Canada’s national queer lobby group has been reduced to a shell of its former self by infighting and internal harassment, say former employees and board members.
“I heard about resignations of staff, resignations of board members. Then I was hearing about harassment of staff, harassment that was being perpetuated by board members against staff and against other board members,” says Douglas Bartholemew-Saunders who left the board in 2004.
He recently posted a letter detailing his concerns to an online Egale listserv. “We can’t afford to have it falter,” he says, particularly with the Harper government threatening to re-open the marriage debate this fall.
Ariel Troster, who resigned from Egale’s board in August, also signed the letter to the listserv. “Several board members have resigned, and there is now only one full-time person left on staff,” she says. “Egale has been reduced to a shell of the organization that it once was, and is now on shaky ground, at a time when the queer community needs it most.”
When asked about the accusations, Egale president Gemma Schlamp-Hickey referred Xtra West’s Ottawa sister paper Capital Xtra to a reply she had posted to the listserv. “In July of this year, Gilles Marchildon, our executive director, filed an internal complaint against a board member,” she wrote. The complaint has since been resolved and there have been no further complaints, she added.
Schlamp-Hickey admits that Egale has reduced its staff due to financial concerns, but says the situation is better than critics portray it. Egale recently hired a part-time consultant to oversee its legal cases and advocacy, she says, though it has delayed replacing its office manager while awaiting a grant.
Egale members need to take action, urges Troster. “Egale is the only organization in Canada that advocates for LGBT equality at a national level, in the courts and on the streets. Without a functioning Egale, our community could lose out-especially in the face of Harper’s Conservatives.”