About 30 people gathered in the basement of Regina’s Gay and Lesbian Community Centre (GLCR) on Jan 12 to revive the B Team – a coalition of queer activists and allies.
The B Team was formed four years ago in response to a videotape scandal involving Conservative MP for Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre Tom Lukiwski.
In a 1991 video Lukiwski says, “There’s As and there’s Bs. The As are guys like me; the Bs are homosexual faggots with dirt under their fingernails that transmit diseases.”
At the time Lukiwski apologized, and a group of activists held a press conference demanding action.
“We said, ‘Great, you’re sorry? Fine. Here are some things you can do to prove that modern-day politicians don’t subscribe to these views,’” recalls Rick Pollard, a Regina activist.
This list called for an end to homophobic bullying in schools; funding for anti-homophobia organizations and queer-related healthcare services; reversing the blanket bans on sexually active gay men donating blood or organs; support for Bill C-389; and endorsing the Montreal Declaration on LGBT Human Rights.
It’s been four years since that list was issued and the queer community is still waiting for action, Pollard says.
“Mr Lukiwski has been reelected twice in that period of time, and I don’t see that he’s really done anything to make it up to me for some hateful comments that he made 20 years ago,” says Pollard.
Pollard is the national campaign director for NDP leadership candidate Niki Ashton. On Jan 12, Ashton endorsed the demands of the B Team and hosted a roundtable meeting to revive the group.
Labour, education and housing activists were present, as were members of the Regina Public Interest Research Group (RPIRG), which has given funding to several queer initiatives in Regina. Those at the table – including a couple of high school students – talked about tactics for how to “win the hearts and minds” of the broader community, including media strategies and coalition building.
“I think that rallying behind queer issues is not just about the queer community,” says RPIRG’s executive director, Jenn Bergen. “It’s about human rights and equity and provision of those rights for everybody.”
Long-time queer activist Mirtha Rivera is glad the B Team has been revived.
“It’s needed because of the present government that we have at the provincial and national level,” she says. “I think that things are going to get worse instead of better, and we need to be proactive instead of reactive.”
Rivera says she looks forward to working with ally organizations and building a queer-positive coalition.
“We can do things together instead of just being in our own corner of the world,” she says. “It seems that the world just got bigger for us.”