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6 min

Looking back: Best of 2007

The stories that defined our queer world in 2007

FIGHT'S OVER. Janine Fuller and Jim Deva of Little Sister's Bookstore in Vancouver gave up their court battle against the Canada Border Service Agency.

JANUARY

Hush money

James Dubro reported that the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling against the Toronto police for the false arrest and beating of Robert Schisler.

In 1999 Schisler was innocently parked in his van with a hustler. Plainclothes Toronto police rocked the van, chased it a short distance, smashed a window, pulled Schisler out and kicked and punched him while calling him “cocksucker” and “faggot.”

He was awarded almost $600,000. Schisler finally got his money but an inquiry into the conduct of the officers involved never materialized.

Justice for sale

Marcus McCann and Robin Perelle reported that the Supreme Court of Canada rejected Vancouver queer bookstore Little Sister’s request for the money it needs to fund its years-long legal battle against the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

“We have to put our case to bed and declare defeat,” Little Sister’s coowner Jim Deva told Xtra in January.

CBSA inspects imported books, videos and artwork on the way into the country, seizes material it arbitrarily deems obscene and destroys it.

Deva says CBSA didn’t seize any material bound for his store in 2007 but Xtra learned that hundreds of queer pornographic books and DVDs bound for individuals, a stock of queer pornographic comic books bound for queer retailer Priape and a selection of queer BDSM DVDs bound for another retailer in Montreal were seized and destroyed because CBSA decided that they were obscene.

Although CBSA releases a quarterly report of newly prohibited items, a complete list has so far been unavailable even through access to information.

FEBRUARY

Court rules gay spooge dirty

Regan McClure reported that the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled it’s okay to require men who have sex with men to jump through extra bureaucratic hoops to donate semen for insemination, even to their chosen families.

Susan Doe, as she’s known to the court, wanted to get pregnant using the semen of a gay friend who previously fathered a child with her lesbian partner of 17 years. After unsuccessfully trying self-insemination at home, Doe was told by a doctor at Mount Sinai Hospital that she couldn’t use her donor’s jizz in their clinic without first paying a fee, filing for special permission from the minister of health, testing the semen for infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis and then freezing it for six months while the donor was retested.

MARCH

Graham’s badly kept secret

Toronto Centre MP Bill Graham announced he would not seek reelection.

“I never voted any way in the House of Commons or took a position on any issue which would have been inconsistent or betrayed my principles in any way,” Graham told Xtra reporter Rob Salerno in July.

Former NDP Ontario premier Bob Rae announced he would seek the Liberal nomination to take Graham’s place. Rae went on to easily secure that nomination but as Xtra goes to press the Prime Minister has still not called a by-election.

APRIL

Bob Rae not a hero to homos!

In April David Walberg wrote a feature that reminded queer people of Bob Rae’s performance as Ontario’s NDP premier in the mid-1990’s.

“Rae had everything lined up to hit a home run for the province’s homosexuals,” wrote Walberg. “His own attorney general had introduced sweeping spousal rights legislation for same-sex couples, in keeping with party policy and promises. Rae expressed passionate support for the bill, and led a majority government that could deliver the goods. But the legislation failed dramatically, creating huge shockwaves of anger in the gay community after a bitter public debate. If Rae couldn’t deliver on gay rights when he had both the power and the will, how can we trust him to deliver for us, ever?”

MAY

I can see your n-n-nipples

Fashion Cares got a new executive director, changed its venue to an outdoor tent in the Distillery District, ditched its traditional fashion show and upped ticket prices threefold: a gala ticket for the event cost $1,000 and general tickets cost $175. In the weeks leading up to the event ticket prices were cut in half leaving some who paid top dollar feeling suckered. When the night finally arrived most people were driven away early by unseasonably cold temperatures.

Reid convicted

James Dubro reported that the remains of Harley Walker, a Cabbage-town gay man, were uncovered 150 kilometres northeast of Toronto. By September David Kenton Reid was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for murdering Walker.

Reid met Walker on the internet, befriended him, attempted to get his hands on his money and stabbed him to death when his plans were foiled. Reid panicked, rented a van and moved Walker’s corpse to the Kawartha Lakes where he buried it in a storage box. Seven months later Reid led police to the grave.

What made him do it?

Matt Mills reported that that the slain bodies of Trevor Brewster and Paul Knott were found separately in gay cruising areas in the Halifax area within two weeks of each other. The deaths prompted fears that someone was preying on gay men.

Glen Race, a Halifax-area man with a history of mental illness, was apprehended at the US-Mexico border. He had with him a rifle, pickup truck and credit card belonging to a third man, whose dead body was found in a secluded area of upstate New York.

Race was extradited from Texas to Clinton County, New York where he remains in custody. Psychiatrists have declared him competent to stand trial. He is not likely to face the death penalty but it could be years before he returns to Canada to answer for the deaths of Brewster and Knott.

JUNE

Deny, deny, deny

James Dubro reported that gay activists George Hislop and Peter Maloney were spied on by Toronto police for more than a decade. A police report leaked to CBC radio describes how Toronto police also conducted a surveillance and wiretapping operation against former Toronto Police Services Board chair Susan Eng.

Eng called for an investigation into the surveillance, queer activists called for an apology from police, and police chief Bill Blair called for an investigation into how a police document was leaked to the public. But by November the Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) released a statement dropping the whole matter and leaving Xtra readers to infer that as far as the Toronto Police Service is concerned what we don’t know can’t hurt them.

JULY

Cheap, fast & anonymous

Krishna Rau reported on the $350,000 expansion to Ontario’s rapid-HIV testing program. Fifty anonymous testing sites across the province now offer an HIV test that requires only a tiny droplet of blood and yields results in about one minute. It’s not the end of all gut-wrenching, white-knuckle waits for test results because it doesn’t close the window period between exposure to HIV and the emergence of detectible antibodies in the bloodstream. But the new test does speed things up and ease stress for thousands of gay men.

Exeunt Hutt

Keith Garebian eulogized legendary stage actor William Hutt who died from leukemia at the age of 87.

“Hutt loved gossip but he wasn’t particularly open about his own private life — except with me during the writing of his biography,” wrote Garebian. “He wasn’t sure where he belonged — a confusion that deepened in adolescence when he experienced the first stirrings of homosexuality. This resulted in an emotional outburst at the dinner table one night when his father was away from home: ‘I’m another Oscar Wilde!'”

AUGUST

Carlos who?

Fred Kuhr reported on the death of Windsor gay strip club bartender Carlos Rivera and the manhunt for his alleged killer Jesse Imeson. The mainstream media barely mentioned Rivera preferring instead to cover the deaths of a heterosexual couple near Grand Bend who Imeson is alleged to have killed subsequently.

Without a trace

Rob Salerno reported on the disappearance of Alexandra Flanagan who was last seen near her home in Barrie. Before she moved to Barrie, Flanagan was well known in Toronto’s queer community and previously worked at the House of Lords hair salon at Yonge and Isabella streets.

Her remains were later discovered in Barrie not far from where she was last seen alive. Police say the investigation is ongoing. As Xtra goes to press no charges have been laid.

SEPTEMBER

Prove you’re gay

Julia Garro reported that Canada’s immigration system set an Oct 4 deadline for gay Nicaraguan refugee Alvaro Orozco to get out of Canada. Despite being active in the queer scene, Orozco’s refugee claim was initially rejected by an immigration official who doesn’t believe that he is gay. Subsequent appeals have so far proved fruitless. Orozco’s only hope is a reprieve from the minister of immigration but Conservative Immigration Minister Diane Finley reamins totally unresponsive.

Orozco’s story has been reported in the mainstream press in Managua and, even though Nicaragua repealed its antisodomy laws in November, he faces persecution if he is returned there.

As Xtra goes to press Orozco remains in hiding in Canada’s queer community.

The Barn door’s open

James Dubro reported that the raunchy old lady of gaybourhood revelry, The Barn, was finally sold clearing the way for it to reopen. The venerable gay bar was closed in June 2005, a year after the scandalous death of its founder Janko Naglic. As Xtra goes to press the newly resurrected Barn is doing a brisk trade.

OCTOBER

They had to do something

Krishna Rau chronicled how Toronto’s queer community pressured Koolhaus to cancel concerts by Jamaican dancehall musicians Elephant Man and Sizzla. A group of queer activists denounced lyrics in some songs because they glorify violence against queer people. The Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays reported that in Jamaica in 2005-2006 at least 98 queer people were attacked in at least 43 mob attacks and that at least 10 queer people were murdered.

NOVEMBER

On the take

Josh Swan reported that the Church Street Bar at the corner of Church and Wellesley closed just months after opening because controversial businessman Marc Warman didn’t pay the rent. Pride Toronto, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, club impresario Steve Ireson, a handful of Warman’s former employees and a half-dozen sources who didn’t want to go on the record told Xtra Warman owed them money too.

DECEMBER

Tragedy in Ajax

Krishna Rau reported on the death of 13-year-old Shaquille Wisdom who hanged himself in October after being harassed and bullied by classmates.

“There’s still homophobia in our schools,” Liberal Education Minister Kathleen Wynne told Xtra. “There’s research that students who are homosexual or who are perceived to be homosexual are more vulnerable to bullying. There’s a higher suicide rate among those kids.”