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City’s gay committee needs people

'We need to have a voice at city hall,' former member says

The City of Vancouver's LGBTQ advisory committee (clockwise from back left: Tim Stevenson, Jim Deva, Steven RodRozen, Ryan Clayton, Mette Bach, Fatima Jaffer, Ellen Woodsworth, Karen McVeigh and Mark Robins) needs new people to begin its second term. Credit: Shauna Lewis photo

The City of Vancouver’s LGBTQ advisory committee, which was among several city bodies required to dissolve after the Nov 19 civic election, is now looking for volunteers to fill its 12 vacancies.

Established in February 2009 to serve a three-year term, the committee is intended to facilitate the queer community’s access to and participation in city services. Its term expired Dec 4, as did all the other council committees.

It’s a vital vehicle for advancing queer rights, policies and funding in the city, says former city councillor Ellen Woodsworth.

With only one openly gay councillor reelected (Vision Vancouver’s Tim Stevenson), the committee is extra important, Woodsworth notes. “We need to make sure that there’s an LGBTQ critique of council policies, council programs, council funding and also to work with Parks Board and School Board on their joint policies, as well as use the strength of city government to confront any homophobia that raises its nasty head,” she says.

“We’re in very fragile times right now, where I think queer rights can be lost,” Woodsworth warns, “and we need to make sure we use any possible organizations that can help us advance those rights and enshrine them in a way that they can’t be taken away.”

Woodsworth doesn’t anticipate a lack of new applicants to serve on the committee.

Stevenson says he’s “absolutely confident” the committee will continue to exist and says he’ll continue to be its liaison to council.

The committee lived up to his high hopes, he says. “It was a very, very good committee that dealt with many of the issues in our community.”

Members who served on the committee in its first term are welcome to reapply, though few plan to due to other commitments, says former co-chair Ryan Clayton.

Clayton, who is stepping away to complete his studies, doesn’t anticipate any difficulty filling the committee’s vacancies either.

“When I was doing up our final report, it was 19 pages; we had done so much stuff. It’s an incredibly valuable part of the city,” he says. “Hopefully there’ll be some new blood on there.”

Clayton lists the Day Against Hate Crime and Purple Shirt Day vigils, their accompanying city proclamations, liaising with the Outgames, and research around queer access to housing, among the committee’s highlights.

“A lot of the work we did was to build a ground, and I actually think the exciting time is going to be this new term,” says Fatima Jaffer, who won’t be returning either due to university demands. “There’s been a lot of thought put into what needs to happen, and not much time to actually do it.”

Jaffer would like to see more queers of colour on the new committee. “I represent one piece of it. You have one queer of colour who has to represent everybody’s interests, which just isn’t right.”

Commitments will also keep Mark Robins from reapplying. “It was a great three years. It’s great the City of Vancouver takes the LGBTQ committee seriously by having the committee in the first place, and I’m just over the moon that they decided to continue with it as well,” he says. “We need to have a voice at city hall, and this is one way we can have that voice.”

Clayton would like to see new members tackle some of the unfinished business of the last term, including a push to make community centre policies more trans-inclusive.

He would also like to see Pride designated a civic event. “That’s a huge issue that’s within council’s purview and makes a lot of sense,” he says. “I really hope the next committee takes that on.”

The application deadline for prospective committee members is Jan 22.