News
4 min

Mission gets $3M from public purse

Tories take on 'sex crimes' pardon

SWIZZ KID. Dave Williams and Swizzles co-owner Tanja Pecnik rip out the carpet at Swizzles, part of renovations. Credit: Pat Croteau

BRIEFS

CLEANUP BEGINS

Swizzles staff and volunteers began taking apart the basement bar Feb 15. Here, Dave Williams and Swizzles co-owner Tanja Pecnik rip out the carpet. The bar suffered a fire last autumn which destroyed most of the equipment. Complications involving the insurance company have delayed the scheduled re-opening.

YOU MEAN TAXPAYER’S MONEY?

Food intended for residents of an Ottawa homeless shelter feeds church attendees — but last month, the shelter’s director claimed no public scrutiny of the practice was warranted because the “majority” of funds came from private donations.

The Ottawa Mission’s executive director, Diane Morrison, would not say how great or slim that majority is, but tax records obtained by Capital Xtra show large contributions from the municipal government.

In 2005 (the most recent data available), the city gave the Mission more than $3 million. That’s compared to the Mission’s total revenue of almost $6.9 million and total expenditures of $5.9 million. The city gave $2.7 million in 2004, $2.8 million in 2003, and $2.9 million in 2002.

“Any one who receives any amount of public funds is accountable for how they spend it,” says Henry Beissel, president of Secular Ontario.

According to city spokesman Barry Campbell, the city contributed $39.15 per resident per day in 2006, but he did not report the total amount received by the shelter.

Receiving money from taxpayers has never stopped religious charities from promoting their beliefs in their programming; in fact it’s always used to advance their causes, according to Beissel. It’s up to the government to stop funding agencies that advance religion, he says.

“With at least 20 percent of Canadians agnostics, atheists, skeptics, humanists — governments can’t favour a particular religion, or even religion in general.”

Morrison requested she no longer be contacted by Capital Xtra.

TORIES TAKE ON SEX CRIMES PARDON

The ongoing law-and-order agenda of the Harper government got yet another boost in mid-February when public safety minister Stockwell Day noted that he’d asked for a review of pardons for sex crimes.

The London Free Press reported Feb 16 that the review will consider potential changes to the Criminal Records Act to limit the pardon process.

And while such changes may play well with average Canadians afraid of rapists and child molesters, many people are not aware of how broad is the category of sex crimes — including being a patron of a bathhouse, prostitution and sex in a car or park. It’s not clear whether Day intends to eliminate the process for someone clearing their record of such victimless “crimes.”

REID MOVES ON

You may have read about Darrel Reid in our Issue 160 (Oct 19, 2006). Reid, the former head of the ideologically driven, anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-abortion group with ties to the US Christian right, had won a plum government job — chief of staff to former environment minister Rona Ambrose.

He’s no longer there. The Hill Times reported Jan 29 that Reid had left his post. Ambrose didn’t rush to replace him, and, as we can recall, she was soon replaced herself by Tory attack dog John Baird. If anyone knows where Reid is now, please contact us at Capital Xtra.

Before we leave Reid, let’s ponder a comment he made to a Christian site. “Christians are called to be faithful where God places them. We are called to speak biblical truth to seek justice — and that obviously has implications for our political life.”

GET TESTED AT THE TUBS

Syphilis is back in Ottawa, as we’ve been telling you since 2004. It’s a nasty bug, one that can be transmitted skin to skin so even limiting your sexual diet won’t necessarily protect you from this one. And often it doesn’t show symptoms, which probably explains why it’s gradually increased from two local cases a year up to nearly 30 — almost all of them among gay men.

You’ll notice an ad in the current issue of Capital Xtra encouraging you to get tested. It’s got a cute banana illustration, but the text is remarkably banal and generic. Sorry, health authorities, but you need to get your act together on this: speak frankly to gay men about our health issues, using our lingo. Skip the medical jargon. If you need help, talk to the BC Centre for Disease Control — they ran a brilliant set of ads in Xtra West back in 2004 that spoke directly to our community and became the topic of conversation among gay men.

On a more positive note, the Sexual Health Centre is coming to the city’s two bathhouses to test for gonorrhea and chlamydia. No painful swabs involved: you can pee into a cup right at the tubs. Brilliant. How about something for syphilis, too?

CAPITAL XTRA ALUMNI MAKES GOOD

Jamey Heath, longtime contributor to Capital Xtra, is making a splash on Parliament Hill with his first book, Dead Centre — Hope, Possibility And Unity For Canadian Progressives. It’s a rallying cry for centre-right voters to unify behind the NDP as the main alternative to the Conservatives. In Heath’s eyes, and these are the eyes of the former chief policy wonk of the NDP under Jack Layton, the Liberals now represent the “meaningless middle” of Canadian politics.

Voters who have cast their ballot for the Liberals to keep out first Preston Manning, then Stockwell Day and now Stephen Harper, have helped the Liberals move gradually to the right in the post-Trudeau era, he writes. In fact, suggests Heath, the Liberals are a naturally rightwing party which enjoyed a brief trip to the left under PMs Pearson and Trudeau. But voters continue to be hypnotized by Liberal rhetoric about their supposedly inevitable domination of Canadian politics, even though they haven’t won the majority of seats in Quebec since 1980. Heath wants progressives to stop strategically voting for Liberals out of fear of Conservatives and instead give the NDP their optimistic vote for a better Canada. It’s an interesting treatise, but Heath undermines his position with his never-ending partisan vitriole.

Still, we’re proud of him at Capital Xtra.