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Vancouver’s queer committee regains full slate

Davie Village decline is high priority

The City of Vancouver’s LGBTQ advisory committee once again has a full slate of members, whose priority list now includes addressing concerns about the Davie Village’s decline, affordable housing, safety, youth issues and trans inclusion.

The committee’s 12-member roster includes Metha Brown, Adeline Huynh, Dean Malone, Myriam Dumont, Michael Kushnir, Richard Overgaard, Michelle Fortin, Mohammad Basir-Kazerooni, Patrick Tham and returning members Drew Dennis, Barb Snelgrove and Ron Stipp.

Their terms expire in December 2014.

Kushnir would like to see more attention paid to the community’s needs in East Vancouver. “One of the key things to look at is that there is a comparative advantage to doing queer events downtown, but they must fit into a certain framework, otherwise they won’t work,” says Kushnir, who co-produces the popular East Van party SPIT.

Kushnir also calls for a “long, frank, brutal community discussion” about the challenges facing the Davie Village.

“Davie St is dying. Some might say it’s already dead, and largely speaking it’s because it’s de-gaying,” he says, pointing to the area’s ongoing gentrification.

He remembers checking out the West End as a 19-year-old and finding the $800-per-month rent tag for a one-bedroom exorbitant — a bargain these days, he observes.

“The problem has gotten a lot worse, and it’s priced out a lot of younger queers that want to inject their energy into this neighbourhood,” he says. “What that leads to is a lack of community regeneration.” 

The culture of the West End is slow to change, but how it changes is up to the community, Kushnir says. “Unless we take some action as a society, the home that we have today will continue to slip away,” he warns. “There are a lot of people from Prince George and Smithers and Medicine Hat that come out to Vancouver, and they’re just not seeing the same kind of community that they were perhaps expecting, or that we had perhaps a generation ago.”

Fortin, treasurer of the Vancouver Dyke March, is also concerned about affordable housing. “There are some new youth housing pieces on the line in the next few years, and I’d like to see more,” she says. “I’d also like some options that are not just apartments but some intentional group-living options for queer youth.”

Huynh, a GAB youth worker, is particularly concerned about the safety of queer youth in schools. “I know that’s a provincial matter, but I think the city can be very influential in that as well, creating that whole provincewide anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia policy, which is gaining a lot of traction,” she says. “As a professional queer, I’ve been supporting our community a lot in terms of safe spaces and inclusivity and diversity issues, and I just wanted to take it to another level and be involved in a planning or policy-change capacity. That’s where a lot of change has to happen.”

Huynh is also keen to be a voice for diversity on the committee. “That would be one of my top concerns and interests, so I will be bringing it to the table, and I would like to see an actual, real commitment to inclusion and diversity, not just tokenism. It’s not good enough to see some faces on a poster or some faces on a committee,” she says. “It’s important to see real systemic change, but exactly how that is going to happen during my time on committee, I don’t know, but I’m going to stay hopeful and see what happens.”

Members also intend to push forward with the previous committee’s work on trans issues.

Barb Snelgrove, who’s returning for a second term, says a lot of what the committee worked on last time can be carried over into the new committee. “Plus with fresh eyes and ears, I’m quite sure in our first few meetings we will discover new things and new avenues that need to be addressed,” she says.