Ken Belanger, 1949 - 1998-08-14

picMid '90s? Photo: Mike Ryan Photography

"I know that I received as much love from my friends as any man could possibly have asked for. It's the nature of this disease that kept me from absorbing that and letting it heal and complete me." -- Ken, the day before.1

Sandra Ryan Memorial Page

Born: Massachusetts, USA, the only child of George and Catherine Belanger; died: Halifax, N.S., Canada - a victim of penacide.

"Pena" is from the Latin "poena" (punishment or torment), the root of the word "pain." "Cide" is from the Latin "cedere" (to strike down). Penacide is literally the killing of pain.

What we term as suicide (more accurately, penacide) is a process. Those who complete suicide suffered severe pain. They are victims. The fundamental element of the new suicide paradigm is that individuals complete suicide because they want to end what they feel is intense, intractable, and interminable pain. They end their lives to end their pain. However, it is the pain that they want to end, not their lives.

Ken devoted his life to soothing others' pain and battling injustice. He was a self-employed social worker for 25 years and, during that time, affected change in every life he touched. It was an honour to know and love him. His choice saddens me but I respect his choice. The world will not be the same without him.

Ken died horribly. He went to CrystalCrescentBeach, doused his car and himself with gasoline, and self-immolated. In response to others calling this act selfish, I wanted to create a memorial that counteracted that attitude and reflected the real reason for his death. I searched for a proper descriptive and found the term 'penacide'.2

Published obtituary

Ken died at CrystalCrescentBeach. Born in Massachusetts, he was a self-employed social worker in Halifax for 25 years. Sadly missed by his former partners RobinMetcalfe and FrancisYoung?, and friends CharlesCasselman?, HelenCroke?, PatDingle?, NoraKerr, AnneFulton, PaulLeBlanc?, CarolMillett and SalvatoreRinaldo?. Donations may be made to Project New Start at VeithHouse. 3

Ken Belanger Memorial Award

In 2000, the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers developed the Ken Belanger Memorial Award to recognize a social worker whose work benefits gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people. This may be the only award of its kind in Canadian social work.4

"Ken showed courage as an openly gay man in the social service and social work communities, and in speaking out about different forms of oppression and exploitation. He worked to educate social workers about homosexuality and the realities and needs of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons. Ken was generous in giving his time and skills to community groups and organizations through writing funding proposals and serving as a board member among other activities.

Awarded biennially to a Registered Social Worker who has demonstrated the following in his/her practice: 1) The nominee has demonstrated an explicit and unfailing commitment to pursuing social justice and to challenging oppression in its many forms. 2) The nominee is recognized by the social work community as practicing social work with a high level of caring, responsibility, integrity, and ethical standards. 3) The nominee has broken new ground working for, and on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons. 4) The nominee has demonstrated a particular concern for gay and lesbian youth.

MauraDonovan is listed as one of the recipients. 2017: Nancy Wright. In 2008 Nancy and Dr. Suzanne Zinck (child psychiatrist at IWK) formed the Transgender Health Clinic to address the needs of trans-gendered youth providing service to youth experiencing gender dysphoria and more; 2020: Jaqi Allan.

There is a tree dedicated to him on the south side of VeithHouse.5

The September 1998 WayvesMagazine has a comprehensive article entitled Remembering Ken Belanger by FrancisYoung?.

Tags: NeedsBioCategory



1. from email from DanielMacKay to a friend, four days after the memorial service.
2. Sandra includes a link, now gone, to "a comprehensive site generated in response to another's grief. It is devoted to the subject of penacide/suicide and contains a huge amount of information and links. The author of that site, Tony Salvatore, wrote in his email, "I appreciate your use of the term 'penacide' on the page. It was the nature of my own loss that led me to see suicide from that perspective. The link was, retrieved from the Internet Archive August, 2020.
3. August 20, 1998 ChronicleHerald page D12
4. EMERGING PERSPECTIVES ON ANTI-OPPRESSIVE PRACTICE by Dr Wes Shera, 2002 Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc.
5. August 23, 2020 conversation from FrancisYoung?