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2 min

Queer civil servants get head

Flurry of activity, new plans, great new PSP leader

Overcommitted and on the verge of burning out, Gordon Boissonneault decided that it was time to turn over the reigns of the successful Public Service Pride network.

And that means a new face at PSP: Jonathan Allen.

Allen, born in Ottawa, works in the department of Indian and Northern Affairs. During the day, he’s a team leader in litigation management, responsible for Atlantic and Ontario files.

Allen is keen to step up to the plate.

“Having attended the events over the years, it really resonated with me,” he says. “The connections that can be made on a professional level, a personal level, a social level, all of the resources that the diverse members have.”

“I just think it’s the right kind of city and the right kind of venue to bring people together,” he adds.

Taking over a group that is healthy — both in terms of its membership and its place in the community — allows Allen to work on adding his personal stamp to the network, rather than simply expending his energy fixing past problems.

“I want to broaden the connections,” Allen says. “I see it as a real pool of people who have multiple interests strung through a common employer, and we share common values as civil servants.”

He’s looking to start spin-off groups within the city for those looking to do sports or to start a book group.

One of the biggest challenges, however, will be coordinating national outreach.

“That’s a big priority that [Boissonneault] always talked about, and that he and I spoke about and that I personally want to get into,” Allen says. “The bulk of the membership is in Ottawa, but we have members across the country and to start events in different cities is really the primary goal.”

Allen plans to begin by reaching out to people who have recently relocated to regional offices and helping them to set up their own groups, be they coffee klatches or brunch events. “Whatever their city can bear.”

He also wants to use the web as a venue to promote activities that members may be organising themselves, fostering spin-offs and cross-promotion, which he sees as “important in a community of this size.”

Reaching out to the women in the community has been a challenge in the past, but already Allen’s efforts at outreach are bearing fruit, if attendance at the September social event is any indication.

“People have come forward and I’ve sought out women in the community to ask ‘What do you want? What is working for you? What isn’t working for you? What can we do to build a component for you?'” Allen says. “Through that, I’ve asked them to come to the big events, to bring friends and promote women-specific events. So slowly it’s starting.”

Allen maintains that the network is more than just its social component, but also a resource for learning, and for sharing experiences such as with job competitions and for helping gays caught in bad work environments to access the resources within their departments for help.

As well, Allen wants to see that the membership gives back to the community — not just with Pride, but also with the annual government charitable workplace campaign.

“We’ve circulated lists of charities that are registered as part of the United Way process that people can choose to donate to.”

Allen is happy to hear from volunteers and those who have ideas for the network. “It’s open to be moulded by whatever people want. If they want to start doing spin-off events, or come up with a certain aspect that we may or may not be doing now, then by all means contact me through the website.”