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In brief

Vancouver & national news

OPENED THE CLOSET DOOR. Ian Waddell came out to Xtra West. He says he doesn't like labels and has had relationships in the past with both women and men. Credit: Xtra West files

WARDS MEETING COMING



Vancouver’s gay community will get a chance to add its voice to the debate over moving to a ward system of municipal elections. City-appointed electoral reform commissioner Tom Berger is coming to St John’s United Church Mar 31 (1401 Comox St) at 7:30 pm. At meetings held so far, most participants have told Berger that they want a ward system of elections to replace the at-large system. In the last civic election, the COPE party promised a ward system, a move that gay activists and some gay politicians have long called for to ensure our community is well represented at city hall. Under a ward system, the city would be divided into neighbourhoods-wards-with each electing its own councillor. Gay city councillor Tim Stevenson says he expects to have wards in place before the next municipal election in Nov 2005. Though Stevenson has previously favoured a hybrid system with some councillors elected to represent wards and others elected at-large, he says that the public is overwhelmingly calling for a full ward system. For more information, including other forum locations, see www.city.vancouver.bc.ca/erc/forums.



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WEBSTER YOUTH’S SENTENCING DELAYED



Sentencing submissions by defence and Crown counsel have been postponed to Mar 31 in the case of the second youth who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of Aaron Webster. A first youth pleaded guilty to the same charge last July. He received the maximum three-year sentence allowable under young offender legislation. Judge Valmond Romilly also ruled that the first youth’s actions were motivated by hatred. The judge sitting on the second youth’s case will likely not reach a sentencing decision at his Mar 31 hearing. The decision is expected to take a couple of weeks. The hearing will take place in youth court, downstairs at 800 Hornby St, at 2 pm.



-Jeremy Hainsworth



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CROWN ABANDONS GROSS INDECENCY



Robin Sharpe, the gay man notorious for challenging Canada’s child porn laws, could soon be going to jail. Two years ago, a judge acquitted Sharpe of several child porn charges after he ruled that Sharpe’s stories were legal and had artistic merit. But the judge then sentenced Sharpe to four months house arrest for possessing photographs he deemed pornographic. It didn’t take long for those photos to come back to haunt Sharpe. Vancouver police promptly launched an intensive search to locate the people in the photos. One man, now 35, came forward. Police charged Sharpe with sexual assault, indecent assault on a male, and committing acts of gross indecency.



Last week a jury found Sharpe guilty of indecent assault, presumably because it accepted the Crown’s position that Sharpe had sex with the complainant before his 14th birthday. (Youth under 14 years old cannot legally consent to sex-whether they want to have sex or not- which makes it automatically illegal for an adult to have sex with a minor under 14.)



But the jury apparently had no problem with the sexual relationship continuing after the complainant’s 14th birthday, since it acquitted Sharpe on the sexual assault charge pertaining to the latter part of their relationship. (Sharpe admitted he had sex with the youth after he turned 14, but said the youth initiated it.)



Crown counsel Elliot Poll then stayed the gross indecency charge because, he says, he can’t convict someone twice on the same set of facts. (And there was, after all, a complete overlap between the acts underlying the indecent assault and gross indecency charges.) Some legal observers were concerned about the Crown’s decision to resurrect the gross indecency charge in the first place, since its broad, vague definition could have encompassed now-legal gay sex acts-and re-stigmatized them.



Sharpe could serve up to 10 years in jail for indecent assault. He will return to court Apr 2 to set a date for his sentencing hearing.



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WADDELL STEPS THROUGH CLOSET



Longtime NDP politician Ian Waddell has come out. In an interview with Xtra West, Waddell says he has always considered sexuality “a personal matter.” However, he says, “I’ve had relationships in the past with men and women.” Waddell recently beat human-rights expert Mary-Woo Sims, an out lesbian, for the NDP nomination in the federal riding of Vancouver-Kingsway. A former Rhodes scholar, Waddell has had a notable career in the federal and provincial NDP, including as a cabinet minister in the Glen Clark government. Waddell says he has always supported gay-rights initiatives, though Svend Robinson has specialized in them on behalf of the federal NDP, while Waddell has concentrated on international, peace and environmental matters. Waddell has his eyes set on a cabinet seat if the NDP wins the next federal election, expected this spring.



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GAY MAN RUNS IN ESQUIMALT RIDING



The NDP has picked an out gay man to represent its party in the upcoming federal election in the riding of Esquimalt-Juan DeFuca, on Vancouver Island. Randall Garrison has worked as a peacekeeper for Amnesty International in Afghanistan and Indonesia, teaches criminal justice at Camosun College and is a strong proponent of same-sex marriage. He lives with his partner, Teddy, in Esquimalt.



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MP ATTACKER GETS NINE MONTHS



Terry Curtis, the man who pleaded guilty to assaulting Fredericton MP Andy Scott in his constituency office last November, isn’t going to jail. Instead, a New Brunswick judge gave him a nine-month conditional sentence to be served in his community, starting Jan 6. That means Curtis gets to stay in his own home as long as he follows certain conditions set out by the judge. Those conditions include staying away from Scott’s office and seeking treatment for his bipolar condition and slight psychotic tendencies. Curtis pleaded guilty last December to assaulting Scott and uttering threats against him. His wife said he objected to the MP’s public support for same-sex marriage. Scott suffered cuts and bruises in the incident.



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NEW PARTY REJECTS SPENCER



Former Canadian Alliance MP Larry Spencer, who got his 15 minutes of fame last December with his contentious declarations on homosexuality, won’t be welcome in the newly merged Conservative Party of Canada it seems. According to CTV, Conservative Party MPs voted Feb 4 to bar Spencer. That means Spencer will have to run as an independent candidate in his Saskatchewan riding if he wants to return to Parliament. Spencer got kicked out of the Canadian Alliance caucus after he publicly said that legalizing gay sex was a mistake, and talked about an alleged homosexual conspiracy to seduce the young boys of America.



In related news, Elsie Wayne, the outspoken Conservative MP from Saint John, NB, has decided not to run for re-election. Wayne, 71, moved from the mayor’s chair to Parliament Hill in 1993, and has since gained some notoriety as a vocal opponent of gay rights. Last spring, she said gays and lesbians should “shut up” about marriage: “Why do they have to be out here in the public always wanting to call it marriage? Why are they in parades?” she asked the House of Commons. “They do not see us getting up on floats to say we are husband and wife. We do not do that. If they are going to live together, they can go live together and shut up about it. There is no need for this nonsense whatsoever and we should not have to tolerate it in Canada.” More recently, Wayne blasted the CBC for broadcasting a gay marriage on TV. “The CBC has a responsibility to inform and to entertain, and not propagandize lifestyles,” she reportedly told its president.