4 min

In brief

Vancouver and national news

OUTSTANDING CITIZENS: Liberal MP Hedy Fry pinned the Queen?s Golden Jubilee medal on Joe Average (left) and Alan Herbert (right), for their "extraordinary service" to the community, at a ceremony held Nov 29 at the Coal Harbour Community Centre. Fry honoured Average for his art and internationally recognized AIDS work, and Herbert for his years of work in city planning and on city council. Earlier this fall, NDP MP Svend Robinson presented gay kindergarten teacher James Chamberlain with the queen?s medal, Credit: Robin Perelle


After members complained in the last issue of Xtra West, the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) decided to postpone its annual general meeting (AGM) until Dec 19. The meeting was originally supposed to take place Nov 28, but organizers called it off at the last minute after questions arose surrounding the meeting’s notification period. Some VPS members said the society did not provide the 14-day written notice required for an AGM by both the BC Society Act and the VPS’ own constitution. VPS president Michael Cowan says the Act is ambiguous about what constitutes written notice (since the AGM was advertised on the VPS website), but the VPS decided to reschedule the meeting anyway. “The bottom line is, our membership is unhappy because they feel they haven’t been given sufficient notice,” Cowan says. Now he’s hoping for a good turnout at next week’s meeting, especially after recent allegations of financial irregularities by the VPS. Though Cowan denies that any irregularities occurred, he says all that will be addressed when the VPS presents its financial records on Dec 19.

The Vancouver Pride Society will hold its annual general meeting on Dec 19 at 6:30 pm at Gordon Neighbourhood House, 1019 Broughton St. Memberships can be purchased right before the meeting.


November was a good month for gays and lesbians getting awards. It started with nurse Barney Hickey, one of the vcaTEAM’s unsuccessful council candidates, receiving an award from the BC Bears Society. The Bears honoured the nurse’s contributions to community development at their annual Furrball dinner on Nov 9. Then VanCity recognized Little Sister’s contributions to the community and gave the popular Davie St bookstore an “ethics in action” award. “It’s nice to be recognized,” co-owner Jim Deva later told Xtra West. Deva then picked up a second award, this time from the Knights of Malta, for his “outstanding service within the community” in the wake of Aaron Webster’s fatal gay-bashing just over a year ago.


It’s four and counting in the House of Commons. First it was NDP MP Svend Robinson blazing the way 14 years ago; then Bloc Quebecois MP Réal Ménard added his voice to the then-miniscule gay chorus in Parliament. Last October, Vancouver East MP Libby Davies made history as the first woman to come out in the House. And now a Tory has added his name to the growing list. Last week, Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison, from the rural Kings-Hants riding, came out to the Globe and Mail. Though Brison says he doesn’t feel defined by his sexuality, he has consistently voted in favour of gay rights in the House. Observers say he is expected to enter the Conservative Party leadership race soon.


In a last-ditch attempt to boost its low subscriber rates, PrideVision launched an ad campaign last month that has raised eyebrows in the gay community. The ad falls back on the spectre of discrimination and censorship to convince the community to keep Canada’s only gay TV station alive. “What would you say if you heard that discrimination was pulling the plug on PrideVision TV?” the ad, which recently ran on the back cover of Xtra West, begins. “What would you say if you learned that it isn’t discrimination pulling the plug, but our own community who isn’t plugged in?” The ad goes on to beg the station’s current 20,000 subscribers to sign up another 50,000 of their friends without delay.

In the last few months, the beleaguered network has cut almost all Canadian-made programming and laid off dozens of staff members. The station’s actions, combined with its new ad campaign, have left a bad taste in columnist Eleanor Brown’s mouth. “We should pay PrideVision for a lousy bunch of reruns and they, then, will use our money to finance the launch of their American channel, which will include at least 10 original US shows,” writes Brown.

PrideVision has spent months trying to get itself bought out by US entertainment companies without success. Now, with a new US gay network set to launch sometime this spring, the Canadian station’s prospects look even more bleak. Outlet, the new joint Showtime-MTV project, will also be a 24-hour all-gay network; however, early reports suggest it won’t show any porn. PrideVision’s pledge drive is on day 34 and counting.


An Ontario judge has given the nod to two gay and lesbian class-action suits to join forces. The BC and Ontario suits are seeking more than $400 million in retroactive Canada Pension Plan (CPP) survivor benefits from the federal government. Two years ago, the government agreed to count gay and lesbian partners as “spouses” under the CPP and to pay spousal benefits to their widows and widowers after they die. But the government only extended the benefits to people whose partners died after Jan 1, 1998. That leaves people like George Hislop, 75, out in the cold. Hislop, a longtime gay activist, lost his partner, Ronnie Shearer, in 1986. Lawyer Douglas Elliot says the court will likely hear the case sooner, now that the two cases have been merged into one. “[The plaintiffs will] get their day in court a lot faster than they would have otherwise and they’ll have a chance of getting their pension benefit when they’re still alive,” Elliot told Canadian Press last week. Hislop could collect up to $85,000 if the class-action suit is successful.


More than 260 delegates from Pride organizations around the world met in San Francisco last month to swap stories and pool their resources. Next stop: Montreal in Oct 2003, then Reykjavik, Iceland the following year.