5 min

In brief

Vancouver and national news

NUMBERS GOING UP AGAIN. Longtime volunteer May McQueen and her daughter, Peggy McQueen, greeted people with candles May 25 as they arrived for the 20th annual AIDS candlelight memorial and vigil at Alexandra Park. Some 300 people participated. There are now 2,448 names on the list of local people who died of HIV/AIDS-99 of them new this year. Credit: John Kozachenko


Vince Marino and Jim Deva are ready to host round two in their series of community policing meetings. Last month, about 36 people attended the first meeting to discuss the future of the Davie Village Community Policing Centre (CPC). The issue is especially pressing now, with the Vancouver Police Department’s (VPD) anticipated plan to restructure the city’s CPCs-and replace their independent, elected directors with the chief’s chosen advisors. That’s a move many queers, and many other CPC advocates around Vancouver, vehemently oppose. “A chief-appointed advisory board is a ridiculous concept,” Ron Stipp told Xtra West after the last community meeting. “We’re talking about our community. Those are the people who should be driving community policing-not someone from the [VPD’s] head office on Cambie St.” Community policing should be based on a partnership between the community and the police, Marino says. He’s hoping about 200 people join him Jun 7 to brainstorm exactly how to make that partnership work. The meeting will begin at 1:30 pm in the Central Presbyterian Church at 1155 Thurlow St.


The campaign to recall Vancouver-Burrard MLA Lorne Mayencourt seems to have hit some snags in the last few weeks. First there was the conflict at the West End seniors home, where the director accused the canvassers of coercing one of her elderly tenants with dementia into signing a petition. Recall organizer Alec Zuke maintains his canvassers didn’t coerce anybody; they were just visiting a friend in the home and one of them struck up a conversation with the elderly man. The man then offered to sign the petition himself, Zuke says.

Last week, word surfaced of another potential conflict, this time between the recallers and the Vancouver Police Department (VPD). Xtra West received an e-mail from one of the canvassers saying two officers forced them off the sidewalk, thus limiting their democratic right to collect signatures. But a quick investigation revealed that the officers had simply asked the canvassers to move their illegally parked truck.

“The VPD is not interested in interfering with anybody’s recall campaign,” says Insp Dave Jones, the top cop in the West End. “This had nothing to do with politics.” The officers didn’t tell the canvassers to stop collecting signatures on the sidewalk; the canvassers simply got angry and left in a huff. That’s true, Zuke admits. Still, he says pointing in particular to his recent activist street party on Bute St, the campaign’s successes outweigh its troubles. He’s tabulating the signatures right now. The deadline to sign a petition is Jun 2.


Svend Robinson’s hate propaganda bill almost got amended out of existence May 14, when several regular Justice Committee members suddenly didn’t show up-and some of the Liberal Party’s most strenuous opponents of gay rights sat down in their place.

The committee had met to vote on Robinson’s proposed bill to add queers to the list of groups protected from hate propaganda in Canada. But when Robinson realized that the substitute MPs would likely kill his bill, or radically alter it, he filibustered the whole meeting away, instead. (That means he made a long speech to use up all the time in the meeting so no one else could take the floor and potentially change the bill or vote it down.) Now, as Xtra West goes to press, the Justice Committee is meeting one last time to debate the merits of Robinson’s bill before reporting back to the House of Commons. According to Parliamentary rules, if the committee sends the bill back to the House without voting on it (because, say, Robinson kept talking long enough to delay a negative vote once again), it’s as if the committee passed the bill. So unless the Justice Committee kills the bill May 27, the entire House will get to vote on it when it resumes this fall.

In related news, Vancouver city council added its voice to the bill’s supporters at its May 13 meeting. Councillor Tim Stevenson introduced the motion.


For the second year in a row, Nanaimo’s Pride committee has won its battle with city hall-only this year the battle was much, much easier. Last year, council initially refused to proclaim Pride and only changed its mind when it received a letter form the Pride committee’s lawyer reminding it of the law. According to BC human rights rulings, municipalities cannot refuse to proclaim Pride unless they stop making all other proclamations as well. This year, Pride co-chair Tina Schoen braced herself for another fight. But it never came. Though Mayor Gary Korpan (who has a record of opposing Pride) was conspicuously absent, the rest of council easily approved the request for a proclamation. They even agreed to fly the rainbow flag from city hall for the whole Pride week. “I am nothing short of ecstatic,” Schoen smiles. Now, she’s hoping queers around BC will join Nanaimo’s community to share its celebrations Jun 28-29. This year’s festivities will include a Pride Market Place at the Bowen Park Pavillion, a picnic, games for all ages, a dance and the annual drag ball game.

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Some members of the AIDS community have recently seen a reduction in their disability pension top-ups. The BC Liberals seem to be phasing out the $40 dietary supplement that several hundred PWAs and HIV-positive people fought hard to get a few years ago. The dietary supplement is one of two Schedule C top-ups that used to be available to PWAs already receiving disability pensions. (The other top-up is the $225 monthly allowance instituted by the Liberals after the last election, replacing a lengthy, yet somewhat more lucrative, appeal process.) Last fall, the Liberals launched a review of their disability pension program, but promised to leave PWAs receiving the $225 monthly benefit (and its appeal-based predecessor) alone. They didn’t mention the $40 benefit, though. Now it seems they’re cutting it off, leaving some PWAs living near the poverty line $40 poorer.

For help fighting the cut, call the BC Persons with AIDS Society: 604.893.2200


The Quesnel teacher and guidance counsellor famous for his anti-gay-rights letters to the editor recently told a Christian newspaper that he plans to leave BC and find a new profession. Last month, the BC College of Teachers suspended Chris Kempling’s teaching licence for a month after it found his conduct as a classroom authority figure unbecoming. Kempling had written numerous letters to his local newspaper and told his students that sexual orientation can be cured. “Mr Kempling’s actions disclose a failure to uphold values that are fundamental to the education system and Canadian society, values that include sexual equality and respect for persons of differing sexual orientation,” the college ruled. Kempling’s suspension was supposed to start May 1, but he is still appealing. He says he hopes to leave BC at the end of this school year.


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. Said 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,” said 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.