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Back on track

Gay national survey fight settled out of court

WHAT WAS THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE? EGALE's Kim Vance says there was a moral obligation. Credit: Xtra files

What some have called Canada’s First National Gay Embarrassment is finally over.

After two years of litigation, the group Equality For Gays And Lesbians Everywhere has essentially given up on the first ever national survey of gay men and lesbians, allowing the researchers behind it to own the data and complete the analysis.

“We felt we were acting with some moral obligation, to the government funders and the people who responded to the survey, many of whom did so because of EGALE’s involvement,” says the group’s president, Kim Vance.

The board decided that further court battles would irreparably harm the project. Still, Vance says there are mixed feelings. But even a hypothetical court win, she says, would have damaged the credibility of the project.

The infighting eclipsed the ground-breaking nature of the survey itself.

Researchers Stephen Samis and Sandra Goundry of Vancouver now have full, uncontested rights to the approximately 8,000 responses generated by the 1998 survey, ending EGALE’s involvement.

EGALE will also pay the researchers $6,000.

In return, Samis and Goundry have dropped their counter-suit.

The settlement also dictates that neither party is at fault.

The researchers report that they are happy with the settlement and are looking forward to completing the project on their own.

Lawrence Aronovitch, a former EGALE director and now spokesperson for the project, says the researchers are ready to complete data entry.

Funding for this next phase is already in place, he adds, from private donors he declines to name. (It’s already cost at least $300,000, two-thirds of that in government money.) And the researchers hope to get even more money from the federal government to complete a final report and analysis.

The crew hopes data entry will be finished by the end of summer.

“[The lawsuit] delayed the project by 18 months. I don’t have the timetable in front of me right now, but if not for the litigation we would have been finished by now,” says Aronovitch.

Aronovitch himself became embroiled in the dispute when he resigned, twice, from the EGALE board amidst conflict of interest concerns. He and Samis are partners.

The settlement came shortly before a scheduled Apr 10 court date. EGALE had already lost an interim judgment in December 1998 to have the data taken from the researchers and placed in trust.

Some 30,000 copies of the 22-page survey were distributed nationally.

EGALE argued the data was its property and wanted access to detailed demographic information that would allow the group to identify regional trends and details about individual respondants.

In turn, the researchers claimed confidentially had been breached by the lobby group, accusing it of keeping records of who had requested copies.