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‘This is an historic moment’: RodRozen

New centre moves forward with Qmunity's support

OUR SPACES. Members of the group working to establish a new multi-purpose queer community centre approved a proposal to register a new society called Vancouver Out Under The Rainbow (OUR) Spaces Society. Temporary executive member Seán Cummings. Credit: Chris Howey photo

Nineteen community members unanimously approved a proposal to register a society to facilitate the envisioning, funding, building and maintaining of a multi-purpose queer community centre in Vancouver on Dec 8.

The new society’s name is Vancouver Out Under the Rainbow (OUR) Spaces Society.

“This is an historic moment here,” declared the group’s temporary executive chair, Steven RodRozen, following the vote.

The temporary executive, tasked with forming the society and registering it with the province, was established by 30 members of the working group at its last public meeting on Nov 3. The members of the temporary executive are: RodRozen, David McCann, Laura McDiarmid, Seán Cummings, Elaine Miller, Tony Correia, James Beresford, Mo Kazerooni, Kona, Alan Herbert, Sakino Sepulveda and Gerry Kasten.

OUR Spaces is the name of the society. The centre itself will be named in the future, McDiarmid noted.

She and McCann then briefed the gathering about a meeting they held with Qmunity’s executive director Jennifer Breakspear and chair Craig Maynard to find common ground between the two groups.

Qmunity describes its mandate as providing support programs and services to the queer community. The working group aims to build a more multi-purpose community centre with cultural and social spaces and a hub in which to gather and celebrate.

Both groups are looking for building space.

McDiarmid and McCann said the meeting with Qmunity was very positive.

“What we both agreed to is that we would support each other in a way that didn’t compromise our efforts and their efforts,” McDiarmid reported.

“We need to be cognizant that these are two different situations,” she noted. Qmunity is a program-oriented agency that delivers certain services “period full stop — and we as a community need that.”

What the new working group is doing is “building the centre,” McDiarmid stressed. “It’s nuts and bolts and mortar that we’re doing here as a group; we’re not delivering social services.

“That may be within the walls of our community centre along with health, education, art, culture, recreation,” McDiarmid said.

What’s clear, she added, is that Qmunity should probably have never been mandated to build a community centre in the first place because they don’t have the resources.

For his part, McCann said the meeting with Qmunity clarified that the program and operational funding Qmunity seeks and the capital funding OUR Spaces is looking to attract come from “totally different pots.”

“In no way are we looking to interfere. As a matter of fact, we want to support them in their ongoing mandate to deliver those various services in our community,” McCann said.

“At the same time, we want them to support us in our effort to access the various sources of funding that are available for capital projects,” he added.

“If that means supportive in a capital campaign, yeah, [we’d be] happy to do endorsements,” Breakspear later told Xtra West.

“There is concern here about two groups going to the city both asking for the same thing,” she acknowledged.

Breakspear says Qmunity has had discussions with the city about the possibility of receiving amenity space, which is done through community services. 

“Space such as this group is looking at comes out under another department and another funding source,” she says. “We would not be competing for the same monies in that respect. It is very much different pots of money.”

City councillor Tim Stevenson told Xtra West Oct 19 that Vision Vancouver, which holds a majority of seats on city council, supports the establishment of a new community centre for the queer community but is aware that there is “more than one constituency” interested in having a new centre.

Stevenson says Mayor Gregor Robertson wants to broker a meeting between the two parties to find a way forward.

The meeting with the mayor, which was originally scheduled for Nov 23, was re-scheduled for Dec 8, but has now been postponed until Feb 3, RodRozen says.

Breakspear says she received assurances from McDiarmid and McCann that the working group is not looking to interfere with Qmunity’s government funding.

In fact, she says, they were supportive of the services Qmunity provides and stressed the importance of their continuation.

There was also recognition that Qmunity needs a new accessible space, Breakspear adds.

McCann agrees that Qmunity needs space and says the working group will support its efforts to get a better space.

The hope is to create space within a new centre for Qmunity and other community organizations, he says.

“There’s no reason we can’t work together. They don’t want to see this ever become an either-or [situation],” he says. “They want to see this as ‘and.’”

“There will be a lot of people, because of past history, that try and interfere with that vision,” McCann warned the working group. But there was “no division” when he and McDiarmid met with Qmunity, he insisted.

Temporary executive member Alan Herbert remained concerned. He said the reality is that there will be two societies “competing on the same ground.”

“If we think [there] will not be any debate, discussion or even acrimony, I think we’re dreaming,” Herbert maintained.

“They said they are prepared to work together with us, on a separate campaign to get a permanent home,” McCann insisted, adding he was not going to get bogged down in “past history.”

Kona suggested that clear communication to the broader community may be needed to convey the mutual support expressed between Qmunity and OUR Spaces.

“There may be perception issues,” she acknowledged, suggesting the working group make a “concerted effort to come up with clear messaging” to convey the lack of animosity between the two groups.

“I believe [that] will get us more members, more support and that in turn will empower us when we’re starting to do the government, corporate piece,” she told the meeting.

Breakspear agrees there is confusion out there. “It’s something for both groups to be conscious that when we’re talking about it we’re doing what we can to make sure those people understand that the groups support each other,” she says.

McCann says establishing OUR Spaces is “quite an accomplishment.”

Now, he says, the society “needs real leaders to lead this campaign.

“Talk to your friends, talk to your family, talk to your bosses and if you’re a boss, talk to your best employees,” he says. “Think of candidates that you think have the skills, the knowledge, the contacts, the desire, maybe even financial resources, to join this board.

“We’re just temporary custodians,” he says.

The OUR Spaces society was registered with the province Dec 15.