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Queer funding fear

What will Harper axe next?

TOO EXPENSIVE FOR HIM? Many queer groups now depend on the benevolence of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Credit: (Jake Wright)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent federal funding cuts have left some queer organizations fearful of future slashes and gashes.

Most groups say they are not directly impacted yet, but are fearful of the direction Harper’s headed in.

Pride Toronto got grants from Heritage Canada last year amounting to $71,000 out of a budget of $1.3 million and $51,100 the year before that. The department’s minister is Bev Oda, who cut $5 million from her other porfolio, Status Of Women.

“We have been getting funding from Canadian Heritage for the past two years. I don’t see why we won’t get it this year,” says executive director Fatima Amarshi.

Amarshi says she’s confident Pride will get similar funding for Pride 2007, but is prepared to look at alternatives if that funding is denied.

“We could perhaps ask the community to support us more with the toonie drive or looking at corporate funding,” says Amarshi.

She adds that support from all three levels of government is essential — last year the province and the city gave Pride almost $200,000 between them.

Amarshi says cuts Harper made to literacy programs and the Status Of Women should concern everybody.

“It always makes you wonder if you are going to be on the chopping block,” says Amarshi.

Heritage Canada spokesperson Jaime Burke says Pride will not be affected with the cuts that were already announced. But cuts to museum assistance programs could affect the Canadian Lesbian And Gay Archives (CLGA).

The CLGA is planning a move to a new location on Isabella St, which makes them especially wary of future cuts. The archives recently received a $7,500 grant from Heritage Canada, but hoped for more after the move.

“The cuts will simply make the pie smaller and as we are not a big player in the field of museums, I fear we will just stand even less a chance of getting significant funding,” says general manager Robert Windrum.

The Canadian Aids Society (CAS) says its programs weren’t cut directly by Harper, but programs it was advocating for were affected, including research into medical marijuana by The Canadian Institute Of Health Research.

“We’re concerned because we feel that it is important that research is done for medical marijuana since there is no incentive for the private sector to do it and we feel the government has a responsibility to make sure this research happens,” says Monique Doolittle-Romas, CAS executive director.

The Court Challenges Program, which Harper eliminated, was also a program used by CAS to help pursue court cases like the one to get same-sex widowers’ access to Canada Pension Plan benefits.

In May CAS itself received a 27 percent budget cut from the Public Health Agency Of Canada. It had to lay off one employee and reduce its work plan.

“We are now working with the government to see if there are any alternatives and seeking other sources of funding,” says Doolittle-Romas.

Some people wonder if Canada Council arts grants will be the next thing on Harper’s conservative chopping block.

“We are affected in the long-term if the money is not going to be there for us to apply for,” says David Oiye, artistic director of Buddies In Bad Times Theatre. “Ultimately the Conservative government has to realize that the arts are important.”