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Group for new queer centre moves forward

Less talk, more action: McCann

In a lively meeting Nov 3, a working group of 30 community members voted to create a society to begin the work of building a multi-purpose queer community centre in Vancouver.

The impetus for the society’s creation came from entrepreneur and philanthropist David McCann who told the meeting that it was time to move away from talking about the dream of a centre to initiating concrete actions to make it happen.

“I’m not going to waste my time and energy if we’re going to spend another 14 years talking about it,” McCann declared. He said he’d spoken to several “fairly wealthy people in the gay community and elsewhere” about establishing a new centre on a number of occasions.

“Some of us are doing major estate planning and we’re saying, ‘Where’s the money going to go?’ And I think for some of them, they would look at this very favourably,” he said. “But if all you’re going to do is talk about it, they don’t care about that and I don’t either.”

McCann said he’s only interested if people “actually want to get their ass out of a chair” and move forward.

“We’ll worry about what goes in it after we get a lot of money in the bank,” he said.

In the end, a majority voted to establish a society.

McCann then proposed, and won majority approval for, the establishment of a temporary executive tasked with creating the society and registering it with the province.

The 12-person temporary executive now includes McCann, Steven RodRozen, Laura McDiarmid, Seán Cummings, Elaine Miller, Tony Correia, James Beresford, Mo Kazerooni, Kona, Alan Herbert, Sakino Sepulveda, Gerry Kasten.

The temporary executive will report back to the soon-to-be-registered society’s general membership on Dec 8 at a location to be determined.

In another development, RodRozen informed the meeting that Vision Vancouver wants to meet with representatives of the new centre working group and Qmunity to see if there is a possibility of “merging everyone into one discussion” about a new centre. RodRozen said that meeting has been called for Nov 23 at city hall.

City councillor Tim Stevenson told Xtra West Oct 19 that the city is aware that more than one constituency is interested in having a new centre and wants to broker a meeting between the two parties to find a way forward. Up to five people from each party can attend that meeting.

Qmunity executive director Jennifer Breakspear, who attended the Nov 3 meeting, said she was “not there to bring Qmunity” to the new centre working group table but came in the spirit of community to answer questions and share information.

“I do think we’re after some similar goals,” she said, adding that her organization recognizes that what “some people say is a community centre or what they need in a community centre is not what they see at Qmunity,” which provides social services and support programs for the queer community.

“We don’t have a gymnasium, we don’t have a theatre, we never purported to,” she said. “Who knows, maybe there is a place somewhere down the road where Qmunity and this group might work together.”

For his part, McCann says his vision is to “buy that damn site right there at the corner of Burrard and Davie, hire a world-renowned architect” to design a building that will “just make this city finally realize what decent architecture is — and get every gay organization in there.”