With Pride Week barely days away, the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) suspended a member of its board of directors, Jul 25.
Marc Schaper was elected last October, but the VPS board voted to suspend him from any further official duties until the membership can vote to either remove or reinstate him at the next annual general meeting sometime this fall.
“The VPS board unanimously supported the motion to have Mr Schaper suspended,” VPS president John Boychuk told Xtra West Jul 27. “That does not restrict him from attending the events, but he can’t act in an official capacity until the review is presented at the AGM.”
Schaper says there are a number of reasons why he was effectively kicked off the board. Chief among them is his objection to the VPS’ recent effort to enforce its trademark ownership claim on the word Pride.
“I don’t believe you should be trademarking the word Pride,” Schaper told Xtra West Jul 27. “I think it’s absolutely despicable to place those restrictions on a person’s individual rights to express their freedom and choice. I think this whole thing goes beyond the bounds of moral comprehension. I think it’s actually disgusting.”
On Jun 8, Xtra West reported that the VPS had entered into a licence arrangement with Fierté Canada Pride, a national association of Pride societies, that would give the VPS legal powers to prevent any other groups from running gay Pride events without VPS permission.
One month later, queer activist Jamie Lee Hamilton received an e-mail from VPS vice-president Aviva Lazar demanding that Hamilton buy a $20 VPS corporate membership if she wanted to carry out her plans to run two Pride events of her own, Man Pride and Tranny Pride.
Hamilton refused to pay and the VPS backed down saying it would not try to interfere with her events this year, but that there should be a community discussion on the trademark issue. “At the end of the day, somebody is going to own the word Pride,” said Boychuk. “We would love the community to own it.”
Boychuk publicly invited Hamilton to attend a VPS board meeting to voice her concerns.
Both Schaper and Boychuk agree that Schaper “put in a formal request” to the VPS board for Hamilton and Little Sister’s bookstore co-owner Jim Deva to speak at the Jul 25 VPS meeting, which they did.
But Schaper says after Deva and Hamilton left the meeting, the rest of the VPS board ganged up on him.
“I was told by John Boychuk that it was not in the realm of my purview as a board member to invite Jamie Lee and to invite Jim Deva,” says Schaper. “He reprimanded me in front of everyone and said that I was not allowed to do these things. I told him I was elected by officers of the society and I could represent their interests in any way I so chose. And he said, ‘That’s not the case.'”
But Boychuk says Schaper’s invitation to Hamilton and Deva had nothing to do with his suspension. “All I know is the information Mr Schaper has been producing is not an accurate account of what happened… The invitation to the meeting had absolutely no bearing on the judgment.”
Boychuk says Schaper’s suspension stems from a disagreement between Schaper and VPS festivals director Lee Casey on Jul 15 at the VPS Picnic in the Park event.
“I arrived at Picnic in the Park about an hour late and was reprimanded verbally, yelled at, screamed at and told that my lateness was unacceptable even though I cleared it with John [Boychuk] beforehand,” says Schaper.
“Lee Casey was totally in my personal space and yelling and screaming at me,” he continues. “I told him to back off in a very verbal loud manner because he’s bigger than me, just to create some space. He said as a result of this his personal security was threatened.
“We were given 10 minutes each to articulate our positions at the [Jul 25] board meeting and [Casey] basically wanted me removed from all festival sites during Pride Week. I refused, saying as a board member I have every right to be there. I questioned his integrity by saying if he was feeling that his personal space was threatened in any way, he should report it to the police.
“I had valuable ideas and I presented them to the board and I think they’re not letting me enjoy the fruits of my labour,” adds Schaper. “I feel completely blindsided by this. Time will tell and I’m not losing any sleep over it.”
Casey and Boychuk refused to comment on the details of the incident saying they’d prefer to have the minutes of the Jul 25 meeting, which they supplied to Xtra West, stand alone.
Although it’s not a verbatim account, the minutes suggest Casey asked Schaper to control traffic flow into and out of the Picnic in the Park beer garden, but that Schaper didn’t do that because he was distracted by what Schaper referred to as “his public.”
As a result, the minutes allege, Schaper allowed some patrons to leave the beer garden with alcohol and lost track of the number of people going into the beer garden.
A confrontation between Schaper and Casey ensued. Schaper is quoted in the minutes saying, “What I said to you at Picnic in the Park was a physical threat to get you out of my face because I felt threatened by you, Lee.”
“It was pretty difficult, I must say,” says Boychuk. “There were moments when Marc, in the opinion of another director, crossed several lines associated with the running of the event as well as a run-in specific to that director. At the end of the day, the board had to address the situation.”