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9 min

In their own words

Q & A with Vancouver-Burrard's gay candidates

BEFORE THE POLLS. Xtra West rounds up the candidates. Credit: Wendy D

Xtra West: If elected what would your number one priority be as an MLA?

Lorne Mayencourt, BC Liberals: Completing the efforts started with the safe schools initiative, reintroducing the Safe Schools Act and having that passed. That act has great potential to change the culture in our school system.

Tim Stevenson, NDP: Restoring healthcare. There were 5,000 long-term care beds the Liberals promised that did not come and that’s meant a huge backlog all the way through the system up to where the emergency wards, including St Paul’s, are jammed.

Janek Kuchmistrz, Green Party: There are a lot of really important priorities. I see the plight of the homeless as a stain on the community. I also feel strongly that we need to address homophobia in schools.

Ian McLeod, Democratic Reform Party: The number one priority would be to address the homeless issue in Vancouver-Burrard. The second issue would be dealing with seniors’ issues.

XW: What do you think gay Vancouver-Burrard residents need most and what will you do to help them get it?

LM: Better services for youth. Securing funding for groups like Youthquest, Gab youth services, the McCreary Centre and others, to provide them with the support they need. It’s difficult [for youth] to come out and it requires a certain amount of bravery. Matching that bravery requires certain supports.

TS: The probability that St Paul’s will be moving out of the West End seems more and more likely and we can’t get any answers out of the Liberal government. That will have a huge effect on West End residents in general but also for the gay community, particularly those who are HIV-positive and those with AIDS.

JK: The need to feel safe in their community. The need to be able to go to the parks to feel safe-whatever they want to be in the parks for. They need to have affordable housing. People need to have jobs.

IM: What they need most is a gay-friendly provincial government and one that will advance the cause of gay marriage. Unfortunately there’s still a lot of workplace discrimination against LGBT people and that is a concern.

XW: Would you fight to get BC’s school boards to implement codes of conduct that specifically prohibit discrimination, harassment and intimidation on the basis of sexual orientation?

LM: Yes, that’s the entire point of the Safe Schools Act… it requires school districts to have specific policies, procedures and support mechanisms that ensure they get the job done well.

TS: Absolutely. I would act on this immediately. There’s no doubt it’s needed. The most important thing here is that the community has to be listened to and then government has to act on those recommendations.

JK: Emphatically yes, and it’s about time. I know adult age students who didn’t complete their high school, in many cases because they felt unable to continue their studies because they were being harassed in school.

IM: Definitely. That is a no-brainer. To include it in the curriculum and also to have public service messages on this issue. It’s not just the schools that influence children, it’s also the media that does that.

XW: What steps would you take to ensure gay-friendly content is added to public school curriculum in BC?

LM: What we’ve done so far is introduced a number of approved curriculum materials. The gay community asked me to ensure that kids are exposed to the fact that there are different families, there are different sexual orientations and there are different gender identities. I fully support doing that and will continue to support doing it.

TS: One would be to deal with the curriculum itself that allows students to understand that homosexuality is a variant of nature like skin colour or eye colour. Also working with the BCTF [British Columbia Teachers’ Federation] to bring in curriculum that would reflect the reality for the queer community. Secondly, working with counsellors in schools. We also need to be talking about libraries that also appreciate what it is to be part of the queer community.

JK: I would increase the autonomy of individual teachers to make choices as to what books are appropriate. There needs to be a list of recommended titles covering gay, lesbian, transgender individuals and their families. We need to respect teachers’ professional judgment that they will do the best thing for their classrooms.

IM: I would add it to classes. I would have speakers come into the schools from the community and I would have some history on the gay and lesbian community like they do for other groups.

XW: Would you lobby the Attorney General for an inquiry into the way the Crown prosecuted the Aaron Webster case?

LM: No, I would not. The opportunity for that case to be heard and fully discussed with Crown and the community took place. This is a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to Aaron Webster’s family and friends, but the court decides on the basis of evidence. At this stage there has not been any evidence produced to support the notion that this was a specific hate crime.

TS: Yes. That’s been one of the more painful failures in the court system in a long time. I think the Attorney General needs to look into and deal with this very soon. Justice not only needs to be done, but it needs to be seen to be done. If you listen to the statements of the accused and convicted you would say justice hasn’t been seen to be done.

JK: Definitely, yes. I read some things about how difficult it was for them to believe they could prosecute a hate crimes charge, but if they had started from that approach evidence would have materialized, I’m sure, to support that type of charge. How is it that something occurring in so patently a gay cruising area-that they were there looking for peeping toms… it’s scandalous, it’s unbelievable.

IM: Definitely. I have friends who have traffic violations who are getting punished more than the Aaron Webster perpetrators. This was a man who was killed. He didn’t go out looking for a fight; he was an innocent victim. This sentence is completely outrageous.

XW: As an MLA would you lobby for more money for gay community groups, such as a new building for The Centre?

LM: In addition to government, our community has to step forward as well. Our community has the capacity to give money. The challenge is that if I’m going to go out and get money, what’s the gay and lesbian community going to do to support that financially and beyond the politics?

TS: I lobbied in city council and got somewhere between $100,000 and $150,000 for a feasibility study for The Centre. I’m very keen on bringing it to fruition. The logical next step is to lobby the provincial government and my caucus. To me a new building for The Centre is one of the most exciting and pivotal issues for us in the community.

JK: Yes, I would lobby for more Yes, I would lobby for more money. We should guarantee a loan. Why doesn’t the government just say we’ll guarantee a loan? Things could be done.

IM: I would, yes. I think it would make the community a healthier place.

XW: How high a priority would it be for you to lobby the government for new money for HIV/ AIDS support groups?

LM: Each year we increase our funding to HIV/AIDS groups and supports. I’ll continue to do that. We have a large number of PWAs who have now reached the 15-20 year mark and their care needs have not been fully anticipated. We didn’t expect them to live that long. I have made it a priority with groups to say ‘what are you doing with prevention and what supports do you need to do that?’

TS: I lobbied successfully in my last government to add Schedule C which was a $300-per-month supplement to all people who were HIV-positive. As soon as the Liberals came in they cut it back to $200. I have a long proven record of fighting for our community and a proven record of getting results. So yes, I’d be fighting for increased funding.

JK: We’ve become almost numb, too numb, and we’re ignoring the continuing and growing problem of people who become ill with HIV. It’s been 25 years now and people seem to forget that this is still very serious and our habits are changing.

IM: There are a lot of people living with AIDS who are out on the street. We definitely need to spend more money on that.

XW: What would you do about BC’s hate crime team?

LM: The only municipality in BC that isn’t represented on the hate crimes group is the Vancouver Police Department. I would encourage all city councilors to ensure the VPD is represented on the existing, and fully funded, hate crimes unit.

TS: Bring it back to where it was before the Liberals cut it all. I’ve been lobbying for that for some time now. There is all sorts of education, research and tracking of hate crimes across this province that need to take place; not just enforcement.

JK: Bring it back to where it was before the Liberals cut it all. I’ve been lobbying for that for some time now. There is all sorts of education, research and tracking of hate crimes across this province that need to take place; not just enforcement.

IM: I would make it more representative of the community. Often these groups are made up of people who are kind of removed from the community or have no empathy for the community. They should be more responsive to the public.

XW: Would you lobby the Attorney General to issue a binding directive to order all Crown counsel to stop prosecuting anal sex?

LM: We don’t do that. It just isn’t done. I have no problem saying to the AG this is an outdated, outmoded thing that’s sitting on the books. It certainly hasn’t been used while we’ve been in government so I would support taking it off the books.

TS: I have no problem lobbying the Attorney General on this issue. I did in the last government and the AG did not want to move on it, which I disagreed with. But nevertheless, he was the AG in the final analysis. I don’t understand why [those laws] are still sitting there.

JK: Yes. I do not see why anal sex should be treated differently than vaginal intercourse. It makes no sense to me why there are two different standards.

IM: What you do in the privacy of your own home is your business and the government shouldn’t be involved with that. I think that those laws should be off the books.

XW: Would you lobby the government to resurrect the Human Rights Commission?

LM: No. We have a human rights tribunal system that is working very well finally. With our Human Rights Tribunal we’ve found people get access to justice in a much quicker time, it is less costly, less stressful and it takes care of the problem

TS: Yes, I would. This is the main way people who face discrimination get solutions. This is one where I won’t have to lobby because it’s part of the NDP platform.

JK: It’s really evident that what we have now doesn’t have the ability to properly investigate human rights seriously because of underfunding. We need to have what other provinces have.

IM: I would definitely resurrect the Human Rights Commission. To this day there are still gays who are getting fired from their jobs. We definitely need that body.

XW: What is your position on the proposed electoral system changes?

LM: Frankly, I think it’s a confusing document. People are having a hard time wrapping their minds around it. For most of us, it’s just confusing. I’ll seek election under whatever system of election there is. I don’t think people understand STV well enough to support it.

TS: I think proportional representation is the direction we need to go. If BC-STV doesn’t pass on this referendum because not enough people vote for it, NDP leader Carole James promised she will continue toward a proportional system. The party has the position that we’re not going to comment on it because we felt it was better for the electorate to decide on its own.

JK: I’m very much in favour of the reform to our voting system. Reform is always difficult, there are always naysayers, but I’ve studied BC-STV and have faith in the Citizens’ Assembly.

IM: We’re urging a yes vote on that. The NDP and Liberals don’t represent the opinions of most British Columbians, but theirs are the only voices who are represented in the legislature right now. We feel with STV there will be more parties and more minorities represented.

XW: What’s the most pressing election issue that none of the other candidates are talking about?

LM: I think the number one issue in all of my riding is crime, most notably the lack of support for the Vancouver Police Department to deliver on public safety. Everyone talks about how this city doesn’t have enough cops, they are not walking the beat, they don’t respond to 911, they are not available. Although our population has doubled in the last 10 years, the number of police on our streets today is less. I think that’s pure stupidity.

TS: The threat that St Paul’s is going to move. I worry that all sorts of secret deals are taking place. My worry is that the deal to move the hospital is a done deal without talking to BCPWA, AIDS Vancouver, or the West End residents. It will have huge ramifications. I want to know what the Liberals plan to do with St Paul’s.

JK: The initiative to increase the number of lanes on Hwy 1 and to increase the size of the Port Mann Bridge. What about rail and LRT [light rail transit] lines? Toronto has a great Go Transit system; why not look at something similar in Vancouver instead of relying on cars? If we build more roads, in a few years we’ll be back at the same position. We need more sustainable solutions.

IM:The most pressing issue they’re not talking about is STV because neither the NDP nor the Liberals want it. Under STV there will be more diversity of opinion in the legislature.