Vancouver
5 min

In brief

Vancouver and national news

NAMING DAVIE BIA OPPONENTS

Xtra West can now report which business and property owners opposed the renewal of the Davie Village’s Business Improvement Association (BIA) in January. Eight businesses from the 1200-block of Davie signed a form letter opposing the BIA on the grounds that they believe it pays insufficient attention to the area’s safety and security needs. Though the letter made no explicit mention of the BIA’s increasingly gay direction, it did criticize the rainbow banners. City staff were initially reluctant to say which businesses signed the letter, but Xtra West’s access-to-information request produced the following names: Blenz Coffee, Hesperos Greek Taverna, European Deli, Bagel Street CafĂ©, Polo Cleaners, Magic Dollar Discount Store, Davie Shoe Repair and Luggage, and Super Valu. Pattony Investment Company, landlord to both Xtra West and the Fountainhead, also sent the city a letter of its own opposing the BIA’s membership fee hike. And the owner of 1067-1069 Davie St added his letter to the pile but didn’t give any reasons. In all, the opposition fell far short of the numbers required to dissolve the BIA, and city council renewed it Feb 3.



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WEBSTER HEARING TODAY

The sentencing hearing for the second youth who pleaded guilty in connection with the beating death of Aaron Webster begins as Xtra West is being distributed Mar 3. A first youth pleaded guilty to manslaughter last July. He received the three-year maximum sentence allowable under young offender legislation. When the first youth pleaded guilty, Webster’s mother questioned where her son’s community was during the court process. She said she felt very alone. The latest hearing takes place in youth court, downstairs at 800 Hornby St. The preliminary hearing for the two adults charged in the case begins in April in provincial court.



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COUNCIL OPPOSES BC RENT HIKES

Vancouver city council has voted unanimously to convey its “strong concern” to Premier Gordon Campbell about his government’s recent changes to the Residential Tenancy Act. The changes have been in and out of the news ever since the government announced its intention to pave the way towards higher rents last year. Several months ago, Campbell and company agreed to drop their most controversial proposal, the retroactivity clause, which would have allowed landlords to postpone rent increases for up to three years and then hit their tenants with an extra large hike at the end of the period. That’s good but it’s not good enough, says councillor Tim Stevenson, who introduced the motion. “Despite their re-working of it, we are not at all pleased with the legislation.” Stevenson is particularly concerned about the changes allowing landlords to automatically increase their tenants’ rent by two percent plus the rate of inflation. This year, that comes to 4.6 percent, Stevenson points out-what will it be next year?



These increases, combined with the tenants’ loss of arbitration opportunities, will be “very detrimental” to renters, he warns, and particularly to those in the already high-priced West End and Yaletown areas.



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MARRIAGE QUESTION DELAYED

It’s official: the Supreme Court of Canada has delayed its hearing on same-sex marriage until October. The court was originally supposed to consider the government’s three questions, and offer some advice, in April. But new Prime Minister Paul Martin’s addition of a fourth question-asking the court if maintaining the one man-one woman status quo would be okay-has pushed the hearing to this fall. The court says it needs more time to prepare. The delay means the hearing will likely happen after the impending federal election.



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PFLAG PRESIDENT WINS

Eldon Hay, the president of Canada’s national PFALG organization (for parents, families and friends of gays and lesbians) is now a member of the Order of Canada. Governor General Adrienne Clarkson announced her picks for this year’s additions to the order on Jan 27. Hay, of Sackville, New Brunswick, is one of 102 people being honoured this year. “With intelligence, integrity and compassion, this human rights activist has championed a more tolerant, inclusive society,” Hay’s Order of Canada biography begins.



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SAN FRAN MARRIES QUEERS

San Francisco city officials have now been openly defying California state law for weeks, issuing marriage certificates to thousands of gay and lesbian couples. The marriages violate a ballot measure California voters passed three years ago maintaining the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. While it remains unclear what legal value the San Fran ceremonies will have, new Mayor Gavin Newsom insists they will be honoured. California currently has a domestic partner law which grants many spousal benefits, ranging from health care coverage to parental status, to same-sex couples without giving them access to marriage. Meanwhile, a few other states are also getting into the act and holding their own gay marriages, including New York and Vermont, long famous for its gay civil unions.



In related news, the Massachusetts supreme court ruled Feb 4 that only full same-sex marriage rights pass the constitutional test. The court’s latest ruling came in response to a question from the state senate on whether civil unions could do instead. The answer: an unequivocal no. That would be discriminatory, the justices said, reinforcing their pro-marriage ruling of last November. While some observers say there may be gay marriages in Massachusetts’ near future, others are nervously eyeing President George W Bush’s campaign-trail promise to endorse a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage across the US.



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MP ATTACKER GETS NINE MONTHS

Terry Curtis, the man who pleaded guilty to attacking 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. That means Curtis gets to stay in his own home as long as he follows certain conditions set out by the judge. Some of 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 to bar Spencer Feb 4. 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 it was a mistake to legalize gay sex 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.