Saturday, August 30, 2014

NEWS: Syphilis Rates Soars, OUTlaws, John Yano, Gender Equality, Ivan E Coyote's One In Every Crowd

[Burnaby, B.C.] Two leaders of the 2011 battle against the Burnaby school board’s anti-homophobia policy are running for office in the municipal election this November. Former Parents’ Voice president and spokesperson Heather Leung and former school trustee candidate Helen Ward are running for school board and city council as part of the Burnaby First Coalition (BFC), which was established to challenge the ruling NDP-affiliated Burnaby Citizens’ Association (BCA). BFC mayoral candidate and spokesperson Daren Hancott describes the new party as a pro-business, pro-sustainable development and pro-outreach alternative. “I’m going to try and do something that needs to happen to ensure that Burnaby is better represented at city hall,” he says. “In general, I want to change the culture with transparency, accountability and cooperation.” Hancott, who abandoned his campaign for the Conservative nomination in the Burnaby North–Seymour federal riding to run for mayor, says he had no knowledge of Parents’ Voice’s stance on LGBT issues or the contentious debate that took place prior to his current campaign because his children were enrolled in private schools. Parents’ Voice formed to fight the passage of Burnaby’s anti-homophobia policy for schools. Despite several protests that attracted hundreds of opponents, the policy was unanimously adopted by the BCA-dominated school board. BCA subsequently won the mayoral race and took every seat on the school board and city council for the second election in a row. READ MORE

QUEER FILM FEST PANEL DISCUSSES STATUS OF WOMEN IN FILM [Vancouver, B.C.] Canadian women in film need to get political and ensure that federal taxpayer-supported funds are being handed out equitably, the Vancouver Queer Film Festival’s Gender Equality Revolution panel on women in film heard Aug 18. Carolyn Combs, executive director of Women in Film and Television Vancouver, says statistics from Please Adjust Your Set — which gathers statistics on women’s participation in the industry — show that 34 percent of producers, 26 percent of directors and 21 percent of writers in the Canadian industry are women. “It’s really hard in film in BC right now,” Combs says. Those figures are lower in the west, are better in Ontario, but plummet to zero in Quebec, she adds. Combs says of the 139 feature films made in Canada in 2010 and 2011, only 20 percent were directed by women, with 21 percent having women screenwriters. She says gender balance is generally good in entry-level positions but shifts toward men when it comes to decision-making positions. She says the situation is worse in television production. READ MORE

[Vancouver, B.C.] One In Every Crowd is Ivan E Coyote’s first book for young adults and consists of some of their (Coyote uses the pronouns they and their) most beloved short stories. The book begins with a letter Coyote writes to their younger self. I resisted the first page because I initially thought it was kind of cheesy, and then unexpectedly, I found myself bursting into tears. Cheesy? Maybe. But it was also undeniably poignant. Coyote writes to their younger self with the love, acceptance and peace that they lacked in their youth. As you read the stories, a portrait of the author’s youth begins to form in your mind, and there’s a comfort and intimacy in their experiences growing up. Coyote survived a small-town Yukon upbringing and grew up to enter the “outside” — the word used by Yukon natives to describe the world outside the province. READ MORE

LGBT CANDIDATES ANNOUNCE BID TO CONTEST CIVIC ELECTIONS [Vancouver, B.C.] Jamie Lee Hamilton and John Yano seek COPE nod to run for park board and city council. Jamie Lee Hamilton has announced that she’ll once again seek nomination to run for the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation in the Nov 15 municipal elections, this time on the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) slate. Hamilton made the Aug 23 announcement with former Non-Partisan Association (NPA) mayor Phillip Owen at her side. Current NPA Councillor Elizabeth Ball also attended the announcement. Social and environmental justice advocate John Yano, who is gay, is seeking to run for city council under COPE’s banner. It’s the third time Hamilton has sought to join commissioners at the park board table. She says a community centre for the queer community is an issue that needs to be advanced, as does ending privatization of public space and maintaining parks safety. BC’s queer resource centre, Qmunity, was allotted $7 million for a new multipurpose community centre in Vancouver by city council in December. Hamilton says the park board has the capacity to help the community come together on a queer community centre rather than be divided over it. Such positive cooperation would help create a more inclusive centre, she adds. READ MORE

LGBT GROUPS SEEK INTERVENOR STATUS IN TRINITY WESTERN CASE [Toronto, Ontario] Two LGBT groups are joining the fray over whether the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) will accredit students graduated from a controversial Christian university in British Columbia. Out on Bay Street, a development group for young lawyers and professionals, and OUTlaws, an LGBT law student group with chapters at four Ontario law schools, have applied for intervenor status in Trinity Western University’s (TWU) appeal of LSUC’s decision to deny accreditation to graduates of their law school. The intervenor status motion for Out on Bay Street and OUTlaws will be heard by the Ontario Divisional Court on Sept 3. A ruling is expected later in the year. A 2001 Supreme Court of Canada decision upheld TWU’s right to teach Christian values and to insist that its students sign a covenant agreeing to uphold Christian biblical teachings, prohibiting premarital sex and homosexuality. If students break the covenant they can be disciplined, expelled or refused readmission to the university. Douglas Judson, a member of Out on Bay Street’s board of directors, says the issue is not whether a Christian law school can provide competent legal education, but whether its policies are discriminatory. “When you say that certain people of a certain identity don’t have access to [a law school] or are systematically made to feel ostracized within them, that becomes a problem,” he says. READ MORE

[Vancouver, B.C.] Syphilis rates continue to soar in Vancouver, prompting the latest warning for gay and bisexual men to get tested for the sexually transmitted disease. Public health officials say men who have sex with men are at the highest risk of infection. Vancouver Coastal Health says residents around the Richmond and Vancouver areas are especially vulnerable, with 86 per cent of the 561 new syphilis cases reported in B.C. last year being diagnosed within the health authority. Medical health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson says syphilis rates in 2012 across the Lower Mainland were at their highest in 30 years, and the numbers climbed further in 2013. She encourages men who have sex with men to become more aware of the highly contagious disease, practise safer sex and get regular testing. Syphilis is spread primarily by oral, vaginal or anal sex, and early symptoms such as rashes or painless sores disappear, but if left untreated the disease can lead to blindness, hearing loss, deep bone pain and even death. READ MORE