Ottawa
7 min

The long road ahead

Putting a spin on the needs of our community

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR. Maura Volante looks forward to improving the quality of PTS' services. Credit: Capital Xtra files

It has been a tumultuous year for our communities. Some events were worthy of celebration while others were reason for deep reflection.



We saw a year where the debate over same-sex marriage dominated Parliament, courts and bedrooms across the nation. We were outraged by the bathhouse raid in Calgary. We rejoiced, some in disbelief, when the Ottawa Pride Festival rose, against all odds, to find itself once again on firmer ground.



The Pride committee had to scramble, carrying over a large debt from the previous committee, rescuing itself from the resignation of its board halfway through the year, yet pulling the community together to mount a successful festival.



Egale Canada saw its office staff double in size, as did its workload.



Bruce House received operational funding from Health Canada for the first time. Meanwhile, the AIDS Committee of Ottawa (ACO) and Pink Triangle Services (PTS) were denied funds under the same program.



Team/Equipe Ottawa plans to suspend their operations, leaving athletes out in the cold (see article on page 6). Word on the street is that Time Out’s torch is burning low, and the group – which promotes and supports local gay and lesbian sports and recreational groups – could either be extinguished completely or be refuelled under the auspices of another organization.



Looking back and forward, this is where we find ourselves today, from the point of view of the community organizations that strive to make better our daily lives.



Brian Gallant



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AIDS COMMITTEE OF OTTAWA



Gareth Park, chair of the AIDS Committee of Ottawa (ACO) board of directors, describes 2003 as a year of highs and lows for the organization.



“There’s been a number of high points in the past year. Number one would be our move,” he explains. ACO relocated from Queen to Bank St in the spring. Another high point was the return and success of the annual Stage for AIDS event.



“Of course there have also been some low points,” he adds. “Such as the loss of the Man to Man program and the women’s prevention program. That certainly was a blow.” Back in October, Health Canada rejected ACO’s bid for funding for these programs.



Brent Oliver also stepped down as the executive director of ACO in August to return to his studies. Park describes Oliver’s decision as “a good decision for him but a bad, disappointing decision for us.”



The first issue ACO will be facing in the new year will be hiring a new executive director. Park says that the “search is on,” the job has been posted and they are hoping to hire this winter. He adds that Oliver has made it clear that he doesn’t plan to return.



Meanwhile they are in the early stages of consultations on a new strategic plan that will look at the best directions for the organization to take in the future.



What’s the biggest issue facing the GLBT community in 2004?



“For ACO the most important issue will be the city’s budget cutting,” says Park. The city is facing substantial program cuts in its current budget. Park identifies public health as one of many possible areas where cuts could have an impact on the GLBT community. He is also interested to see what directions Pink Triangle Services will take under the leadership of its new executive director.



www.aco-cso.ca



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BRUCE HOUSE



Jay Koornstra, Bruce House executive director, says that 2003 was one of the more difficult years for the organization. He says some funding was not secured in a normal timeframe and that other funding disappeared.



“We went into this financial year with an anticipated deficit budget, holding our breath and hoping that certain funding sources would come through,” he explains. Bruce House does have a small contingency fund to support programs, which they dipped into in 2003.



Koornstra says Bruce House will be receiving some funding from the city and from Health Canada, but will need to raise much more.



“We will be doing a lot of fundraising,” says Koonstra, “because we still need to fundraise upwards of 38 percent of our operating budget.



“Bruce House has a very small operating budget and early in each year they must look at securing funding,” Koornstra explains.



“We’re spending a healthy chunk of our emergency contingency fund so that we did not have to trim,” says Koornstra. In January, Bruce House will look at whether it is bringing in enough to balance its program needs, at which time, he explains, there may be cuts.



“We will have to look at trimming a bit unless some funding comes in before the end of this fiscal year.” The new fiscal year begins in April.



Looking ahead, Koornstra says Bruce House will focus on implementing its three year strategic plan, continue its support for people living with HIV/AIDS while staying within its means, look at expanding its apartment program in a sustainable way, continue outreach to the entire community and continue its fundraising efforts.



Bruce House is always looking for volunteers to provide frontline assistance, administrative aid and help with fundraising.



What’s the biggest issue facing the GLBT community in 2004?



He says health and welfare issues are key and that HIV/AIDS are only part of the problem. He would like to see the community take more responsibility for its own health and well-being. Of course, the continued spread of HIV/AIDS remains a major concern.



“From my perspective,” Koornstra explains, “we are continuing to see gay men become infected, we’re beginning to see a lot more complacency in the community. I think we need to do much more education because there is no cure, yet there is a belief out there that AIDS is not as bad as it used to be.”



www.brucehouse.org



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EGALE CANADA



Egale Canada executive director Gilles Marchildon says that if he sounds a little breathless it’s because Egale has had a tumultuous but exciting year. Looking back at 2003, he explains that the tumult came from a number of sources:



“On the one hand we had a lot of exciting political developments, whether it was on the equal marriage front, or, with the passage of Svend Robinson’s C-250 Bill, as well as Nunavut passing its own human rights act which included protection based on sexual orientation, extending, across Canada, protection based on sexual orientation.”



Organizationally, Egale has also doubled its staff, doubled its budget, organized a national conference that attracted 400 people and established a second fundraising gala.



Looking ahead, Marchildon sees trans issues as the next great frontier in terms of formal equality. “It’s certainly the best way of making sure that trans people enjoy the same protection that gay and lesbian people enjoy,” he explains.



He says Egale will also be active on the same-sex marriage issue which isn’t resolved. They will be working through the new pan-Canadian coalition, Canadians for Equal Marriage. Next October, Terry Haldane in Calgary is going to be facing his trial as a result of the Goliath raid.



What’s the biggest issue facing the GLBT community in 2004?



“Complacency I think, is the greatest concern or danger: To think, ‘Okay, we’ve accomplished everything’ but all of that is still so fragile.”



He adds, “I would also hope that we don’t sit back and rest on our laurels but that instead we look to disenfranchised people or groups within our own communities and see how we can share the ground that we’ve gained and the strength that we’ve acquired with them.”



www.egale.ca



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PINK TRIANGLE SERVICES



In January, PTS hired its first executive director, Maura Volante.



Volante would like to build on many of the areas that PTS has covered in the previous year. Specifically she cites the very successful smoking cessation program for gay men, which was run in partnership with the Centretown Community Health Centre.



But as a full-time executive director, Volante’s focus is on the future.



“I’m really excited about what we can do in the coming year,” says Volante. “With the addition of my time here in this position I believe that PTS will really be able to improve the quality of the services that are delivered to the GLBT community.



“Definitely youth programming is one of the areas of great interest for PTS,” Volante adds. “And the fact we can sit on that network with other people who provide services to youth is really important. We would like to make sure that issues for GLBT are kept in the forefront of any planning around youth services in Ottawa generally.”



What’s the biggest issue facing the GLBT community in 2004?



“Fostering connections with other communities in Ottawa and with the broader community is the biggest issue facing the GLBT community,” says Volante.



“If the GLBT community could see itself as a strong and positive contribution to the diversity of this city,” she explains, “and strong and positive enough to connect with other communities from a position of strength, I think that both the GLBT and the larger community would benefit.”



PTS will also have its eye on the city budget process. Like many other social service providers, PTS is counting on financial support from the city.



www.pinktriangle.org



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THE PRIDE COMMITTEE OF OTTAWA



For the Pride Committee, 2003 was both a disaster and a stunning display of what a community can do when they want to make something happen, says committee chair Robin Duetta. Duetta is now serving his second term and first full term as chair. All five committee board members were re-elected at the annual general meeting in September.



Duetta credits the community with Pride’s success, particularly sponsors like Rob and Dale at Wilde’s, David Rimmer at After Stonewall, Labatt’s and others for trusting the committee despite the hardship. Duetta says the debt after Pride 2003 stands at $17,000.



Undaunted, Duetta says the committee has never been in a position to be as hopeful as it is right now. They are looking to get out of debt by March, explore hiring and securing funding for an executive director position by 2005, reap the benefits of an ambitious national sponsorship program, address the volunteer shortfall of 2003 and, most importantly, organize another world-class Pride celebration.



Ensuring there will be enough volunteers is a priority. “I certainly hope that our volunteer numbers are considerably better than they were at last year’s Pride Festival,” says Duetta. “The volunteer situation at this past Pride Festival was a disaster.” He adds that he is very optimistic about recruiting this year under a new and experienced coordinator.



What’s the biggest issue facing the GLBT community in 2004?



“People getting involved in charities and organizations and supporting them with their time and money;” says Duetta.



www.capitalpride.ca