THE TALK OF THE TOWN

SHE SAID, HE SAID, THEY SAW … WHAT?
Source Of Protest Tip-Off Remains A Mystery

The LGBTQ community turned out strong and proud to counter a protest that never materialized.

Organizers and participants involved in a counter-protest on Saturday, July 27 at Gordon Neighbourhood House may have been victims of a false alarm. 

Two days before the Kids ’N Queens event at that community centre word went out to the community, mostly through social media, that an anti-LGBTQ group calling themselves Culture Guard had contacted the venue to inform them that they would be staging a protest against the event. Kids ’N Queens was being promoted as a family-friendly gathering for local drag artists to share readings and fun activities with children and their parents. On the day of the event the courtyard in front of Gordon Neighbourhood House was filled with folks with colourful costumes, banners, placards, and flags all proclaiming some variation of the message “Love, Not Hate.”

No protestors from Culture Guard were in evidence, though there was a widely shared story to the effect that a small group had been spotted and, once they saw the size of the crowd, beat a hasty retreat. In the meantime, everyone had a great time mingling with friends and neighbours and welcoming the families as they arrived for the event.

In an effort to track down the source of the original “warning” of the impending protest, The West End Journal (TWEJ) contacted Kari Simpson, the executive director of Culture Guard. Simpson first gained local notoriety in the 1990s when, as a spokesperson for the Christian Coalition of BC, she led an initiative to have two gay-friendly books, One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dad, Blue Dads and Asha’s Mums banned from the Surrey school system. She has since spearheaded numerous ant-LGBTQ organizations and initiatives.

According to Simpson, Culture Guard did not contact anyone in connection with Kids ’N Queens, and went on to state “I only learned about this event when I started getting hate mail and death threats. But Gordon Neighbourhood House is definitely on our radar now, and we will be looking into their sources of funding. We only protest events of this sort when they take place in public venues that receive government funding.

“When we are planning a protest of this sort, we always issue a media release in advance and push it on social media. That’s how we get large crowds of our supporters out. Nobody would have needed to contact the venue to warn them,” Simpson added.

We also spoke with Vancouver Pride Society executive director Andrea Arnot, who confirmed that the society had not received a warning directly from Culture Guard, but had shared the information on social media after receiving a heads-up from the event’s organizer and lead drag artist, Mina Mercury. In turn, when contacted by TWEJ, Mercury stated that the warning posted on their social media was in response to a message from Gordon Neighbourhood House, saying that they had received a communication from Culture Guard, and shared the information widely out of concern for the children who would be present.

While several sources repeated that they been told by others that a small contingent of protesters had shown up, and then departed, none was actually a witness to this themselves and were unable to name anyone who had been.

Gordon Neighbourhood House directors and event coordinators were not available for comment at the time (6 p.m. July 30) the August issue of The West End Journal was launched. 

We will follow up with more information as it becomes available. In the meantime, it appears that the entire counter-protest was the result of, at the very least, a serious miscommunication.

The race is on to see who, if anyone, can take the Vancouver Centre parliamentary seat away from Dr. Hedy Fry.

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

With the nomination of the NDP’s candidate on Sunday, July 28 , the race is on to see who, if anyone, can overcome the popularity built in Vancouver Centre by MP Dr. Hedy Fry during her 26-year incumbency. Fry will face off against Conservative candidate David Cavey, NDP’s Breen Ouellete, Green candidate Jesse D. Brown, and People’s Party of Canada’s Louise Kierans.

In the 2015 federal election, of 58,048 votes cast in this riding, Hedy won with 32,554, the NDP’s Constance Barnes came second with 11,618, the Conservative’s Elaine Allan received 9,818, and the Green’s Lisa Barrett had 3,370 votes. The Libertarian candidate John Clarke received 614 votes, while Marxist-Leninist candidate Michael Hill had 74.

It was unknown at press time (Monday, July 29) whether the Marxist-Leninists or Libertarians would be fielding candidates in Vancouver Centre.

If you live west of Burrard Street, from English Bay to Burrard Inlet, you are a resident of Vancouver Centre. The riding also includes Yaletown, Downtown, Gastown, parts of Chinatown, and south of False Creek between Ontario and Arbutus Streets south to 15th Avenue.

The Bute and Haro infrastructure program. (click to enlarge map)

TIME TO FIX THE PLUMBING
West End Upgrades Have Begun

As announced last March, the City of Vancouver has now begun water infrastructure upgrades to our neighbourhood, beginning at the western end of the project at Robson Street between Chilco and Gilford. Observant residents have already noticed preparations in the form of markings on the pavements. Work will progress eastward up Haro from Chilco to Thurlow, and then follow Bute from Haro to West Pender.

Scenes like this one (Robson and Gilford) will become a common (and noisy) occurrence as work proceeds on West End infrastructure upgrades.

Work will take place Mondays through Fridays from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with the possibility of extended hours, up to 8 p.m. on weekday, and weekends as needed. The project includes replacing the existing water main below Haro and Bute with a larger-capacity system. This new water main will have a life expectancy of about 100 years to help provide services to support growing demand due to extensive development in the neighbourhood, while also improving the system’s seismic resiliency. 

There will be detours and road closures, bus stops may be relocated, and there will be some parking restrictions. Some trees will be removed in the course of these upgrades, and new trees will be planted in the vicinity. There will be some water supply disruptions, but, except in emergencies, there will be advance notice. You may have noticed some tree-trimming along the routes, clearing the way for the needed heavy equipment.

The timeline is expected to run through to the late summer of 2020.

Access to residences and businesses will be maintained, the City assures us. Further details can be found here

And … there will be more to come. Future plans for West End streets will include design improvements to the Haro Street bikeway, which will be the subject of community consultation this fall, and upgrades to the Chilco and Robson intersection and cul-de-sac, which will be rebuilt with design upgrades to improve safety and accessibility. This may include adding curb ramps, normalizing the intersection, separating walking from cycling, and adding amenities such as greenery, a park bench, and a water fountain.

The West End Community Centre had a Wheel of Fortune at Rockin’ In The Park.

WE ROCKED THE PARK!
(click photos to enlarge)

The sun shone brightly on July 13 as West Enders and friends turned out in droves for Rockin’ In The Park at Coal Harbour Park. Family entertainment, mini-golf, arts & crafts, youth programs, and a fundraising BBQ kept everyone busy, entertained, and well fed.

Numerous community groups and organizations were on hand with tents and kiosks, reminding everyone of the many opportunities for getting involved in our community.

Bruno Huber revisits the site of his former restaurant, Le Bistro de Paris.

REMEMBERING LE BISTRO DE PARIS

Sunshine Coast author Bruno Huber launched his book Folly Bistro at the Joe Fortes Library's Stanley Court Room last month. The book is a cautionary tale about owning a restaurant in Vancouver. Huber, who was a former resident of The West End, co-owned Le Bistro de Paris, a popular West End restaurant which opened months before the 2010 Olympics and closed two years later on Valentine's Day.

Prior to opening the restaurant at 751 Denman Street, on a site that is slated to become a condominium, Huber had minimal knowledge of French cooking. However, with a partner, he realized his dream, taking over a defunct French restaurant and blazing his own trail in Vancouver's culinary community, only to discover that owning a restaurant that featured haute cuisine was not as easy as it looks.

Huber chronicles his experiences in Folly Bistro (Granville Island Publishing: ISBN 978-1-9894670-0-8 ), a hilarious account of his interactions with a cast of characters that included prima donna chefs, a staff who would occasionally have affairs with each other, picky health inspectors, and an eclectic and fussy clientele from the West End and around the world.

At the book launch, which attracted some former clientele from the restaurant, Huber performed a sketch with members of The Actor's Drop-In from a stage play that is based on the book. A condominium is rising from the ashes of the site on 751 Denman Street.

The area under consideration for an English Bay masterplan. (click to enlarge).

CHANGES COMING FOR ENGLISH BAY WATERFRONT

Last month the Park Board received a report from staff recommending the creation of a masterplan for the West End’s English Bay waterfront, including expanding services and access to a number of beaches and parks in anticipation of future increases in population and tourism in the area.

The plan will cover the waterfront from the Burrard Bridge to Stanley Park and will include Sunset Beach, English Bay along with sections of Beach Avenue, Pacific Street, and the corner of Davie and Denman. Alexandra Park, home of the Haywood Bandstand, and Morton Park, site of the Laughing Men statuary, would also be included in the plan.

The plan is similar to one outlined in a request for expressions of interest sent out by the city in May, which caused some confusion among the current park commissioners and city councillors, who said that they knew nothing about it until it was made public. That plan had been approved by the previous council.

“We have some aging infrastructure that needs replacing,” said park commissioner John Coupar. “I hope that the Vancouver Aquatic Centre is in the scope of the plan. We haven’t built a lot of new facilities in the city around parks and recreation for the last ten years or so, and I think we need the information so we can move forward.”

The masterplan could include everything from enhanced recreational spaces, converting roadways into expanded park space, enhancements to the seawall, bike paths, and pedestrian crossings, and planning for waterfront restoration to adapt to climate change and resulting rising sea levels.

It is expected to take two or three months to confirm a consulting group for the masterplan, with planning work projected to take some 20 months to complete. Preparing detailed designs for the first phase of improvements are expected to begin in the spring of 2021.

Helaina Moses and Shane Hummel have settled their case against Denny’s on Davie.

DENNY’S SETTLES UP

It took awhile, but two visitors to the West End from the Yukon have settled their human rights complaint at Denny’s on Davie. The couple believed that they were singled out in a 2017 incident because they were Indigenous.

Helaina Moses and Shane Hummel, members of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation who live in Mayo, stopped in at Denny’s after a night in the city, hoping to enjoy a late-night breakfast. They claimed that when they sat down a server asked them to pay for their food in advance. Moses said that she checked with other customers and that she and Hummel were the only ones who had been asked to pay upfront, and were the only Indigenous customers. Denny’s ended up calling the police, citing a disturbance, and while nobody was arrested or charged Moses said that she felt degraded and racially profiled, so she filed the complaint to to the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

The complaint was scheduled to be heard in June, but, according to Moses, one week before the hearing, lawyers for Denny’s reached out to settle the complaint. According to a press release from the Legal Aid Society which represented the couple, Denny’s has agreed to issue a letter of apology and provide diversity and anti-racism training to its staff by the end of this year. Moses said that she is not allowed to disclose whether she received a financial settlement from the restaurant chain.

Case closed.