A prominent gay rights activist and journalist in Halifax was beaten to death outside a popular gay bar, Canadian media organisations report, in what seems to be a homophobic hate crime.

Raymond Taavel was well known and admired within the city’s gay community, both as a former chair of Gay Pride Week and as the ex-editor of the LGBT magazine, Wayves.

According to CBC, a passerby found him bleeding outside Menz Bar and called the police; he died at the scene despite efforts by the paramedics team that attended him.

Doug Melanson, owner of Menz Bar, where Mr Taavel was a regular, said the activist will be greatly missed. He also added that patrons of the bar were feeling “sad and sombre” on Tuesday. “And some anger. Definitely anger.”

CBC Radio in Halifax reported that witnesses saw a large a man yelling “faggot” before attacking two smaller men. One man reportedly ran away, but the large man seized hold of the other, and began to hit him repeatedly on the head. The police eventually tracked down a 32 year old suspect hiding nearby. Further details have not been released.

Canadian media also report that the suspect is a psychiatric patient with a history of violence, and that he had gone out on a day’s pass. Gay rights activists have condemned it as a “hate crime.”

One close friend and fellow activist said of Mr Taavel said: “He was always smiling and he cared deeply about justice and equality and fairness. He had a fierce and independent spirit. For that quality alone, I always admired him…”

He added: “We connected through writing and activism, and there was always an easy, kindred-spiritedness to our friendship. Halifax has lost a great, caring citizen. I’m going to miss him.”

A candle-lit vigil is planned outside Menz Bar for tonight.