A queer Vancouverite says she is prepared to file a civil suit against a man who allegedly slung homophobic slurs at her and vandalized her cellphone in February.
Amy Fox, 32, says unless the man keeps his promise to replace her missing phone, she will proceed with legal action against him this fall.
Police reports indicate that a Feb 25 altercation between Fox and the sales manager of Blackfish Marine on Granville Island started after the man allegedly called Fox and a group of her friends “freak shows.”
Fox and fellow members of The Bobbers queer comedy troupe were involved in a lighthearted publicity-photo shoot that involved one of the male members donning a skirt and high heels, a recreation of a jazz album cover that features women’s legs.
But when the group relocated the shoot to in front of Blackfish Marine, the manager, who Fox has identified as Greg Hughes, told the group to move away from his store.
In an interview with Xtra following the incident, troupe member Alan Pavlakovic said he and Hughes initially engaged in seemingly good-natured banter about the shoot.
“When he first came out, he made a lighthearted joke, asking me if I lost a bet,” Pavlakovic said. Pavlakovic joked back, saying he “only wears heels for money.”
But Hughes’s tone changed, Fox says.
“This guy started coming out and verbally harassing us and it ended with him saying, ‘Get your freak show out of here!’” Fox alleges.
Fox says Hughes also referred to her as “some dyke” when he later called security to request her removal from his store.
Fox says she confronted Hughes after he insulted her friends and refused to leave his store until he explained his comments.
“I wasn’t looking for an apology,” she says. “Just for him to own up to [the homophobic statement].”
But instead of an explanation, Fox says Hughes repeatedly dismissed her enquiries, telling her “nothing is the matter” and to “have a nice day,” before allegedly ripping Fox’s cellphone from her hands and throwing it in the ocean.
Police were called to investigate the incident.
Fox says she told police at the time that she wouldn’t press charges if Hughes agreed to replace her phone.
Hughes reportedly agreed to the request.
But seven months later, Fox is still without her phone.
Fox says she has sent Hughes three emails in three months requesting that he make good on his part of the agreement, but he hasn’t responded.
“I’m quite cross,” Fox says.
“It appears to be the case that somebody can homophobically harass people and, when those people stick up for themselves, a person can rob them and get away with it,” she says.
“I don’t know if there is someone in the legal system not taking things seriously or if he [Hughes] is well connected. Either way it’s very disturbing,” Fox says.
“Is sticking up for yourself against a homophobic attack a sign of provocation now?” she asks.
“The legal system has dropped the ball on the situation,” she says.
An incident report filed by the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) under “mischief under $500” includes Fox’s allegations of homophobic comments made by Hughes.
But the report concludes that the incident was not a hate crime and closes the investigation from a criminal standpoint.
“The file was reviewed by our diversity unit and determined to not be a hate crime. The actions were also determined to be civil and not criminal in nature,” VPD spokesperson Constable Randy Fincham told Xtra Sept 19.
“Unfortunately, the police do not have the ability to enforce a civil remedy that has been negotiated between two parties,” he says, referring to Hughes’s alleged agreement to replace Fox’s phone.
“The victim in this case would have to seek remedies through a civil court process,” Fincham says.
“What it seems to be is that when someone promises to do something and make good on what they’ve done, that they can just get away with breaking their promise,” Fox says.
“I’d like to keep it simple,” she continues. “If he would just replace the phone I’d be happy to put this thing behind me.”
Hughes says he is surprised the matter is still being raised.
“All I can say is that this is unfortunate,” he tells Xtra.
“I’ve already apologized to everyone. I’m sorry that it happened,” he says, adding that the situation has gotten “completely out of hand” and that the “whole thing was ridiculous.”
Asked if he plans to replace Fox’s cellphone, Hughes does not reply.
“Thank you,” he interrupts, before abruptly hanging up.
Fox says the incident and its aftermath have caused her stress. “I’ve lost sleep over it,” she admits.
“The entire thing started because [Hughes] thought that open displays of gender variance would drive away his business,” Fox says.
“I don’t get this. I think that under many other circumstances something would have been done,” she says.