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Keep Parkhill a hotel: gays

Development threatens plans for Davie Village

A SAY OVER OUR OWN SPACE. Randy Atkinson, chair of the Davie Village Business Improvement Association, says the organization will fight any attempt to convert the newly sold Parkhill Hotel into a residential tower. Credit: Robin Perelle

Canada’s national gay lobby group may be about to take a step in a more sex-positive direction.

In the past, some gays and lesbians have criticized Egale for focussing too much on equality issues, such as same-sex marriage, while neglecting the sexual liberation side of the movement.

Now, one sex-positive activist says that may be about to change.

Stephen Lock, who has been leading the charge against the Calgary police force since it raided Goliath’s bathhouse last December, has joined Egale’s board of directors. He’ll sit alongside a series of new faces, including a new president (Ottawa’s Lisa Lachance), a new vice-president (Victoria’s Cynthia Callaghan), and a new executive director (Gilles Marchildon).

The result: Lock says Egale’s new directors have “definitely” heard the community’s criticism and they’re taking steps to address it. Starting with the case against Goliath’s.

“[Egale] has not really dealt very much with sexuality issues” until now, Lock acknowledges. “But it is keenly interested in the Goliath’s issue.”

Egale’s new director admits he has not yet had much time to devote to developing a response to the Goliath’s case. (He only took office in January and he’s been planning a major conference ever since.)

Still, Marchildon says he would like to help empower Lock and his small team of allies in their upcoming fight against the justice system. But he’s short on specifics. Legal questions are not his area of expertise, he quickly points out.

Maybe Egale could start by trying to help them find funding, Marchildon suggests, though he’s not sure exactly where to look.

Maybe Egale could also join a chorus of other groups lobbying for changes to the Criminal Code, he continues; though he suggests Egale wait for a good opportunity to lobby for such changes, such as a broad overhaul of the Criminal Code.

When asked if one isn’t already underway, he pauses. “It’s possible,” he replies. “It’s not really beeping loudly on the radar screen” right now, he admits, because planning for Egale’s upcoming national conference is “gobbling up” most of his energy.

Federal justice minister Martin Cauchon has been gradually amending the Criminal Code since last year, when he began introducing a series of acts to amend and modernize various parts of it. Gay activists have had their eye on sections pertaining to bawdy houses, the age of sexual consent, hate propaganda, the homosexual panic defence and the artistic merit defence, among others.

Still, it was Marchildon’s idea to invite the sex-positive Lock to run for Egale’s board of directors in the first place.

“Stephen really distinguished himself by his incredibly hard work in Calgary around the Goliath’s [raid],” Marchildon says. “He’s someone who has non-traditional views and is certainly very sex-positive.”

Marchildon admits that some sex-positive people may have stayed away from Egale in the past because they felt it was too conservative. But they should get involved now, he encourages, adding that Egale’s policies are largely shaped by its members.

“People don’t realize how easy it is to shape Egale’s policies,” he says.

Which brings him back to the topic of Egale’s upcoming conference, scheduled to take place next month in Montreal. Marchildon can’t wait to meet hundreds of other queers for what he calls “an intellectual Woodstock of ideas.”

This conference is going to set the agenda for Canada’s queer community, he enthuses.

What role will sex-positive policies play in that agenda? “I guess time will tell,” he replies.