Vancouver
5 min

IN BRIEF

Vancouver and national news

NEEDS HELP: Svend Robinson's private member's bill is in Credit: Xtra West files

EMERGENCY!



Gays involved in community policing are calling an emergency community meeting Apr 21. The topic: responding to the Vancouver police chief’s plans to cut back the number of Community Policing Centres (CPCs) and to eliminate the surviving centres’ elected boards. Gays and lesbians and other West End residents are being asked to help create a new way to involve the community in influencing how we are policed. The meeting is Easter Monday, Apr 21 at 1:30 pm at Central Presbyterian Church, 1155 Thurlow St (just off Davie).



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ANOTHER BAWDY HOUSE DELAY



It seems to be a trend with bawdy house cases. For the last few months, Calgary’s bathhouse case has inched forward, hitting delay after delay in the justice system. Now, Jamie Lee Hamilton’s local bawdy house trial has hit another delay of its own. Hamilton was arrested in Aug 2000 after Vancouver police raided her safe house for sex workers and charged her with keeping a common bawdy house. She’s been slowly making her way through the court system ever since. Last spring, she asked Judge Carlie Truman to throw the case out because, Hamilton argued, the bawdy house law is too broad and should be wiped off the books. Truman eventually rejected that argument and set a court date for May 5. Now, she’s on leave and the case is in flux. Crown spokesperson Geoffrey Gaul says the case will go forward but it will take some time to transfer the file to another judge and figure out how to proceed. Hamilton says the Crown should never have pursued the charge in the first place-and she’s tired of all the delays.



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NO MORE RESPITE



St Paul’s hospital is cutting its respite program for people with AIDS and other terminal patients-leaving many PWAs and their partners feeling angry and bewildered. The program has been “extremely valuable,” says Blair Smith, whose partner Daryl Carter has been HIV-positive for years. Until now, patients could book one of St Paul’s two respite beds (or a third “symptom management” bed) when they, or their caregivers, got too tired and weak to look after their symptoms and medications. Smith says he took his first vacation in three years the last time Carter booked a bed. The program gives people the temporary relief they need so they can go back to living independently at home, Smith says. “It’s a quality of life issue.” A spokesperson for Providence Health Care, which runs St Paul’s, says the hospital looked at many options before cutting its respite program. Something had to go because of the provincial budget cuts, he says, adding that St Paul’s may be able to reinstate the program someday.



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DON’T CLOSE BATHOUSES: STUDY



Don’t close the bathhouses-stock them with condoms and safer sex pamphlets. That’s the conclusion coming out of a new study by the US Center for AIDS Prevention Studies in San Francisco. Researchers found that regulating and closing bathhouses does not actually diminish the number of gay men having unprotected sex. When AIDS first hit, a lot of US cities either forced their bathhouses to close, or regulated the spaces where sex could take place inside. In contrast, Canadian cities allowed their bathhouses to stay open and stocked them with condoms. The new study shows that Canadians had the right approach all along. Interviews with more than 800 gay men in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago showed that men who were likely to have unprotected sex found a place to do so, whether in a bathhouse or not. That’s why bathhouses should seize the opportunity to reach high-risk people and emphasize the importance of safer sex, the researchers conclude.



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HED: POLITICIANS FOR PRIDE



Vancouver’s gay and lesbian city councillors will soon join MP Hedy Fry to host a fundraiser for the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) and its annual parade and festival. Tim Stevenson will spearhead the event. “All three of us feel that the Pride Society has been a really important society in our community for 25 years,” he says. “We want to make sure the [VPS] and the parade remain viable and remain a part of our community that helps inspire the community and bring it together.” Stay tuned for a date and time.



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HED: SVEND’S BILL NEEDS HELP



NDP MP Svend Robinson is worried about his private member’s bill on hate propaganda. He’s not sure it’s ever going to make it out of committee and into the Criminal Code. The bill seeks to add protection for gays and lesbians to the code’s section on hate propaganda. According to sections 318-319 of the code, it’s a crime to incite hatred against, or promote the genocide of any identifiable group based on its colour, race, religion, or ethnic origin. Sexual orientation is not on the list. That’s what Robinson is hoping to change. Bill C-250 passed first reading in the House of Commons last May and is now being studied by the justice committee. But the committee is being swamped by letters opposing the bill, Robinson says, and he’s worried. “We are in danger of losing this bill,” he says, urging everyone who supports the bill to write to their MPs immediately.



Hedy Fry, the Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre, sits on the justice committee. In a form letter to her constituents, she says she supports protecting more identifiable groups with the law but she’s not sure which groups to add. She still wants to hear more public input, says her assistant, Steve Bourne. “She’s basically supporting the amendment,” he says, but she’s leaving her options open.



MP Hedy Fry: 604.666.0135

MP Svend Robinson: 604.299.4022



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HED: NEW HUMAN RIGHTS TRIBUNAL



BC’s Liberal government officially enacted its new human rights tribunal Mar 28, despite opposition from groups across the province. The new system eliminates the human rights commission and leaves only the tribunal to both screen and try cases. Many lawyers and activists are worried that, without the commission, people filing human rights complaints won’t get the support they need to successfully make their case to the tribunal. The commission used to investigate each complaint, decide whether it should go to tribunal, and sometimes help with its presentation to the tribunal, as it recently did with Azmi Jubran’s complaint about homophobic harassment in his high school. The government is gutting its human rights protections, lesbian lawyer barbara findlay warned Xtra West last fall. It has already cut funding to legal aid-so many complainants will have a hard time finding the money to hire a lawyer-and closed all but one of its legal clinic offering subsidized lawyers. Now it’s cutting the investigative body that used to help complainants put their case together. The government says streamlining the system will make it more efficient, and therefore more effective. The old model often suffered from long delays.



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HED: CUSTOMS AT IT AGAIN



A carton of art books en route to Toronto’s gay bookstore from Germany was doused in oil, with all the packaging material removed. All enclosed books were damaged. Glad Day Bookstore has received no notice from Customs about the opening of the carton or the damage done.



Glad Day is not entitled to compensation from Customs for the more than $1000 in damage.



Glad Day is in no financial position to take Customs to court over its loss. It is already fighting a constitutional challenge against the Ontario censor board over a count of distributing an unapproved film.



HED: STUDY SHOWS SENIORS DISTRUST



Many senior gays and lesbians don’t trust the health care system and are reluctant to get the care they need, a new Canadian study shows. Researchers from the McGill School of Social Work interviewed queer seniors across Canada and found that many of them avoid seeking medical help for as long as possible. “In light of this reality,” writes researcher Shari Brotman, “the possibility of one day having to be reliant on the health care system, on a nursing home facility or any other social institution understandably provokes anxiety and fear in aging lesbians and gay men.” he study appears in the April 2003 issue of The Gerontologist.