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Wanted: Gay community safety worker

Qmunity to meet de Jong on Oct 7

Qmunity’s executive director has secured a meeting with BC’s solicitor general next month to discuss hiring and funding a community safety worker for victims of gaybashing.

Jennifer Breakspear says she’s scheduled to meet with Solicitor General Mike de Jong on Oct 7 to present the new position and to request $100,000 to fund it for the first year.

“It wouldn’t be that much to sustain [the position] year after year,” says Breakspear, who had requested the meeting since June.

The community safety worker would help guide gaybashing victims through the medical and legal systems, she explains. The worker would also visit bars and other gay social spaces, talk to community members and foster awareness about safety, Breakspear adds.

There is an urgent need for such a position, given the high-profile gaybashings that have happened in Vancouver over the last couple of years, she continues. Breakspear points to a Statistics Canada report released in June that identified Vancouver (along with Quebec City) as the city with the highest number of reported hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation.

“These are issues that we’ve been dealing with here at Qmunity sort of ad hoc,” she says. “Our community deserves a dedicated program with dedicated funding.”

De Jong was unavailable for comment, but in an email to Xtra, Christine Haltner, public affairs officer for the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General, pointed out that the provincial government has invested $3 million in Vancouver victim-services programs that members of the queer community can access, including Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Stopping the Violence counselling programs.

“Over the past several years, the ministry has provided Qmunity with over $70,000 for victim service and anti-violence projects,” Haltner noted.

Breakspear is crossing her fingers that the ministry will also agree to fund the new position.

The longer the position goes unfunded and is thus unavailable, the more victims of homophobic violence are going to be “left alone and isolated,” Breakspear says.

In the meantime, she’s begun seeking funding in the form of corporate sponsorships and individual donations.

Insp Mario Giardini, head of the Vancouver Police Department’s Diversity and Aboriginal Policing section, says he will accompany Breakspear to the meeting with de Jong.

“We have great support for that proposal,” he says.