously unknown words and concepts that finally allowed madeline to define themselves. At 65 years
old, madeline came out as non-binary (they/them pronouns or even better, just madeline, small m and pansexual.
They always were those things but now they had the words to describe it.
They were once again inspired to take action, this time to bridge the generation gap between queer youth in Cape
Breton and the LGBT+ trailblazers of yesteryear. This resulted in a yearlong passion project as the only Queer
Intergenerational Outreach worker with the Youth Project and the development of a documentary about Queer Elders
of Cape Breton. Special shout out to CB Elderwize, a coffee clutch for queer elders that madeline organized to unite a
generation, disconnected by shared traumas and who have now been reunited, stronger and prouder than ever.
madeline said that this documentary was the most important project of their entire life and that finding the queer
community in Cape Breton has been the greatest gift in their life. madeline finally felt like they belonged.
madeline planned on working for at least another 10 years. They were writing new chapters in their mind’s eye that
focused on elder advocacy and fighting against the devaluation of seniors in the workforce. Then they found out they
had cancer. If you know madeline, you know that they had a twisted sense of humour. They joked that with their luck,
they were going to be one of those classic stories told about “being full of the cancer and dying 2 months from finding
out” and then, that’s pretty much what happened. madeline’s decline was fast, and upon hearing the news, madeline
said, “thank you doctor, I am not afraid”.
Due to the extensive amount of travel in madeline’s life, madeline leaves behind an enormous circle of beloved friends
and family who were both blood-related and chosen family. madeline was predeceased by their parents, Dan
Yakimchuk and Ina Robertson as well as Weldon Bona, perhaps the first of her chosen family members. madeline
believed that you can visit loved ones through your own memories; that if a person is being remembered, they are still
a part of the world. With that in mind, despite leaving a gap in our hearts with their passing, visit madeline in your
memories and continue to be inspired by the original social disrupter, madeline yakimchuk.

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