Vancouver
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In brief

Local and national news

ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE. Play, and yet more play, was on offer at the Oct 8 Play Party put on by Vancouver Activists in SM (VASM) at the WISE Hall. The evening attracted mainly longtime SM practitioners and a couple of rookies. After a two-year hiatus from Play Parties, VASM hopes to revive them at the new location just off Commercial Dr. Credit: Gareth Kirkby

WEBSTER TRAIL CHANGES

The two men facing manslaughter charges in the 2001 beating death of Aaron Webster could be tried separately if applications begun in BC Supreme Court on Oct 6 succeed.



A trial date of Nov 15 has been set-two days before the third anniversary of the 41-year-old photographer’s late-night death in Stanley Park.



Both Ryan Cran and Danny Rao had elected trial by judge alone but Rao’s lawyer, Jim Millar, said he would now like a judge-and-jury trial.



“The decision to change to a jury was not motivated by a desire to create this snag,” Millar told Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm. “This is a kind of case that calls for a jury trial.”



Cran’s lawyer, Kris Pechet, however, said he wishes to keep to a judge alone trial.



The differences could mean the cases against the two men would have to be severed and tried separately.



Cran is on bail and sat in a suit watching the proceedings while Rao, clad in prison overalls, looked on from the prisoner’s dock.



Two youths accused in the case have already pleaded guilty and are currently in youth detention centres.



-Jeremy Hainsworth



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CRYSTAL METH PLAN

First the good news: the BC government is not only taking the rise in crystal meth usage seriously, it is specifically identifying the gay community as one of the at-risk groups worth reaching out to in its new awareness campaign. Now the bad news: the campaign itself is short on details, short on resources for those already addicted and devoid of new cash altogether.



The initiative, which the government announced to general disinterest in early August, focusses on five “priorities for action”: informing the public about the hazards of meth use; “building safer communities” which, among other things means working with pharmacists to limit the availability of all possible meth ingredients; identifying key at-risk groups; increasing service providers’ skills; and reducing individual harm, which repeats the directive to inform the public and adds a few extras, such as providing users with safe needle exchanges and water at events.



The plan makes no mention of implementing new programs, nor providing treatment services, shelters or counselling to meth addicts. “It’s not [about] programming per se,” Susan Brice, then-Minister of State for addictions, told Xtra West a few weeks ago (shortly before she got shuffled over to human resources). It’s about setting a framework to show stakeholders the direction the government is taking on this. But the regional health authorities have to build their own programs, she says. “This document isn’t an end, it’s merely a beginning.” Asked how much new money the government is putting into its new direction, Brice says, “This particular strategy doesn’t come with dollars attached to it.”



Her message to gay users: Crystal meth is “a nasty drug” with real risks that can do permanent damage; it’s not just a recreational party drug. “I think the gay community has shown good responsibility” addressing health risks such as AIDS in the past, she adds, urging the community to get informed about crystal meth and “take responsible action.”



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YOUTH CENTRE GAY-FRIENDLY

As the proposed street youth centre generates fevered response both for and against amongst West Enders and gays alike, one thing is clear: if the facility does get the nod it will be gay-friendly. So says its director, lesbian Renata Aebi, who recently joined the Davie Village Business Improvement Association. The Burrard St centre is a Family Services of Greater Vancouver project, the same people who run Dusk to Dawn (and its gay-straight alliance) out of the back of St Paul’s hospital. (Whether the new centre opens or not, Aebi says Dusk to Dawn’s days are limited due to the hospital’s renovation plans for that part of the building. She’s hoping to be able to incorporate the drop-in’s services into her new centre-if the centre gets approval.) Either way, Family Services works really hard to be inclusive and gay-friendly, Aebi says. “I’d be totally into” offering gay-specific programs and services at the new centre, she continues. “We have a gay-positive policy and approach,” which is especially important since so many of the street youth are gay, she notes. Other services in the works for the new centre include: 24-hour services, medical staff, housing and employment services, a classroom, an arts studio, an industrial-size kitchen and glassed-in smoking and pet rooms (to limit the impact of youth on their neighbours).



“I’m hopeful that people will see this as a positive in their community,” she says.



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LESBIAN BREAST CANCER

Lesbian rock icon Melissa Etheridge shocked fans Oct 7 when she abruptly announced she has breast cancer and cancelled the rest of her North American tour to seek treatment. The 43-year-old is expected to make a complete recovery after she undergoes surgery. “I am fortunate to be under a wonderful doctor’s care and thankful that this was caught early,” Etheridge said in a statement.



Rumours and hypotheses have long swirled around the question of whether lesbians are more likely to get breast cancer. One lesbian health website says lesbians are more susceptible because they are less likely to give birth, particularly before age 30. They are also more likely to avoid doctors because they feel uncomfortable with mainstream health care providers-and thus miss out on the benefits of early detection. A study published in the Sep 2001 issue of Out magazine suggests that, on average, heterosexual women saw a doctor within two weeks of suspecting breast cancer, whereas most lesbians waited two months to see a doctor.



On the other hand, another lesbian health website emphasizes that lesbians and bisexual women are not at greater risk for breast cancer simply because they are queer. They’re only at greater risk if they fall into high risk categories, such as: less routine health care checks, no childbirth and no breastfeeding, greater alcohol consumption and higher body weight (because fat tissue makes estrogen and estrogen can help breast cancer grow). While some studies indicate that lesbians consume more alcohol and weigh more than straight women, not all lesbians do-and therefore not all lesbians are at greater risk for breast cancer. If you think you may be in a higher risk group, find a health care provider you can trust and talk to them. And get tested regularly.



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DALLAS LOSES PAROLE

Sean Anthony Cole (aka Dallas) is back in jail without parole after violating his day-release conditions less than two months after he obtained them. Cole is serving a two-years-and-six-month jail sentence for drugging and robbing several gay men in Vancouver last year. In April, the parole board granted him day-release on the condition that he stay away from Vancouver (unless accompanied by his parole officer), and abstain from all drugs, alcohol and gambling. On May 31, he violated at least one of those conditions when Victoria police caught him with $20 worth of cocaine he had just purchased. They charged him with possession of cocaine and possession for the purposes of trafficking. He was convicted on the second charge and got an extra 60 days and one year probation added on to his current sentence. The parole board then revoked his day-release on Sep 3. “Your buying cocaine on the street and drug use exhibited significant thinking errors, impulsivity and criminal behaviour,” the board ruled. “You have an extensive criminal history that began in 1982 and includes mostly property and drug related convictions and numerous breaches. You also have a history of violating release conditions. At this point the board concludes your risk is undue and your Day Parole is revoked.”