4 min

In brief

Vancouver and national news


A prominent Vancouver lesbian wants to throw her hat in the ring for the next federal election. Mary-Woo Sims-former head of the BC Human Rights Commission, co-chair of the Canadians for Equal Marriage campaign and general activist-about-town-says she wants to represent the NDP in its federal Vancouver-Kingsway riding. Sims is planning to seek the party’s nomination when it chooses its candidates early next year. So far, she says, the riding’s nomination is uncontested, but it’s too soon to say. Right now, Vancouver-Kingsway residents are represented in Parliament by Liberal MP Sophia Leung, who recently made headlines when she announced her opposition to same-sex marriage. Obviously, Sims says, she will keep up the fight for marriage if she gets the NDP’s nomination and then gets elected to Parliament. But she won’t be a one-issue candidate, she hastens to add. Same-sex marriage will just be one part of her broader social justice agenda, she says. The NDP is expected to choose its riding candidates in January; Parliament-watchers are predicting a spring election.


A number of West End groups are pushing the city to re-design Nelson Park and they say they really want the gay community to get involved. “The gay community is a huge part of that park and this neighbourhood,” says Rob Wynen, of the West End Residents’ Association (WERA). “It should definitely be involved” in any re-design the city undertakes. WERA is one of 17 local groups asking the Vancouver parks and school boards to strike a joint task force to study the problem. They say the park has ceased to be a “friendly” place. Debbi Lucyk agrees. She’s chairing the Nelson Park committee for the adjacent Lord Roberts Annex elementary school. Lucyk says too many school kids are finding used needles and urine in the playground just off the park. She wants Nelson Park to return to its more comfortable roots and hold more “positive” events. Asked where the gay community fits in to any upcoming consultations, Lucyk also says it should “definitely” be part of the process. In fact, she has already asked the Davie Village Business Improvement Association to participate. Parks board commissioner Heather Deal says it’s too soon to discuss plans for the park since the board has yet to strike a committee. But “if we put a working group together we would certainly make sure that it includes representation from the gay community,” she says.

To get involved call Debbi Lucyk at 604.680.2327


Another case about homophobic harassment in school is making its way through the BC Human Rights Tribunal. This time, a Squamish mother has filed a complaint against school district 48 for failing to protect her son from years of homophobic harassment. The complaint alleges that students at Myrtle Phillip elementary school have been targeting her son (who cannot be identified) on the basis of his perceived sexual orientation since 1997. It also alleges that the school failed to adequately address the situation. The school board says the boy is too young to know his sexual orientation and his tormentors are too young to know about such orientations, anyway. So any name-calling that occurred was unrelated to the boy’s sexual orientation-perceived or otherwise. Homophobic epithets are common in the public school system, the board told the tribunal. The tribunal member hearing the case says she wants to see what happens with Azmi Jubran’s case before making any decisions in this matter.

Jubran filed a similar complaint against the North Vancouver school board in 1996 for failing to protect him from homophobic attacks in his high school. Six years later, the human rights tribunal ruled in his favour and told the school board it had a responsibility to ensure that all its schools provide a discrimination-free learning environment. The school board asked the BC Supreme Court to review the case. The court agreed and quashed the tribunal’s ruling earlier this year, saying Jubran couldn’t have been the subject of homophobic harassment because he’s not gay. Jubran appealed the court’s decision to the BC Court of Appeal and is now awaiting a hearing, tentatively scheduled for next spring.


The US government issued a warning last month to its airport security officials: look out for men dressed as women-they could be terrorists. “Terrorists will employ novel methods to artfully conceal suicide devices. Male bombers may dress as females in order to discourage scrutiny,” says a September memo from the US Department of Homeland Security. In response, a prominent US transgendered group issued some warnings of its own. The National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) circulated a press release urging trans people to be cautious while travelling, to answer all questions clearly and to bring their ID documentation. “Hesitation or evasive answers will only draw more intense scrutiny and could possibly lead to police holding one temporarily for further interrogation,” it says. As if trans people didn’t have enough trouble crossing borders already.


Lesbians could run a higher risk of contracting heart disease than straight women, a new study shows. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California in San Francisco, examined 324 lesbians and 324 straight women in their late 40s. All scored more than 25 on the body mass index, putting them at increased risk for coronary heart disease and high blood pressure. But the study also found that the lesbians had higher waist circumference measurements and higher waist-to-hip ratios, both of which also contribute to increased cardiovascular risk. Researchers say the difference may be due to lesbians’ tendency to be less concerned about their weight and to define body images differently.