Friday, September 18, 2009

NB hockey team battles homophobia on the rink

NB hockey team battles homophobia on the rink
RECOGNITION / Team honoured for supporting gay teammates
Nick Logan / / National / Friday, September 18, 2009

A SLAP SHOT TO HOMOPHOBIA. Sierra Paul (front, right) was shocked the WHS Lady Thunder won the NB Human Rights Award, but says she's grateful her teammates stood up against gay-bullying on the ice.
(Nick Logan photo)

In early 2009, the Woodstock High School Lady Thunder hockey team was undefeated on the ice, but after word got around that two of its players were gay, taunts and harassment toward the team flooded the rink and the internet.

Right-winger and assistant captain Sierra Paul, 16, and centre Alyssa McLean, 17, told their teammates about their sexual orientation and received nothing but support. Another team in the league, however, posted anti-gay messages on Facebook and refused to shake hands after games.

"They said, 'You're a disgrace to society and the world would be a better place if you were dead,'" Paul says, adding the whole team was taunted with homophobic slurs.

"They get in your head," says McLean, "You get discouraged."

The Lady Thunder girls didn't hurl insults back or complain to administrators. Instead they approached the school's gay-straight alliance (GSA) and all 18 team members wore rainbow-striped pins, with the words "No Homophobia," to their games.

Not only was the move a show of solidarity, it opened up a dialogue with other teams in the province. They even shared the pins with a team from northern New Brunswick.

Word of the girls' efforts eventually got back to Gordon Porter, chair of the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission and, on Sep 16, he presented the WHS Lady Thunder with the provincial human rights award.

Name-calling is common in sport, Porter says, but the girls' reaction to it was something special and well worthy of recognition.

"We live in a different society then when I was your age," he told the team and their classmates during a ceremony in the school's auditorium, "Our society wasn't as tolerant. It wasn't as progressive as you take for granted."

It's no surprise, he says, WHS students stood up for gay rights. The school has a long history of promoting diversity in its hallways. There has been an active GSA at the school since 2003 and Richard Blaquiere, who started the group, won the same award in 1993, for his work in human rights education.

The NB Human Rights Commission at Wednesday's ceremony also acknowledged Rev Dr Brent Hawkes with the Pioneer of Human Rights Award, the fifth such recognition the HRC has given in its history.

Hawkes hails from Bath, NB, about 49 km from Woodstock, and is the senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto. An openly gay minister, Hawkes is a leader in the Canadian gay rights movement.

He left the area after coming out to his family in the 1970s because he "didn't feel safe." It was a pleasure, he says, to come back in recognition of the province's support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered rights.

"I've done too many funerals to stay quiet," he says of his unrelenting work. "I've seen too many families abandon their son or daughter ... I've seen too many friends not speak up to stay quiet."

In 2001, he performed one of the world's first legal gay marriages. He pointed out that he fought the Canadian government and was subsequently awarded one of its highest honours, membership in the Order of Canada.

Throughout his career, he's been the target of threats and assaults. He told onlookers stories of wearing bullet-proof vests and travelling under guard.

"I wish I had the hockey team protecting me, I might have been safer," he jokingly told the Lady Thunder girls, sitting clad in their maroon and grey jerseys in the front row. He applauded the team and Woodstock High for supporting gay students.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Blue Door

Article in Occasions Magazine on the Blue Door restaurant, in Fredericton, NB, featuring photos by Nick Logan.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Activists gather in Moncton for community forum

Activists gather in Moncton for community forum
NEW BRUNSWICK / Discussion of a new provincial queer network
Nick Logan / / National / Tuesday, September 01, 2009

FORUM. This month's community forum - including (front row L to R) CUPE NB president Daniel Légère, Rev Eldon Hay and Pflag Canada executive director Cherie MacLeod - was the first but not the last for Moncton's queer and allied groups.

Moncton may not be the legislative capital of New Brunswick, but it could soon become the queer capital of the province.

As a part of the city's 10th anniversary Pride celebration earlier this month the organizing committee, known as River of Pride, assembled a group of queer activists, educators and allies at City Hall for a first-ever community forum.

"I think this is going to be, hopefully, a day in history in the queer scene in New Brunswick," River of Pride spokesperson Paul Leblanc said, addressing the small crowd.

Because of Moncton's size and central location in the Maritimes, there was an overwhelming sentiment the city should serve as an example of unity.

"We need to admit that Moncton is awake, very alive and vibrant, whereas Saint John and Fredericton are dormant, where many activists are," says Roger LeBlanc, a kinesiology professor at the Université de Moncton.

The discussion — moderated by Pflag Canada executive director Cherie MacLeod — included representatives from the Multicultural Association of the Greater Moncton Area (MAGMA), AIDS Moncton, the Canadian Labour Congress and the president of CUPE New Brunswick, Daniel Lègére.

The goal of the brainstorming session was to establish the first steps toward sharing resources. Gay rights advocate Rev Eldon Hay — winner of the 1997 New Brunswick Human Rights award and a member of the Order of Canada — called the gathering a "seed bed," saying a network of organizations would better serve "the broad needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community."

MacLeod highlighted the mountain of work that still needs to be done to end homophobia in the city and the province.

"In New Brunswick," she says, "we don't even recognize Coming Out Day in October."

Schools need to address homophobia in the classrooms and hallways, she says, by opening up dialogues and creating safe spaces.

But, some attendees expressed concern that principals can be quick to dismiss the topic of sexuality for fear of parental backlash.

"There is this big fear," says a representative of the local Pflag chapter, "If any teacher takes a stand for homosexuality or stands up for a gay student, there will be a backlash."

The effects of gay-bullying can be life-long, says Greg Daborn, who is also one of the founding fathers of Moncton Pride. He spoke of the taunts and harassment he endured growing up, leading to his marks plummeting and a fear of ever coming out.

It's not just the target that suffers, Daborn says, pointing out the time wasted by teachers and administrators when bullying becomes a problem at their school.

"It struck me that not only does homophobia on the school ground hinder the victim, it hinders everybody," he says.

The 25 attendees discussed ways to increase visibility in the community, year round, as well as how their individual groups could build a stronger network of information sharing. Currently, the province has the New Brunswick Rainbow Action (NBRA) network, but it really only operates as a rarely-used email list. Most of the crowd had no idea it even existed.

"I was flabbergasted," Leblanc says of learning about NBRA, adding, "it only comes alive when there is an issue. You've got to keep people upfront and fresh."

Although time was limited, the group set forth plans to interact more and invite one another to conferences and meetings. Knowing there is a room full of people willing to work together is the first step, says River of Pride secretary Ed Oldford.

"We all want to do something, but sometimes we don't stop and realize what we've done. Let's look at the gifts that we bring to the table and how do we take them to the next level."

Ten years of Pride for Moncton's queer community

Ten years of Pride for Moncton's queer community
NEW BRUNSWICK / Founders honoured as this year's grand marshals
Nick Logan / / National / Tuesday, August 18, 2009

For a decade the city of Moncton has led the way for Pride celebrations across New Brunswick. As organizers mark a milestone anniversary this week, the founding fathers of Moncton Pride are polishing their shoes to march as grand marshals in the annual parade.

One summer night, a little more than 10 years ago, Greg Daborn and Art Vautour-Toole struck up a conversation at Moncton's only gay bar, Triangles, venting their frustrations about travelling hundreds of kilometres from home to celebrate Pride.

Enough was enough, they said, it was time to put their words into action. Joining forces with a third organizer, Denis Lanteinge, Moncton saw its first Pride weekend in June 2000.

"We've come a long way over the years," says Pride spokesperson Paul Leblanc.

The event started off small, he says, adding people were quite comfortable going elsewhere to celebrate their orientation, but some weren't so keen on celebrating at home. Even some organizers were reluctant to get the word out to the greater community.

"Back then," he says, "people were scared to approach certain media. Now we have media coming to us."

Over the past decade, attendance and participation numbers have risen steadily.

The planning efforts have also grown and evolved. There is now a 10-person committee — known as River of Pride — to share the workload and a movement over the last two years towards incorporating Pride and becoming a charitable organization.

A number of big-name sponsors are already supporting the events this year, but the charitable organization status, he says, will hopefully bring in more corporate dollars.

A major part of this process will see the committee form an executive and sub-committees. Getting people to volunteer has always been an issue, he says, because structure was lacking.

"The biggest complaint was the time people spent at meetings. There was no order, there was no structure. So we've refined all of this and from here forward it's going to be much more attractive for people to become involved."

Moncton is at the heart of the Maritimes, he says, and while River of Pride hopes to attract attendees from all over the region, the celebration needs to remain community focussed. One of the big goals for Pride 2009 is to unite queer and queer-friendly groups and services around greater Moncton.

River of Pride will hold a community forum on Fri, Aug 21 to discuss the possibility of forming a network of interested organizations. Leblanc is particularly proud of confirmed involvement from a number of labour unions.

Cherie MacLeod, the executive director of Pflag Canada, will be the moderator for the meeting, which begins at 1pm in the sixth floor training room at Moncton City Hall.

Pride will use the motto "Your rights, our rights, human rights!" for this year's celebration, Leblanc says, pointing out the dual 40-year anniversaries of the Stonewall riots and the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada.

River of Pride wants events to be all-inclusive, he says. In an official press release, he writes, "These events are organized on behalf of all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and groups, and all others who support the struggle for the rights of these communities."

Moncton Pride 2009 runs through Sun, Aug. 23. For a full schedule of events, visit

Saint John gets its annual fix of queer theatre

Saint John gets its annual fix of queer theatre
THEATRE / Diane Flacks performs her one-woman show Bear with Me
Nick Logan / / National / Tuesday, August 11, 2009

BEAR WITH HER. Diane Flacks brings her one-woman show Bear With Me to Saint John from Aug 12 to Aug 14.

In a conservative place such as New Brunswick, offerings of queer theatre are few and far between, but for the third year in a row the Saint John Theatre Company (SJTC) will do its part to change that.

Each summer the company, led by artistic producer Stephen Tobias, hosts the Theatre on the Edge Festival. In 2006, it began a relationship with Port City Rainbow Pride (PCRP) to present Out on the Edge, running this year from Aug 12 to 14.

"We often partner with other community organizations here in Saint John," says Tobias, "regardless of subject matter."

Since PCRP usually began as Theatre on the Edge was wrapping up, he says, it made sense for the organizations to join forces. While the two groups enjoy a mutually beneficial partnership, they have remained independent of one another.

When the PCRP committee announced last month it would cancel this year's festival, Tobias wasn't worried. The show must and will go on.

"They're a promotional partner. Even if the festival wasn't going to proceed as planned, the community was still there."

Company members two years ago developed an "original script" based on personal stories they collected from people in the local queer community. The result was a performance titled Out on the Edge, a monologue-driven piece featuring personal stories from in- and out-of-the-closet.

The response to the Laramie Project style endeavour was tremendous, he says, and the company wanted to continue working with the queer community. It intended to mount the same production the following year, but couldn't due to scheduling conflicts with some actors.

Tobias made the commitment to keep Out on the Edge going, as a part of the greater theatre festival, even if the production wasn't the same.

Last year, he filled the slot with Nina Arsenault's The Silicone Diaries, a series of monologues based on articles she wrote for fab magazine. This summer, comic-writer Diane Flacks is bringing her one-woman show, Bear with Me, to the company's stage at 112 Princess St.

Year after year, Tobias is impressed with the audiences attending the productions. And, he adds, feedback to Arsenault's show was tremendous.

"When we look through the cards and letters and emails," he says of the reaction Diaries, "It was impressive how she [Arsenault] really kind of impacted people." He calls the feedback "life changing."

He has the same hopes for Bear with Me. Flacks' story about having a baby with her partner. It's the first time she'll perform it in the East.

The audience for Out on the Edge creates a cultural mix, says Tobias, between those attending it as a Pride event and SJTC's regular theatre-going crowd.

"To me it's about education. You bring people together and they realize they're not really that different," he says, "The subject matter may be different, but there's a kind of universality that works."

Looking ahead, Tobias would like to see SJTC further develop relationships with artists, such as Arsenault and Flacks, and companies, such as Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times, to bring more queer-themed theatre to the city.

"It's just helping us serve what is a huge segment of the community, here in Saint John, that a lot of other theatre companies aren't paying attention to."

Bear with Me.
Wed, Aug 12 to Fri, Aug 14. 9pm.
Saint John Theatre Company, 112 Princess St.

Pride revived in Saint John

Pride revived in Saint John
NEW BRUNSWICK / Back with new organizers and a different agenda
Nick Logan / National / Tuesday, July 28, 2009

BACK ON. The Saint John Pride Festival takes place from Aug 9 to 16. See below for event highlights.

When the organizers for Port City Rainbow Pride (PCRP) announced they were cancelling this year's festival, two Saint John nightclub employees decided to take matters into their own hands.

"We didn't want to see the momentum die," says Troy Morehouse, assistant manager at Element Dance Bar.

Along with the help of Michelle Petite (aka DJ Double Dee), Morehouse says they are planning a week of events and activities so the city's queer community doesn't have to wait until 2010 to celebrate Pride.

He understands there were numerous reasons to postpone PCRP, which has taken place every August since 2003, but, he says, the absence of the festival provides an opportunity to help it evolve. The current PCRP committee has offered its advice and blessings to Morehouse and Petite.

"We're didn't want to appear like we were rescuing Pride... or rubbing this in their face," he says, adding Saint John Pride 2009 — running from Aug 9 to 16 — will probably attract a different crowd than usual, which will help PCRP continue to evolve when it returns next summer.

Both Morehouse and PCRP committee member Mack MacKenzie acknowledge there has been a "rift" over the years between the younger bar-crowd and the more conservative members of the queer community.

During an interview, in early July, MacKenzie said he has heard criticism in the past about the Pride celebration being "elitist" — not targeting youth or being financially accessible to everyone.

The people behind PCRP chose to plan more cultural and educational events, Morehouse says, foregoing the glitz and glamour of big city parties.

"Their view was more to please or appease the non-LGBT community," he says. "It kinda lost sight of the LGBT people. The event should be for them."

Even though Element Dance Bar is hosting many of the events, it is merely a sponsor of the 2009 Pride Festival. Morehouse sees this as reflecting "the roots" of Pride, referencing the Stonewall Bar and the riots 40 years ago.

The bar's management has organized annual events separate of PCRP for years, so taking the reins of a city-wide Pride festival is just an extension of that, he says. Many of the planned events were already in place.

There was no intention to do a parade, he says, until (co-organizer) Petite declared there would be, to a packed dance floor.

"Michelle, while she was DJ-ing, picked up a microphone and told everyone we were doing a parade. So, we said, we announced it, now we've gotta do it."

The goal, he says, is for the Saturday afternoon spectacle to be more vibrant and lively, "less funeral march-like." As of last week, he says, there were 15-20 confirmed groups and floats.

He is also taking into consideration the late-night parties that weekend, scheduling the parade for 3pm — rather than noon, as in previous years — in hopes of attracting more participants.

Some traditions, however, are carrying over from Port City Rainbow Pride.

The week's festivities will commence with a Sunday morning church service and the Monday afternoon flag-raising ceremony, with Saint John Mayor Ivan Court doing the honours.

The Saint John Theatre Company will, for the third year in a row, host Out on the Edge — a queer-theatre performance that rounds out their two-week Theatre on the Edge festival.


Sun, Aug 9. Ecumenical church service, 10:30am at Queen Square United Church, 212 Wentworth St.

Mon, Aug 10. Pride flag raising ceremony, 10:30am at City Hall, King St.

Wed, Aug 12. Out on the Edge: Saint John Theatre Company presents Diane Flacks' one-woman show, Bear With Me. 9pm - 11pm at Saint John Theatre Company, 112 Princess St (runs thru Fri, Aug 14).

Thu, Aug 13. Beach Party Battle of the DJs. 10pm - 2am at Element Dance Bar, 112 Prince William St.

Sat, Aug 15. Pride Parade, 3pm - 4pm commencing at Kings Square. Post-Parade BBQ, 4pm - 6pm at Pugsly Park, Water St at the foot of Princess St.

Sun, Aug 16. Drag Show, 8pm - midnight at Element Dance Bar.

For further details and event schedules

Friday, July 10, 2009 Pride festival in Saint John cancelled

Pride festival in Saint John cancelled
NEW BRUNSWICK / Organizers cite burn-out, lack of support
Nick Logan / National / Friday, July 10, 2009

The queer community in New Brunswick's largest city won't be taking to the streets in a show of Pride this year. Organizers of Port City Rainbow Pride (PCRP), in Saint John, pulled the plug last week on the 2009 celebration.

In a Jul 2 press release, the committee's president highlighted a lack of confirmed events as reason for the cancellation.

"We believe that the community deserves a first rate celebration," Don Uhryniw said, "and [we] have decided to turn our energies to planning next year's event."

This will be the first year, since 2003, without a Pride celebration in Saint John.

Pride's board and committee are entirely volunteer-based and, this year, there was not enough commitment and involvement to successfully organize the week's events, says the board's spokesperson, Mack Mackenzie.

After years of piecing together the festival with little support, many repeat volunteers have "burned out" a bit, says Mackenzie. Lack of time and family obligations are some of the reasons people don't get involved with organizing committees, but others have the notion that "somebody else is going to do [the work]."

"I think they've been successful with it over the years," he says, "but my motion at the last board meeting was, in order to do this as well — or better — as past years, realistically we're not going to be able to pull this off in the next six weeks."

Criticism over the size and style of the celebration has also taken its toll on board members, Mackenzie adds. He's heard feedback from past attendees complaining Port City Rainbow Pride did not have the glitz and glamour associated with Pride in larger centres.

It's hard to motivate people to put their heart into planning, time after time, when it's not appreciated, he says.

"People are always willing to offer plenty of good ideas, but when you challenge them to get involved, and help to implement those ideas, sometimes the fear factor comes in... or general apathy."

With a metropolitan population of only 122,000, Saint John can't play by the same rules as Canada's bigger cities, he says. Considering Pride's small crew of volunteers and a budget of next-to-nothing, he says the city is lucky to have had a Pride celebration at all.

The current board plans to use the next 13 months wisely and have Pride Week organized for its usual slot — the week after Canada Day. Saint John will mark its 225th anniversary — as this country's oldest incorporated city — in 2010, and Mackenzie wants Pride to be a prominent part of the celebrations and homecoming.

"This is a city that is far more open than it has ever been," says Mackenzie. "We can let the LGBT people from the greater Saint John area — who have moved to larger centres — know they are welcome to come home and to rediscover their roots here."

Board members also want to reach out to segments of the population they haven't necessarily accommodated in the past. There have been criticisms, he says, that Pride is "elitist," not offering much for young people or those living on limited means.

Above all, Mackenzie hopes this year's absence of Port City Rainbow Pride will be a wake-up call to the queer community in Saint John to get involved. He wants people to know what they are missing and, he says, those messages have already started coming in.

Port City Rainbow Pride.

Tags: new brunswick, pride, saint john

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