Toronto
2 min

Making issues sexy

'Peg activist new Egale head

BACK TO OTTAWA. Gilles Marchildon came out in the city in 1989. Credit: Xtra files

On the first day of 2003, Gilles Marchildon and his boyfriend Gord will hop in the car and start the new year with a road trip. They will leave Winnipeg behind and head for Ottawa where Marchildon will start his new job as executive director of the national queer lobby group Egale Canada.



It’s the city he first came out in, back in 1989.



“I’m ecstatic, I can’t wait to start, to be right in the middle of one of Canada’s GLBT [gay, lesbian, bi and trans] centres, to have my finger on the pulse,” says Marchildon.



While Egale will gain a new ED, Winnipeg will be losing a valued member of their queer community. Marchildon was the founder and director of the Reel Pride Festival, editor and publisher of Swerve news magazine and author of a weekly column on queer issues for Uptown magazine.



“John leaves huge shoes to fill,” says Marchildon of departing executive director John Fisher.



One person who believes Marchildon is right for the job is Fisher himself.



“Gilles will be a tremendous addition to our staff. He’s joining at a time when we are busier than ever, especially with the upcoming conference, nation-wide committee hearings on equal marriage, hate propaganda legislation pending and numerous key issues coming up before the courts,” says Fisher. (Egale has also taken a stand against the Calgary bathhouse raid.) “Gilles’ leadership will be invaluable in continuing to develop a strong organization to meet these many challenges.”



Marchildon is no stranger to Egale or politics. A political science graduate from the University Of Ottawa, he has long been involved with various queer groups across the country, including sitting on the board of the Association Of Lesbians And Gays Of Ottawa and serving as the Prairie representative on Egale’s board.



“I’ve been involved as volunteer for several years,” says Marchildon. “It’s sometimes really frustrating to know that there’s more you could do, but you had to put it aside to earn a living, I am excited to get paid to work full-time.”



What does Marchildon envision that his full-time contribution will be?



“I see my role as being a fundraiser and facilitator. Someone who will encourage discussions and put in place the forums that will let our community have their opinions heard, and fundraising to have the means to put that in place,” says Marchildon.



A self-professed media slut, Marchildon, wants to “make the issues sexy… it’s a great way to connect with people and promote ideas.”



Somewhat of a known personality in Winnipeg, Marchildon was the first local French-speaking spokesperson on queer issues for the francophone press. His bilingualism is something he intends to bring with him to Ottawa.



“I am French Canadian, it’s an important part of me,” he says. “I hope to boost Egale membership in Quebec. And the francophone community outside of Quebec and the queer community have something in common. They are both invisible minorities.”



Marchildon says part of his job will be bridging relationships between various other groups.



“I believe Egale is at a point of maturity where it can reach out to other communities,” he says. “Our struggle is the same women face for equality, the same people of colour face – we can afford to be fairly broad in our approach.”



Fisher is staying on as acting director of advocacy during the transition period.



*Egale’s website is www.egale.ca.