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Community anti-violence forum

Political leaders from all three levels of government, police officials and businesses are expected to participate in an anti-violence community forum at Pulse Nightclub May 2.

Members of West Enders Against Violence Everywhere (WEAVE), which is hosting the forum, say it’s important for those in authority to hear gay community members’ personal experiences with gaybashing.

BC’s attorney general Wally Oppal has been invited to the forum but WEAVE has not received any word about whether he’ll be attending.

Oppal told Xtra West last month that he would attend the forum if his schedule permitted. Xtra West’s attempts to confirm whether Oppal plans to attend proved unsuccessful up to press time.

“What we need to hear from Wally Oppal is that, number one, he understands the subject — which I think he does,” says WEAVE’s Ron Stipp.

“And some kind of signal that they’re more willing to use hate crimes designation in the future so that it’s not sporadic,” Stipp continues. “It’s not even sporadic. They hardly ever use it.”

As attorney general, Oppal is head of the province’s prosecutors. Vancouver has seen five gaybashing trials in the last eight years. Only once have prosecutors sought a hate crime designation.

People are saying, “Enough is enough,” says WEAVE’s Velvet Steele. “We want to know what politicians are going to do. We don’t want to have politicians stirring up the crowd. We want to know what they’re actively going to do, what other individuals are going to actively do, what other authority figures are going to actively do.”

Steele says she also wants people who have been gaybashed to have more access to help and resources, such as a Bashline and a designated victim support worker.