Vancouver
4 min

In Brief

Vancouver and national news

Credit: Xtra West files

vcaTEAM: PUT PHONES IN PARKS



The vcaTEAM is resurrecting the cry for 911 callboxes in parks just in time for the Nov 16 election. Parks board candidate Dave Pasin says it’s a safety question. He’d like to see “SOS booths” scattered around Vancouver’s parks so people can get an instant, direct line to police if they have any trouble. “It’s not just for gay people,” he stresses, but gays could benefit too if they’re ever in danger on the trails. Members of the gay safety committee called for just such a measure four months ago. Jim Deva suggested placing a callbox at the entrance to Lee’s Trail, the popular gay cruising area in Stanley Park. “I think it would be one more step towards making it a safer place,” he told Xtra West in June. The gay and lesbian parks board commissioners seemed to agree. Duncan Wilson asked for a feasibility study, while Laura McDiarmid said Aaron Webster’s death may have been averted had 911 callboxes been within reach almost a year ago. But that still hasn’t translated into callboxes on the trails. A spokesperson for the parks board says the study showed that even wireless callboxes are “just too cost prohibitive.” Pasin won’t be deterred. “You can’t put a cost on people’s safety,” he retorts. He also wants to see more lighting in the parks, though not so much that it would “destroy the ambiance” on the trails (gay activists have opposed lighting trails in the areas where sex occurs). Pasin, who is straight, is urging the gay community to vote in the Nov 16 election. People can register to vote at the polls.



PRE-HALLOWEEN BASHING



Several people were injured at Denny’s restaurant on Davie St in a pre-Halloween gay-bashing that escalated into a brawl. The incident began around 2 am, early Sun, Oct 27, when a table of 10-12 young men in their late teens-early 20s took exception to the predominantly queer clientele around them. One waitress, who asked to remain anonymous, says the young men then left the restaurant and attacked a gay man in holiday drag who was waiting at the bus stop. When the gay man ran back into the restaurant for help, his alleged attackers followed him in and a larger fight ensued. Police arrived quickly, the waitress says, but the suspects had already fled. Still, witnesses were able to get a licence plate number and Insp Dave Jones, of the Vancouver Police Department, says he’s “hopeful” the information will lead to an arrest. Meanwhile, another bashing was narrowly averted outside the Sugar Halloween party at the Vancouver public library on Georgia St. Xtra West photographer Andre Tardif says a man in his mid-20s harassed him while he was waiting for a cab in full drag after the party. The incident ended without injury.



PARTY FOR JOE AVERAGE



Joe Average says he was originally reluctant to accept the party being organized by a group of about 20 groups in his honour. “I’m a stubborn guy,” says the well-known Vancouver artist and AIDS activist, who generally prefers to fend for himself. But these days, Average admits that managing the side effects of his AIDS medications has become a full-time job, making it very hard for him to paint and make a living. That’s why the community has pitched in to help. “It’s the right thing to do,” says Flygirl’s Leigh Cousins, who got the ball rolling. Think of this party as “an enthusiastic acknowledgement for a benevolent humanitarian who’s been helping the community for years.” Average, who has donated his time, energy and art to more than 50 AIDS and community organizations over the years, says he feels very moved and thankful. “It couldn’t come at a better time,” he says. But that doesn’t mean he’s on his deathbed, he hastens to add. “I’m not planning on croaking,” he says with a smile. “I’m planning on rising from this again.”



“Absolutely Average,” an event to honour Joe Average, will take place Sun, Nov 3 at Atlantis, 1320 Richards St. Doors open 8 pm, drag show begins 8:30 pm. Silent auction starts 8 pm. Tickets: $20, available at Little Sister’s.



CENSUS COUNTS (SOME) QUEERS



First the good news: the results of Canada’s 2001 census are in and, for the first time ever, queers are explicitly listed among the stats. Census takers counted 34,200 same-sex couples throughout Canada, accounting for about 0.5 percent of all couples in the country. The percentages are highest in Vancouver, where almost 4,000 same-sex couples make up 0.9 percent of all couples-and 15 percent of all common-law couples. (Toronto came in a close second, with Ottawa and Montreal taking third and fourth.) “At long last we are beginning to count as Canadians,” says barbara findlay of the December 9 Coalition, whose human rights complaint against Stats Can convinced them to count queers in the first place. The problem is, the 2001 census only asked about queer couples. It offered no boxes to gay and lesbian individuals living singly, or in family models other than couples, to check off. That is a problem, findlay agrees. That’s why the coalition’s work with Stats Can is not done. Her next step: helping them gather data about individuals’ sexual orientation for a more accurate picture of Canadian society. Lesbian author Jane Rule has publicly argued against queers identifying their sexual orientation in censuses; sexual orientations and family models should not be the concern of government, she says.



LABATT HELPS A LOVING SPOONFUL



Labatt Breweries of Canada raised $5,000 for A Loving Spoonful in August and promises more campaigns to come. The brewer donated $1 from every pack of 15 cans of Labatt Blue sold at the Thurlow and Alberni, Robson and Bute, and Cardero branches of the Vancouver liquor store. That translates directly into 1,300 meals, says A Loving Spoonful’s executive director Sue Moen. A Loving Spoonful, which serves more than 100,000 free meals to homebound people with AIDS, has become completely dependent on corporate donations, Moen says.