THE NEXT ROZ?
Insp Val Harrison says things are looking promising in the search for the Vancouver Police Department’s (VPD) new gay programs coordinator. Det Roz Shakespeare, the force’s first and only transsexual lesbian cop, created the position last year to build trust between the gay community and the VPD, examine how the VPD handles gay issues, and make the city safer for queers. But just months into her new position, Shakespeare realized that she would have to retire early or lose a good portion of her monthly pension after retirement. After much negotiation, Shakespeare and Harrison convinced the police union to let Shakespeare come back on contract for four months to find and train a successor. Now that contract is almost up. And Harrison says she has a definite candidate in mind. “I think that he’s excellent,” she says, refusing at this point to name him. “He wants to do the job,” she adds. Now, she says, she wants feedback from Jim Deva and Vince Marino, two high profile gay men involved in community policing. “I’m extending them a courtesy,” she says. Harrison hopes to appoint the next gay programs coordinator by the end of April.
RAO, CRAN HEARING SOON
The two adults charged with manslaughter in the Aaron Webster case will enter the next phase of their court process Apr 13. Danny Rao and Ryan Cran are scheduled to appear in provincial court for their preliminary enquiry at 9:30 am, in room 512 of the courthouse, located at 222 Main St. There, the Crown will present its case against the accused and a judge will decide whether there’s enough evidence to hold a trial. The preliminary enquiry is expected to last eight days.
CITY FUNDS OOS, PRIDE
City council accepted a staff recommendation and said yes to a $5,000 grant for Vancouver’s annual queer film festival, Out On Screen, Mar 24. “It’s fantastic news,” says Out On Screen’s director Drew Dennis. With this grant, the city of Vancouver becomes the third level of government to financially support Out On Screen. Last year, federal funding made up a good chunk of the festival’s total budget (about 44 percent of it), and the province kicked in another $8,000 through the BC Arts Council plus $20,000 through its gaming branch (down from the previous year’s $30,000); the city gave nothing. This year’s application for provincial gaming funds is due at the end of May. In addition to government support, Dennis says Out On Screen needs to raise $64,000 from private sponsors and supporters. For more information go to: http://www.outonscreen.com.
City council also voted Apr 8 to grant $5,000 to the Vancouver Pride Society for festivities this year-“the highest given out,” says gay councillor Tim Stevenson. And there’s a grant of another $9,000 to cover policing costs.
As well, Ellen Woodsworth led a council move to donate money to women’s groups and other agencies desperate after provincial cutbacks. The funds will be taken out of the city’s contingency reserve for now and paid back out of future slot gambling revenues.
FEDS BACK MARRIAGE
In a brief submitted to the Supreme Court of Canada two weeks ago, the federal government takes a position in favour of same-sex marriage. Globe and Mail reporter Kirk Makin summarizes the government’s position as follows: “Since large numbers of same-sex couples already live in ‘long-term, caring, loving and conjugal relationships,’ many of which include children, it is profoundly unfair and out of step with the times to deny their unions legal recognition.” Justice Minister Irwin Cotler submitted the brief in preparation for the court’s hearing on the legalities of same-sex marriage this fall. The government has asked the court for advice on whether or not to extend marriage rights to queer couples.
In related news, the Globe and Mail reported Apr 5 that the government of Nova Scotia has announced its support for same-sex marriage, saying it will back the federal government if the government chooses to legalize it.
SVEND’S BILL STALLS
MP Svend Robinson’s bill to add gays to the list of groups protected from hate propaganda in this country is still sitting in the Senate. The House of Commons passed Bill C-250 last fall then sent it on, as usual, to the Senate for approval. It’s been waiting for its final vote there for weeks. It has already made it through all but the last Senate stage, having passed two votes and a committee review. Now it has to pass a final vote to become law. Some senators have raised concerns about the bill’s alleged ability to inhibit freedom of religious expression-even though both the bill and the hate propaganda section of the Criminal Code specifically exempt expressions based on genuine religious beliefs. Groups such as Focus on the Family have nonetheless been urging their members to lobby senators to defeat, or at least delay, the bill. A story posted Apr 2 on the group’s website credits a “group of pro-family senators” with “using every tactic available to them” to delay a vote on the bill. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill by the end of April. If the Senate doesn’t pass the bill before the government calls an election, it will die on the table.
Contact information for senators: http://sen.parl.gc.ca/Home-e.htm
THE NEXT ROZ?