Twelve nominees from across the country are slated to be inducted into Canada’s Q Hall of Fame this summer, after a two-year hiatus since the last set of inductions.
The hall of fame’s founder and chair, Paul Therien, says he hopes to build on the group’s earlier successes with its second Q Ball on July 30.
This year’s nominees include musician kd lang and Jer’s Vision founder Jeremy Dias. The 10 other inductees are Rick Bébout, Karen Busby, Gens Hellquist, NiQ Lavergne, Kevin Dale McKeown, Cynthia Petersen, Mirha-Soleil Ross, Delwin Vriend, Garth Weins and the Dogwood Monarchist Society.
“I’m quite happy with what we’ve received; we have quite a diverse group of people being nominated from across Canada,” says Therien. “It demonstrates to us that there are people interested in the Hall of Fame and understand what we’re trying to accomplish in terms of honouring pioneers and the human rights community.”
The nominees are vetted by an anonymous selection committee. “We don’t want them to be influenced by outside sources. We want them to make the selection based strictly on the nomination,” he says. “They sign a confidentiality agreement advising that they will not disclose their participation in it, because we want them to be truly independent.”
According to Therien, the committee represents a fairly diverse and broad segment of the Canadian community and not just from Vancouver.
The hall of fame was launched in 2009 at Q Ball, a black-tie gala that was billed, at the time, as an annual event to honour and celebrate those who have championed human rights for the queer community. The ball was cancelled in 2010 because of a lack of financial support.
Therien says the loss of a major sponsor and the small number of nominations last year led to the decision to make the Q Ball a biannual event.
He attributes the nomination shortfall to the idea that people are intimidated to nominate people who are deceased.
“We would receive more [nominations] if more people were aware the nominee doesn’t have to be living. I think there’s a lot of people who have passed in our community who were very active in obtaining our rights, that have been forgotten about because they’re no longer here.”
Other concerns raised by the community are also being addressed. This year’s ticket prices have been reduced to $90, after some said that $150 tickets were unaffordable. About 150 people attended the 2009 ball. At the time, Therien blamed the short planning time (five months) and the late launch of the marketing campaign for the low turnout.
This year’s decreased ticket prices mean the Q Hall of Fame expects to net only $4 per ticket for its fundraising recipient. The proceeds from the 2011 Q Ball will go to a new university scholarship program, which is also run by the Q Hall of Fame.
Therien says the Q scholarship will not just be available to gay students.
“It’s extremely important that we recognize those people outside the LGBT community that actively support equality for us,” says Therien. “It’s normal that a community — it doesn’t matter if it’s the Muslim community or the Jewish community or whatever — we tend to be very inwardly focused.”
Several of the hall of fame’s more ambitious plans for regional representation and a physical location have not yet materialized.
Qmunity, which received the proceeds from the first Q Ball, had originally been announced as the official home of the Q Hall of Fame, but that deal has since fallen through and the two groups are no longer affiliated. Earlier estimates reported in the media said the 2009 ball raised close to $25,000 for Qmunity, but that number was later lowered to approximately $4,000.
Jennifer Breakspear, executive director of Qmunity, had no comment.
Therien says the physical space has been postponed until more money can be raised. He also expresses frustration with the lack of support for creating regional boards across Canada.
“We put the word out. To be completely honest with you, it didn’t happen. I had several people that had made commitments… and they didn’t follow through.”