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Police left wondering why there's no homophobic violence in Queer West Toronto
Originally published in Parkdale-liberty The Villager Newspaper. BY JASON
SAHLANI June 27, 2008
In an effort to empower Toronto's LGTBQ communities Toronto Police Services
has partnered with community groups such as Egale Canada, Pride Canada and ACT
Toronto to launch an initiative called Report Homophobic Violence, Period (RHVP),
which they hope will lead to higher rates of reporting sexual orientation hate
"We've known that hate crimes based on sexual orientation go unreported
for some time," said Det. Const. Thomas Decker, the LGBT Liaison Officer
for the Toronto Police Service. "One source of data, the Egale Canada school
survey, demonstrated that the situation in Canadian schools was worse than we
thought it to be and it seems that some of our educational settings are hotbeds
for sexual orientation motivated harassment."
The campaign is targeting people aged 13 to 25 with a focus on improving the
situation that LGTBQ people face in Toronto's schools and helping to build better
relationships between affected communities and the police.
"Sexual orientation slurs are out there, kids as young as eight and nine
calling each other 'fag' or 'dyke', so a young member of the LGTBQ may not report
a crime because they've been forced to feel ashamed of who they are, or are
still struggling with who they are and don't feel comfortable talking to the
police," said Decker.
The Toronto Police Services 2007 Annual Hate/Bias Crime Statistical Report
detailed 42 hate crime charges laid where the basis of the crime was the sexual
orientation of the victim.
An information graphic found in the 2007 TPS report details the distribution
of hate crimes throughout the city shows that while only a handful of offenses
took place in Parkdale, that information could be skewed due to the low rate
of such crimes being reported to police.
Decker said sexually orientated hate crimes are under-reported for various
reasons. "Some crimes go unreported because the victim may feel that the
person who's supposed to help them is going to end up re-victimizing them,"
said Decker. "But a vast majority of our officers are well trained and
sensitive to the issues of these communities and with this new campaign we hope
to further the education of our members."
Local queer rights activist Michael F. Paré said that while he agrees
that LGTBQ communities in Toronto face violence at times, in the last eight
years there have been no such reports to the Queer West Centre.
He added, "The Parkdale LGTBQ community doesn't really have the exclusive
bar or group mentality, there are friendly and open places that may be gay-owned
but they aren't exclusive to one particular group and I think that's the best
way for one community to reach out to another and keep communication open."
There are currently no Parkdale or local west end organizations involved with
the RHVP campaign, but Decker noted that the campaign is ongoing and that any
organization that wanted to take part would be valued. "In the end, this
issue of hate motivated crime is something that affects all of us," said
Decker. "We're hoping that through education and the empowering of LGTBQ
youth the under-reporting of sexual orientation based hate crimes will decrease."
More on the RHVP initiative and what organizations the police are partnered
with can be found here: www.torontopolice.on.ca/rhvp/
Queer West Festival forum focuses on gay rights
Originally published in Parkdale-liberty The Villager Newspaper. BY JASON
SAHLANI June 25, 2008
Capping off this year's Queer West Fest, a 10-day international queer festival
in Parkdale or the new 'Queer West Village', was a forum and educational workshop
on the state of human rights for the lesbian, gay, transsexual, bisexual and
queer (LGTBQ) communities around the world.
Hosted by local organization Gay West Community Network Inc. with the support
of ACT Toronto (AIDS Committee Toronto), the event was to premiere the documentary
Until the Violence Stops (V-Day) but because of the dialogue generated by the
speakers the group opted to continue their discussion instead.
"In Mexico, many people are assaulted and beaten based on what people
interpret to be a lesbian or gay look", said Carolina Gama, a member of
Mujeres al Frente (Women in the Front Line), a support group for Latin American
LBTIQ women and transgender persons from Mexico, Central and South America living
in Toronto. "Just having short hair, loose clothes, not wearing makeup,
anything not conforming to the female stereotype (would be a gay look)."
Gama went on to detail the problems Latin American LGTBQ women face when claiming
refugee status upon entering Canada. "A common problem Mexican LGTBQ people
face is being denied protection as a refugee because they can live in Mexico
City without any aggression, so they are denied refugee status and told to go
back even if they don't live anywhere near the city", said Gama. "Not
every LGBTQ who is tortured, violated, beaten, raped is granted asylum in Canada."
The second speaker, Andrea Siemens, has worked extensively with Amnesty International's
Refugee Network and Christian Peacemaker Teams overseas in Uganda and The West
Bank and said the persecution some had to face could be found in almost all
aspects of their society.
"A very widely read weekly tabloid in Uganda have at least three times
published lists of 30 to 40 people that they identified to be gay or lesbian
by name and at times dates of birth," Siemens said. "These people
would lose their jobs, their homes and have to deal with people who can be very
Siemens added she encountered a number of people overseas who hold the perception
that the system in place to accommodate refugees or asylum seekers in Canada
is easily accessible, but said in reality it can be difficult to secure status.
"Even with all the documented problems it's still very difficult for someone
from Uganda identified as queer to come to Canada and say 'I'm facing persecution'
and be granted asylum," Siemens said. "It's hard to believe and it
works on a case-to-case basis, but one of the issues that comes up is proving
Moderating the event was Parkdale resident Michael F. Paré, a longtime queer
rights activist, who allowed the dialogue to remain open but focusing on the
Eventually the discussion turned to steps the LGBTQ communities in Toronto
could take to help build a stronger support network for victims of human rights
"As more queer people come here and get active, then that will help bring
more attention to problems and build stronger networks," Siemens said.
"I have a lot of faith in people, I think we have to speak up, we must
fight for our rights on a daily basis," Gama said. For more information
about Queer West events, visit www.queerwest.org
Java Knights takes place on the last Tuesday of every month.
West end queer parties delineates traditional Toronto June Pride month events
Thursday June 12, 2008. The west end of the city, primarily the Queen St. W.
strip from Ossington to Dufferin, has gone through a massive facelift in recent
years. This rapid rejuvenation has often been attributed to the opening of the
Drake Hotel some five years back, but before the Drake put Queen W. on the map,
there was a burgeoning arts community flourishing. Dozens of galleries scattered
amongst deteriorating storefronts, sandwiched between appliance retailers and
pawnshops, created a new bohemia. Weekly queer parties were a regular occurrence
in the warehouses and lofts within this once affordable neighbourhood.
Out of this scene sprung a vibrant queer culture with a younger mixed crowd
seeking something different, a group not hung up on their, or anyone else’s,
sexuality. The area has adapted to the rising queer presence and Queen West
is now affectionately known as Queer West.
Toronto is already one of the queerest cities in the universe. And, while long
known for having one of the biggest and most successful Pride celebrations in
the world, a new smaller grassroots community festival aims to showcase an alternative
side to queer culture in the city. Queer West Fest takes place June 13 to 22,
the week prior to the massive outdoor street party around the Church and Wellesley
ghetto, with 10 days of eclectic programming.
Queer West Fest showcases the best of west end queer culture by taking over
various establishments, some queer operated and the others queer positive.
Fri. June 13 - Opening night, on a normally unlucky but in this case celebratory
day, Will Munro’s post-punk NOT T.O. explodes from the Beaver Cafe. The
following day is an afternoon Community Fair at the Drake Hotel with dozens
of artists, vendors and organizations represented. “We may love club hopping
around the city, but we come home to Queen West,” notes curator Mia Nielsen.
The night then ramps up with a naughty evening of Dirty Bingo at the Friendly
Bar. Dirty Bingo was a regular staple at the Living Well Café before
it met its demise a few years back. “It actually ended up being a positive
thing for me,” says bingo-ball buster Shirley. She now gigs weekly at
various bars throughout the city. Prizes range from bongs and dildos to bar
tabs. Everyone hoping to win goes wild when she calls out her favourite number,
Sun. June 15 - The popular annual Pride bike ride from Sunnyside to the Beaches
takes place at noon. Last year 25 cyclists rode the route decked out in boas
and biker shorts. The summer weather is just starting to heat up and most riders
take this as an opportunity to get a tan base, happily exposing lots of luscious
skin. The ride is as much about cruising each other as it is cruising along
the lakefront. If you fall into either of these categories, get ready to pedal
Tues. June 17 - The gay-operated establishment the Gladstone Hotel plays host
to a significant number of queer events throughout the year with its expansive
mix of homo happenings. It would only seem fitting that Queer West Fest has
three of its major events there starting with the monthly event Java Knights.
Java Knights has been taking place the last Tuesday of every month for the past
four years but the June edition (featuring a human rights panel discussion)
actually falls one week earlier to align itself within the Queer West Fest schedule.
Confirmed panelists include Carolina Gama (Mujeres a Frente) and William Payne
who will be discussing homophobic and transphobic violence in the Colombian
civil conflict. It’s another event that draws a very diverse mix of ages
and genders, with the topics typically prompting freewheeling debates and discussions.
Wed. June 18 - Queer Ears and Eyes is a night of musical madness and visionary
views. This midweek event spotlights live performances by GiraGira.gif and Vivek
Shayra, along with 4est in the Gladstone’s Melody Bar. A concurrent queer
arts exhibition, in the more intimate Art Bar, features works by Chantelle Gobeil,
Mick Fin, Philip Cairns and Michael F. Paré. An artist reception from
7-9pm with music by sexy sounds dispenser Fait Dormi will erupt into an all
out dance party ’til 2am.
The Queer West Film Fest, a truly independent film festival with both local
and international filmmakers on the roster. The event takes place in the outdoor
parking lot at the Good Catch General Store starting at dusk.
Thurs. June 19 - Wilde Chats, a Socrates-style conversation held at Tinto’s
Coffee House and lead by Toronto gay activist Michael F. Paré. “At
my age I will continue to be the bridge builder, the one who can enable good
things to occur as I have in past years. The one who uses life lessons to be
compassionate in regards to others and to actually see ways in which I can bring
about warmth and agreement,” he proclaims.
Fri. June 20 - Frydaze is an after-work every evening showcase taking place
at the Gladstone Melody Bar with queer bands People You Know (all girl rockers)
and the post-punk sounds of The Torrent. Plus Toronto’s first all-male
burlesque troupe, Boylesque, guaranteeing sweaty fun.
Sat. June 21 - The closing weekend goes out banging with Knotty Knights, an
’80s dance party held at Lot 16. This was one of the more popular parties
last year with the tiny bar filled with a frenzy of grinding bodies.
Sun. June 22 - Recover at the afternoon Family Brunch at queer owned Mitzi’s
Sister and then catch a stunning evening performance of Queerly Beloved by Forte,
the 24-voice gay men’s chamber choir, at Emmanuel Howard Park United Church.
Ongoing The bear-influenced Fur Real Art Collective at Gallery 1313 and local
artist, and rampant nudist, Leif Harmsen’s HOMODIGITAL Art Show at the
Fountain Contemporary Gallery are other notable highlights of the week.
Queer West Fest – June 13th to 22nd, 2008– Various locations in
along West Queen West, in the heart of Gay Toronto's Queer West Village –