The lawyer for a 20-year-old man charged with assaulting a gay man on Davie St over the weekend told media outside court Sep 30 that his client’s bail conditions include no contact with the victim and staying out of the Davie Village area.
Danny Markovitz briefly appeared in provincial court Sep 30 on behalf of the accused, Michael Kandola, to discuss moving the case forward. Kandola, did not show up in court.
“He’s completely overwhelmed by all the attention he’s getting,” Markovitz said of his client outside the court.
Kandola is scheduled to appear in court again Oct 14.
Kandola first appeared in the new Vancouver Downtown Community Court Sep 29 but his case was subsequently moved to provincial court.
Vancouver Police Department (VPD) spokesman Const Tim Fanning says the exact charge will not be known until all the evidence has been assessed. Smith underwent surgery Sep 29 to repair his jaw that was broken in three places after he was attacked in the early hours of Sep 27.
Smith, 27, was walking along Davie St hand in hand with a friend when a group of four young men allegedly approached them, according to police.
The men allegedly screamed obscenities about the couple’s sexual orientation, and police say that’s when Smith was knocked unconscious with a punch to the head.
Police say Smith fell to the ground at the corner of Davie and Hornby Sts.
They also say they want the incident prosecuted as a hate crime because of the obscenities uttered before the attack.
Meanwhile in a statement of support for the queer community issued Sep 29, the Pacific Region branch of the Canadian Jewish Congress, commended the VPD for recommending a hate crime designation and expressed the hope that the perpetrator faces the appropriate charges under the Criminal Code.
“Our community recognizes that an attack motivated by hate creates fear for other members of that group and seriously undermines the foundation that our society is built on: democracy, equality, respect for diversity and the rule of law,” Congress chair Gerry Cuttler said.
“The gay community has long suffered discrimination and abuse,” the group’s regional director Romy Ritter added. “We as Canadians have made great strides in recent years but hate crime statistics reveal that members of this community are still disproportionately targeted.”
The chief executive officer of SUCCESS, an immigrant advocacy group, called the attack on Smith “a heinous crime.”
“In our multicultural society, it is important for us to speak up in solidarity with other minority groups in times like this,” says Tung Chan. “We have recently seen an increase in similar attacks against minority groups, which further demonstrates the need for education to create a more welcoming society,” Chan adds.
NDP provincial election candidate Spencer Herbert and community activist Jamie Lee Hamilton turned up at provincial court to show support for Smith on Sep 30.
Jamie Lee Hamilton told Xtra West the number of South Asian men allegedly involved in gaybashings is becoming too much.
“I think a lot of South Asian men are growing up and they’re hearing violence glorified in their temples and they’re perpetuating it,” she further alleges.
“I implore their leaders to stop and listen and get a handle on this violence.”
But Fatima Jaffer of Trikone, a queer South Asian network, says she’s seen “huge inroads” against homophobia made in the broader South Asian community every time she speaks out on the issue.
“I can look back over time and see the kind of reaction I get. And the last few times, I’ve seen a major breakthrough.
“One of the reasons I think is that when people from the South Asian queer community have spoken out, they’ve spoken out in ways that don’t target or bring further racist kind of profiling of our communities. And when they [the broader South Asian community] see us stand by the community as South Asian and distinguish between the people who are giving the community a bad wrap versus the rest of the community that is slowly coming around, that’s kind of built greater solidarity, when we take a more thoughtful kind of stance.”
She says in the wake of Sikh leader Balwant Singh Gill’s anti-gay comments reported in the Vancouver Sun in December 2007, it was good for the South Asian community to hear many people react in thoughtful ways — that there was “no us and them.”
The Sun quoted Gill as saying: “I hate homosexuality. Most Sikhs believe homosexuality is unnatural and you can’t produce kids through it. And, secondarily, no major religion allows it.”
She says the weekend attack is another opportunity for queer community organizations to see where the gaps are within the organizations they’re working with.
“Who they’re talking to, who’s involved in framing some of the issues, and some of what needs to be done out there in the community,” Jaffer offers by way of example.
“We need to get a little more savvy about who we’re reaching and how we’re reaching them,” she says.
“Where are those [homophobic] attitudes being formed? It’s not just at home, it’s with peers and it’s at school.”