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Queer community centre on a roll

Board members with business experience still needed

The quest for a queer community centre in Ottawa got a big boost Sep 17 when some 50 people showed for its founding annual general meeting, confirmed a board of trustees and adopted the first set of bylaws for the organization.

And with the 10-year delay in advancing the project receding to memory as a new generation of activists adopting it as a major project, a temporary home has already been found.

The day after the founding meeting, the new board of trustees issued a statement promising a “bricks and mortar” location in the near future, coordinated in conjunction with Pink Triangle Services (PTS).

This fall, the community centre board will help reorganize PTS’s existing space, says Darryl Lim, the community relations manager of PTS. Lim says he hopes the community centre board will help smaller queer groups use a lounge-type area for meetings in a small-scale version of what the community centre will be. The community centre should have space within a few months, adds interim centre chair James Bromilow, who will be returning to the board.

“This is a win-win situation. In a way, we feel we’ve been under utilizing the space” at PTS, Lim says.

Soon, the community centre hopes to acquire “storefront space,” Bromilow told the AGM, which was held at the Centretown Community Health Centre.

“I don’t want to wait till I’m 50,” Lim says. “I would say that within five years, we will see an actual building that we can call our own.”

The strong turnout for the annual meeting appeared to take organizers by surprise. Volunteers were still dragging chairs for late arrivals into the crowded room as the meeting began.

Attendance at the founding meeting showed broad community support for the project. Participating were members of Gender Mosaic, Leatherfest, SAGE, the Police Liaison Committee, the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, Carleton University’s GLBT Centre, and Capital Pride, among other groups. As people filed in, a slide displayed logos of the centre’s community partners, including Ten Oaks, Pink Triangle Services, Bruce House, Jack Of All Trades, The City of Ottawa, Capital Xtra and Egale.

Bromilow describes the AGM’s attendees as “a mix” of new and familiar faces. The new board is composed mainly of people who served on the interim board. It boasts a strong representation of the community’s diversity, including two trans members. Despite several months of appeals to the community, the new board failed to a attract people with business and administration backgrounds and with political connections. There are still four posts vacant on their Board of Trustees as well as spots on the subcommittees for, among others, finances and youth.

It’s a problem not unique to the community centre project. Bromilow points out that Pink Triangle Services doesn’t have a full boards of directors; even Egale, a national organization, has vacancies on its board.

Mayor Bob Chiarelli was the invited speaker. He’d kicked off the recent splurge of activity when at the 2005 meeting with the community during Pride Week, Chiarelli challenged the community to set up a board, get its government papers and momentum. At the time, activists voiced concern that Chiarelli didn’t publicly commit funds for the centre.

He failed to do so again, at the founding AGM. But he did voice encouragement to the group, and shared advice, including the suggestion that they define a vision for the centre – an activity already well underway by the interim board.

The mood at the meeting was one of celebration of the project’s rapid progress over the past 13 months.

“There has been 30 times more progress in the last 12 months than there has been in the last 10 years,” Lim says.

In addition to Bromilow, six others were elected or re-elected to the board: Catherine Boyd, Jessica Freedman, Kevin Hatt, Eileen P Murphy, T Eileen Murphy, and Peter Zanette.