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Montreal queer youth seek new safe space

Setbacks have caused a shortage of meeting places

'URGENTLY NEEDED.' The Montreal Youth Coalition Against Homophobia hopes to have a new space for queer youth by Jan 2009. Credit: (coalitionjeunesse.org)

Montreal queer youth groups are working together to create a new safe space, following a string of setbacks that have left a shortage of meeting places.

Project 10 offers one of the few safe spaces in the city for queer youth, but they are being pushed out of their space. The Montreal Gay and Lesbian Community Centre needs extensive repairs, and the proposed Carrefour Arc-En-Ciel project seems to have stalled.

Faced with a need for new space, the Montreal Youth Coalition Against Homophobia took on the challenge and kickstarted a plan.

This idea is not new — there was a similar project underway about five years ago that fell apart due to infighting between various groups — but this time MYCAH has taken a different approach. Using the resources of the 19 queer groups that are members of the coalition, they have reached out to discover first-hand what queer youth want.

Through a series of focus groups, they learned that youth want an unstructured place where they can hang out and meet others — an alternative to the bar scene.

“The conception for the secure space came from what the youth would want — not from what we think the youth would want” says Sarah Olle, MYCAH spokesperson.

Next step is to raise awareness and funds. So far there have been two major fundraising events: a concert thrown by Etcetera, Dawson College’s Sexual Diversity Association, and most recently, Queer McGill’s HomoHop.

One complication is that francophone youth expressed desire for a space in the Village, while the anglophone youth would prefer one outside of the Village. So the coalition has the challenge of envisioning one secure space for both anglophone and francophone queer youth in the city.

“The differences seen between the anglophone youth and the francophone youth are a language barrier — in a perfect world everyone would be bilingual — so what we have to do is maintain communication,” says Olle.

The search is on for major funding partners to back the project. There have been discussions with the Gay Chamber of Commerce and the next step is to secure government funding.

Bruno Laprade, secretary of MYCAH, says that the government has a stake in this issue.

“The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse has deemed queer and gay youth a high priority for suicide risk, so a place is urgently needed in this city.”

The coalition has set a goal of finding a new space by Jan 2009.