Vancouver
6 min

In Brief

Vancouver and national news

THEY'RE BACK: The rainbow flags have been fluttering near English Bay since early July this year, hoisted by the Vancouver parks board to mark the upcoming Pride Parade and celebrations. Festivities begin Jul 26. Check out the Ultimate Pride Guide in this issue for complete listings. Credit: Robin Perelle

WEST ENDERS VS VIOLENCE

Ron Stipp says he’s frustrated by what he sees as the cops’ apparent reluctance to take anti-gay violence seriously in the West End. “They don’t seem to be able to wrap their minds around it,” he says, pointing, for example, to the Jun 29 bashing at Davie and Hornby Sts, where officers refused to take the lesbians’ statements at the scene, didn’t pursue the bashers (even though they were given their licence plate number), and seemed reluctant to characterize the incident as a gay-bashing at all.



Now, Stipp is taking matters into his own hands. He and a number of queer activists have formed a new group called West Enders Against Violence Everywhere (WEAVE). Step one, says Stipp: conduct an extensive survey of the West End to gauge the level of anti-queer violence in the area-and collect irrefutable data to present to the police. The police keep saying the statistics don’t bear out the problem, Stipp says. “They won’t do anything until they’re convinced that there is a real, severe problem with bashing in the West End.” That’s why Stipp, Velvet Steel, Jack Herman and other WEAVErs will be handing out surveys on the streets, in the bars and in the coffee shops of the West End over the next few months. For more information call 604.603.4611 or email velvet@bodyperve.com



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MARRIAGE UPDATE

The federal government took a sizeable step closer to changing its marriage laws Jul 17, when it released its highly anticipated draft legislation extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. If it passes, the law will redefine marriage in Canada to be the “lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others”-rather than a man and a woman. The government drafted the bill after recent Ont and BC court decisions extended marriage to same-sex couples in those two provinces. The new law would make the definition of marriage consistent across the country.



“This bill will ensure that same-sex couples from coast to coast to coast enjoy the equal right to affirm their love and commitment through marriage,” says Lisa Lachance, president of Canada’s national gay lobby group, Egale.



The government has now referred the bill to the Supreme Court of Canada for advice on three issues: Is the new law consistent with the Charter of Rights; does the federal government have the exclusive authority to draft this law (ie to define marriage throughout Canada); and will the law leave room for some religions to refuse to marry queer couples if it violates their beliefs.



Parliament is expected to vote on the bill-in a free vote-sometime this fall.



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FOCUS ON THE FRUITCAKE

In related marriage news, a new organization has entered the marriage fray. Focus on the Fruitcake (not to be confused with the anti-gay-rights group, Focus on the Family) recently added its voice to the lobbying, calling on government to protect fruitcakes and fight the proliferation of raisin breads, cakes-with-candied-bright-coloured-fruit-thingies-in-them, gays and other fruit-based phenomena that could threaten the supremacy of fruitcake. “Gay marriage poses exactly the same threat to family values as raisin bread poses to fruitcake,” says the group’s spokesperson Rowland Johnson.



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YOUTHCO BURNED OUT

City engineers have informed Vancouver’s only youth-designated HIV/AIDS agency that it can’t go back to its old office building because the charred walls are unsound. The decision comes two weeks after a four-alarm fire ripped through a downtown heritage block Jul 3, destroying YouthCO’s neighbour, 339 W Pender St, home of the queer-friendly Ms T’s cabaret, a gay bathhouse and a number of artists’ studios. Though YouthCO’s building is still standing, engineers say it’s not safe to work inside. Still, the fire could be a “disguised blessing,” suggests YouthCO’s director, Evin Jones. This could be a great opportunity for YouthCO to move to a new location, one that’s more easily accessible to both HIV-positive street youth and West End gay youth, she explains. For now, YouthCO will work out of the AIDS Vancouver/BC Persons with AIDS offices at 1107 Seymour St. Youth looking for support services can call 604.808.7209.



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WEST END LESBIANS BEWARE

Vancouver police are warning women in the West End to be on the lookout for a man accused of grabbing women from behind and molesting them. The incidents began last December, when a man began approaching women between Broughton and Barclay Sts after 6:30 pm and groping their groins. The man is described as being in his 20s, either Hispanic or First Nations, around 5’9″ tall and weighing about 160-180 pounds. If you have any information, you can call Det Bob Reid at 604.717.2611 or Crimestoppers at 604.669.TIPS.



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SF PRIDE TAKES A STAND

Responding to comment from its community rap sessions held earlier this year, San Francisco Pride increased the political presence at this year’s parade and celebration. Pride President Joey Cain says, “What we heard was loud and clear-people want Pride to be a great celebration and party but also want to reclaim the political meaning that gave rise to it in the first place.

We can do that through forming coalitions with activists and organizations that are advancing goals which reflect the LGBT community’s values and aspirations.”



To that end, the Pride Committee has already adopted an anti-war position and taken part in the San Francisco anti-war protests, in addition to marching with a formal contingent in the Martin Luther King Day Parade. And now they’re forging relationships with political lobby groups.



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PRAIRIE PRIDE PROCLAMATIONS

The cities of Calgary and Edmonton have officially relented and proclaimed Pride this year. After 12 years of opposition, Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier signed the proclamation and his deputy mayor, Joe Ceci, rode in the Parade Jun 8.



Meanwhile, Edmonton’s mayor chose to avoid a lengthy human rights case after the Edmonton Pride Week Society, fed-up with eight years of refusals, finally filed a human rights complaint against the city. According to human rights law in BC, municipalities cannot refuse to declare Pride unless they stop making all other proclamations as well.



“I want to make it perfectly clear that my personal opinion on this issue has not changed,” says Edmonton mayor Bill Smith. “I have been advised that if I fail to fulfill my legal obligations, the city of Edmonton would be liable for damages.”



In nearby Manitoba, Premier Gary Doer proclaimed Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Day without a fight. About 2,500 people marched in Winnipeg’s Parade Jun 8.



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NEW HIV PROFESSORSHIP

The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS is poised to create Canada’s first endowed professorship in HIV clinical virology. The new professorship, which will be financed by a $1.8 million donation from drug company GlaxoSmithKline, will be used to study effective drug therapy research. Until now, the centre has had to rely on piecemeal funding and grants to study HIV drugs, says its director, Dr Michael O’Shaughnessy. “GlaxoSmithKline’s donation guarantees research infrastructure to support clinical work into therapeutic drug-level monitoring, drug resistance and side-effects.” The new professorship will operate out of the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine.



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MASTURBATE-A-THON

More than 100 men and women came together May 3 to participate in San Francisco’s annual masturbate-a-thon. Part fundraiser (for a local sex-ed centre), part opportunity to overcome one’s inhibitions, the event drew a variety of participants 18 years and older. Says first-time participant Horace Santry, 55: “I have a lot of anxiety, but doing this among a group of like-minded people does make it easier.” This event is a chance to “counter centuries of censure, to make masturbation more fun and to make it more accessible,” says Thomas Laqueur, a professor of history at the University of California at Berkeley. Previous masturbate-a-thons have raised more than $25,000. No word yet on whether the Vancouver Pride Society is planning a similar fundraiser.



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NO BOOZE ON WRECK

The UBC detachment of the RCMP that patrols Wreck Beach says they’re clamping down on booze and drugs this year. Staff Sgt Barry Hickman says his force is responding to a request from the Wreck Beach Preservation Society, the organization that the police see as representing nude sunbathers. Drinkers were forced to empty their bottles on the sand during a clampdown on Victoria Day weekend in May. There’s been a heightened police presence and targeting of drinkers and vendors ever since-mainly at the straight-dominated beach. Police are also raising concerns about an increase in garbage being left on the beach. Some beach users are suggesting that it’s time to form a new organization to reflect the multiple, consensual, victimless uses of the gay portion of Wreck Beach.



NEW HEPC TREATMENT

British Columbians living with chronic Hepatitis C will soon have access to a new drug. BC’s health minister, Colin Hansen, announced Jun 12 that PharmaCare will now cover Pegetron, an anti-viral drug manufactured by Schering Canada. “We need to make sure the up to 1,000 British Columbians diagnosed with Hepatitis C each year have access to the care they need,” Hansen said. “We applaud Schering Canada for working with us to ensure Pegetron would be affordable enough to our PharmaCare program to allow patients access to this new treatment.