4 min

VPS board shuffled again

Pride plans on track despite instability: Boychuk

STEPPING DOWN: Vice president Aviva Lazar has resigned from the VPS. 'It didn't seem to be about Pride anymore,' she says. 'We weren't getting down to business.' Credit: Matt Mills photo

The board of directors of the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) has been shuffled yet again, barely a month after it submitted to unscheduled elections amid a controversy over missed paperwork filings, and barely 100 days before Pride is set to begin.

In January, a group of former board members discovered that necessary documents, including lists of directors and financial statements, hadn’t been filed with BC’s Ministry of Finance since October 2004. That revelation left some past directors to wonder if they might be held legally responsible for the actions of a society with which they had no involvement.

The VPS board dissolved itself, Jan 22, until a special general meeting (SGM) and new elections were held, Mar 10. At the SGM, most of the VPS board members originally elected for the 2007 season were reelected, including president John Boychuk and vice president Aviva Lazar. But VPS newcomer Christiane von Pfahlenburg-Marienburg was elected as both treasurer and secretary.

Now, barely a month later, Lazar, von Pfahlenburg-Marienburg and director Todd Brisbin have resigned; Boychuk came close to pursuing a seat in the House of Commons; and the open seats on the board have all been filled.

“I enjoyed Pride very much,” Lazar told Xtra West Apr 10. “But it didn’t seem to be about Pride anymore. We weren’t getting down to business. We’re here to put on a parade and festival and there’s a lot of pettiness and lots of people who have strong personalities.”

Lazar says another part of her decision to leave is that she is more attracted to smaller, grassroots Prides than she is to Vancouver’s fast-growing celebration.

“There’s a lot of interest in making Vancouver Pride the biggest Pride,” she says. “That’s great, but we’re forgetting the local aspect of it. I think it’s losing a bit of its local charm.”

Lazar says she is also working more on her career this year, so has less time to devote to the VPS. Nevertheless, she says she plans to volunteer with the VPS informally and that she will stay on the executive of the national association, Fierté Canada Pride.

“John [Boychuk] and I worked well together,” says Lazar, “but it’s pulled away from the grassroots and that’s why I think Fierté is good for me.”

The VPS has appointed Sonya Sangha as vice president.

Von Pfahlenburg-Marienburg’s Apr 10 resignation letter cites “weak leadership… a lack of clear, constructive vision… fractured nature of the board and the absence of administrative and procedural governance,” as reasons for his resignation.

“The process in general was observed,” von Pfahlenburg-Marienburg told Xtra West Apr 11. “At least there was a modicum of civility. This was a personal decision and it is made primarily from the goal of what’s best for the society. Clearly if one of us stands in the way of achieving that goal, we each have to examine the reasons for being here rather than impede the system.”

Although von Pfahlenburg-Marienburg acknowledges that the filing oversights that led to the unscheduled elections in the first place have been rectified, he calls that paperwork issue “sort of the tip of the iceberg.”

“[Von Pfahlenburg-Marienburg] has done absolutely nothing in the last month,” Boychuk told Xtra West Apr 10. “For somebody to come in on a specific platform with commitment to the membership to turn around and do nothing, it’s a slap in the face. It’s been rectified and we’re moving forward.”

Von Pfahlenburg-Marienburg insists that he did a lot of work and predicts that, although the VPS will be fine “for the moment,” there will be more upheaval in the future.

The VPS has appointed Rod Zelles as secretary and Ken Coolen as treasurer.

Boychuk says he was recently asked to run as the Liberal candidate in the Vancouver East riding in the next federal election. Speculation persists in the mainstream media that an election could come sometime this spring, before Pride.

Boychuk says “several other prominent individuals within the community, as well as members of the Liberal Party” asked for a three-week extension on the riding’s nomination process to give Boychuk time to collect the signatures he needed to compete for a nomination, but that the request was denied by the riding association.

“It’s unfortunate, but they feel the riding is a lost cause,” says Boychuk. “Time, energy, and money are better spent on other ridings where there’s a chance of making a difference.”

He says he “absolutely” has long-term political aspirations.

“Whether that be civic, federal or provincial, I have interests in all of them,” he explains. “I’ve talked to people in each of those areas and there are different opportunities over the next couple of years that I will be considering.”

Xtra West asked Boychuk if he plans to complete his three-year term as VPS president.

“When I got into this board I made a five-year commitment and I am at three-and-a-half years right now. I will make a decision once I hit the five-year mark what my next move will be.”

As for delays caused by the instability on the board, Boychuk says plans for the 2007 Pride celebration are on track. He says the parade and grant applications are complete and will be submitted to the city as Xtra West goes to press.

Boychuk says some event sponsors from last year have taken other directions but that new sponsors are already lined up. He expects that the VPS will post a surplus again in 2007.

Boychuk explains that this year’s celebration will look much like last year’s, with only a few changes. Picnic in the Park will be moved to Brockton Oval because of the wind damage and restoration work in Stanley Park. Also, because the roof over the Plaza of Nations has been deemed unsafe, Homopalooza, which debuted last year, will not happen.

“We’re going to have to consider it a one-time-only event,” he says.

Boychuk says plans for something to replace Homopalooza on the Sunday prior to parade day are still being considered, but that the VPS already has big plans cooking for the 2008 celebration to mark Vancouver Pride’s 30th anniversary.