3 min

Achievements & action

Mayor hopes for gay community centre by 2006

Credit: Rob Thomas

Ottawa’s mayor says the city’s queers should be proud of their accomplishments and hopes to help build a GLBT community centre within two years.

“I think there is a sense of tremendous optimism, a sense of partnership, a sense of security in the GLBT community in partnership with the city,” Mayor Bob Chiarelli told 150 participants attending the Mayor’s Pride Town Hall on Jul 8.

“They can feel comfortable that there is a very high level of leadership in the [gay] community and to the extent that the city politically or administratively helps, will merely facilitate the leadership that exists within the community,” said Chiarelli.

And while the event drew a record number of participants, Chiarelli noted that he would like those who were unable to attend to hear that the community should be proud of its accomplishments to date.

“Last year, the meeting lasted for about 20 minutes. The mayor and some city officials and about seven members of our community attended,” said Robin Duetta, executive director of Ottawa Pride Chair.

“[Chiarelli] made it clear that it is important to him, that he wanted to continue this, but he wants to make sure that people are here,” said Duetta. “Our community heard that and they came out in droves. I don’t know if there has ever been a time when there have been this many people here at this meeting.”

Councillor Diane Holmes, who recently re-entered municipal politics, hosted this year’s forum, taking over from recently retired councillor Alex Munter. The event provided a snapshot of community happenings, touching on a wide range of issues. Fifty minutes was allotted for a question and answer period following the presentations.

One of the key presentations was a status report on the GLBT Community Centre project.

PTS Executive Director Maura Volante said the project is well into phase one of development, with the virtual “community centre without walls,” which now includes a website, a listserv, a calendar and the stewardship of home agency PTS.

“It will take some time before we reach the stage of bricks and mortar, because we want to do it right,” said Volante.

“[But] the community centre will be built – and hopefully by 2006,” said Chiarelli. He voiced strong support for the centre proposal, noting a “critical mass” of programming and leadership.

Peter Honeywell, executive director of Council for the Arts in Ottawa, lauded the unique contribution of the community to Ottawa’s arts and culture scene, noting that it is rare to have an arts group that does not include a queer member.

“They are involved in the community in a big way,” says Honeywell. “If you took that community out of the arts scene it would be a very sad scene.”

Staff Sgt Kai Liu of the Ottawa Police Diversity and Race Relations Section drew laughter and applause when he described his first contact with the police. “I was fortunate that it was a good one,” noting that his first introduction to the term “visible minority” came during a police recruitment telephone interview. Liu, who was born in Taiwan but was raised in Montreal, said he didn’t want to sound stupid but asked what a visible minority was.

Liu went on to explain that Ottawa Police are looking to recruit from the “invisible minority” of the GLBT community to better reflect the community it serves.

The forum also heard presentations from PTS president Keith Duncanson, Act Out Theatre board chair George Hartsgrove, and Garry McDonnell from the city’s Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee.

On the topic of Pride celebrations, Duetta was extremely appreciative of the city, which granted the Pride Committee a loan guarantee of $50,000 in April. He was also enthusiastic about the Town Hall itself.

“This is a fabulous success,” says Duetta. “I’m proud of my community. I’m proud of them getting behind this event, because it is extremely important. In how many other cities do the communities have the opportunity to sit at a table and speak with the mayor about something that matters to them? Not very often.”