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Pride Society needs people

City pressures VPS to move parade route

PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE: VPS president John Boychuk says the city is pressuring the society to take steps to alleviate crowding during the Pride Parade. Credit: Robin Perelle photo

The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) is calling for volunteers to fill a number of different roles in helping to bring next year’s Pride Celebration to fruition.

Along with up to nine vacancies on the VPS board, including board secretary, the society is also looking for as many as 40 committee members to work on various VPS projects.

“The committee operates as an advisory panel, brainstorming ideas and bringing them to the board,” VPS president John Boychuk told Xtra West, Sep 30. “It makes the work of the board more manageable while keeping the roots of the organization genuine, so we don’t look like a group of people making decisions behind a closed door. We’ve got community input. It’s something we started this year. We were moderately successful, but we’re really going to continue to work in the next year to make sure we’re open.”

Boychuk invites potential volunteers and those interested in running for seats on the VPS board to attend an Oct 17 open house to learn more.

“As a basic director, six months of the year you put in three hours a week. Six months of the year, you’re putting in eight hours a week. That’s a lot to have to commit to,” says Boychuk.

“The secretary position is a big responsibility,” he continues. “The executive is the front line of the organization. At the end of the day, it’s accountable, after the president, to the community if things go wrong. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work that has to be done to ensure we’re working in the best interests of the community.”

Elections for new board members will be held at the VPS’ annual general meeting (AGM), which is scheduled for Oct 21.

Also at the AGM, financial details of the 2006 celebration will be revealed. Although Boychuk says Homopalooza, the new addition to the Pride Celebration lineup in 2006, did lose “a few bucks” in the end, he says the VPS is in a good financial position going into 2007.

In fact, says Boychuk, seven queer community groups that applied for grant money from the VPS’ Legacy Fund will each receive $715 cheques at the AGM. It’s money that is left over from this year’s Pride Celebration. The recipients are: McLaren House, the Four Feathers Society, the PFAME Library Foundation, the Aaron Webster Foundation, the Gay Men’s Methamphetamine Working Group, the Sandwich Squad of St John’s Church, and Trinity Affirmation.

Boychuk says the VPS wanted the money to go to grassroots queer organizations and that recipients were selected from a field of 12 applications through a formal scoring process based on need.

“It was a thrill to see how such basic organizations were able to put together nice, simple grant applications that said, ‘This is what we need the money for,'” says Boychuk. “It’s for everything from a dishwasher to books; all things that are going to make a difference for the LGBT community.”

On Aug 16, Xtra West called on the queer community to support the VPS’ efforts to have Pride declared a civic event. The VPS gets very little financial support from the City of Vancouver. The Celebration of Light fireworks display, in contrast, enjoys a huge financial contribution from the city because of its civic event designation. But the fireworks are plagued with security and logistical concerns that just don’t come up at Pride.

“A lot of people don’t realize that although the fireworks bring in hundreds of thousands of people, so does the VPS with its parade,” says Boychuk. “It’s costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars for fireworks, but the VPS is looking for $20,000 in support.”

Boychuk says the VPS has been working with the city on developing an application process and defining what civic event status actually means. He also says the city has offered to send representatives to the AGM to discuss city support for Pride and the possibility of moving the parade route to relieve crowding.

“The city’s looking for feedback or input on the idea of moving the parade,” says Boychuk. “They are applying pressure to us saying, ‘Even if you have a 10 percent increase in attendance next year, that’s another 30,000 people. From one end of the parade route to the other there was not one spot that was less than five people deep. Where do you expect another 30,000 people to fit?'”

But moving around on Denman St by foot on parade day, although crowded, is really not that difficult and the idea of moving the parade route is extremely unpopular with many in the queer community.

In 2005, the VPS announced that it would move the parade out of the West End for the first time ever, but backed away from the plan in the face of objections from the queer community.

Boychuk is quick to point out that it’s the city that is interested in moving the parade route; not the VPS executive.

“The city was great this year,” qualifies Boychuk. “They really liked what they saw with the new marshalling area on Robson. There were a few challenges, but they really want to work with us on that… The city is saying, ‘Yes your risk assessment and security management are excellent to this point, but another 30,000 people have to go somewhere, how are you going to fit them in?”