The quest to build a new queer community centre building inched forward Sep 21 with the first meeting of a feasibility study steering committee. But details of its plans, and even the identities of those participating, remain sketchy, at least for now.
“It makes sense to me that the first meeting will be to establish what the responsibilities and roles are and who is representing various constituencies before we have you come and take a picture,” Donna Wilson, The Centre’s executive director, told Xtra West Sep 20. “This is a public process and I’m sure everyone who is part of the steering group would be glad to have their names out there, but I also want to make sure that’s something that is discussed within the group.”
Wilson says The Centre has hired Betty Baxter as a consultant for the first phase of the study. Baxter has a long history of queer activism, particularly with respect to women in sport, and ran unsuccessfully under the NDP banner as the first openly lesbian candidate for federal office in the 1993 election. She lives on the Sunshine Coast. Wilson says Baxter’s role will be to facilitate planned community focus groups.
Additionally, says Wilson, “we have steering committee members from Out On Screen, AIDS Vancouver, the Gay and Lesbian Business Association, ASIA, a two-spirit perspective, [Little Sister’s co-owner] Jim Deva, the Bute St Clinic, the Vancouver Pride Society, Rainbow Refugee Committee, Trans Health Program, Team Vancouver, PFLAG, Chronically Queer, and Building Accessibility Together.”
Xtra West contacted Deva the day after the meeting to ask about the identities of the steering committee members and the group’s plans, but he too was tight-lipped.
He did say that he was happy with the makeup of the steering committee, that he supported the decision to keep the details under wraps until the committee got established, and that he’d been told that media inquiries were to go through Wilson.
Wilson says the next step in the process is to get the steering committee working on planning the focus groups.
“The next couple of months is going to be a really busy time of community consultation,” she says. “We’re going to have to get to scheduling the focus groups, promoting, advertising and putting out the information in a short timeline.”
The Centre has needed a new building for years. Its current digs at the corner of Bute and Davie Sts are dilapidated, unsuitable, and accessible only via a steep and narrow staircase.
On Apr 7, Vancouver city council approved a $35,000 grant to The Centre to conduct a study into the feasibility of building it a new home. One of the conditions of the grant money is that The Centre establish a steering committee to oversee focus groups and facilitate community discussion on what features a new building might need.