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In briefs

Local and National news

SkyTrain bashing trial

A man accused of viciously assaulting a young, gay man on the SkyTrain three years ago will finally face his charge in court this summer.

Chris Iversen, then 16, was travelling home from a Youthquest meeting when he was attacked on Aug 28, 2002.

Iversen says two men began harassing him at the New Westminster SkyTrain station. They followed him onto the train and shoved him against the door. Panicked, Iversen pushed the train’s yellow security strip to call for help. Then he jumped off the train at the next stop. But no one was there to help him.

That’s when the attack escalated, Iversen says.

The two men punched him and kicked him, he alleges. They may have even smashed a beer bottle into his face. His front teeth were kicked into his throat.

Screaming and bloody, Iversen fled.

Five months later, the Crown charged an 18-year-old man with aggravated assault.

However, the possibility of the trial going ahead had been in question until now.

The man charged vanished and missed a pre-trial hearing. He has since been apprehended and remains in custody, Iversen says he’s been advised.

The accused cannot be named because he was a juvenile at the time of the alleged offense.

Iversen says he’s ready to face the man.

“I feel good about it,” he says, “but it’s only one of the people that’s been caught. I feel like I’m only halfway there.”

Police haven’t charged anyone else in connection with the incident.

Iversen is still dealing with the results of the assault. He’s now preparing for surgery for a graft to replace bone smashed in his jaw in the attack.

The trial will take place in New Westminster youth court, Aug 15-16.

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BCPWA squeezed even tighter

The BC Persons with AIDS Society (BCPWA) laid off three employees this month because the government will no longer allow the society to run a deficit.

Last year, BCPWA got $180,000 in top-up funding to cover its deficit. This year, the government increased its core funding by $53,000 but won’t be providing top-up money. That means about $130,000 less for BCPWA this year.

“It shuts our entire prevention department,” says BCPWA vice-chair Glyn Townson. “We no longer have the capacity to conduct prevention work.”

Townson says the cut staff positions were created just last year and that BCPWA was hoping to move forward this year. He says they’ll have to maintain the status quo instead of continuing to build on last year’s efforts.

“There is a huge human cost to these cuts,” Townson adds. “We have a group of dedicated staff and laying people off really affects morale.”

BCPWA has a $1.1 million annual budget. It has received no real funding increases since 1995 even though its membership has increased by 151 percent over the same period.

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AccolAIDS winners

The BC Persons With AIDS Society (BCPWA) held its fourth annual AccolAIDS awards gala at the Pan Pacific Vancouver, Apr 24. The Women’s Information and Safe House (WISH) was honoured for its work which includes operating the only drop-in centre for women involved in street-level sex trade. The PumpJack Pub was honoured for its community involvement and for helping to raise more than $30,000 for queer charities since it opened in 2000. James Johnstone was honoured for all his work in support of BCPWA, including his longtime commitment to the AIDS Candlelight Vigil. $80,000 in proceeds from the AccolAIDS event will go to support BCPWA programs and events.

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Feds appeal CPP

Members of the Canada Pension Plan class-action suit still haven’t gotten any cheques from the federal government. Instead, they are still waiting to see if the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the government’s latest appeal. The suit, estimated to be worth about $80 million to about 1,500 eligible queer widows and widowers, was first launched in 2001. The widows say the government’s 1999 decision to only extend spousal pension benefits to queers whose partners died after 1998 was unfair and arbitrary. They say the retroactive payments should date back to 1985, the year the Charter of Rights came into effect. Two courts, most recently the Ontario Court of Appeal last November, have agreed and ordered the feds to pay up. Douglas Elliot, the lead lawyer in the suit, called the Court of Appeal ruling a victory. “No one gave us a gay and lesbian discount when we were paying into the Canada Pension Plan, and so we shouldn’t have a gay and lesbian discount when we get paid out of the Canada Pension Plan,” he said. But the feds appealed the Court of Appeal’s verdict in January. No word yet on whether the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the appeal. If it does decide to hear it, it could take more than a year before the case gets its turn and a decision is rendered.

-With files from Paul Gallant

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NB and NWT marriage

Same-couples in New Brunswick and the Northwest Territories (NWT) are the latest to challenge the traditional definition of marriage in Canada. The New Brunswickers went to court Apr 25, while a couple in Yellowknife is expected in court on May 27. If the New Brunswick and NWT couples win, same-sex marriage will be legal in all but three provinces and territories across the country, with only Alberta, Prince Edward Island and Nunavut still holding out.