Apathy stalls GLBTTQ centre

By Miranda Morningstar

Plans for a proposed GLBTTQ community centre in Ottawa have stalled due to a decline in active members and volunteers in the corporation in charge of steering the project.

When the corporation’s board held its second annual general meeting last month, only seven members with voting privileges attended, not enough to reach a 20-person quorum.

Unable to pass motions, the group held an informal meeting to discuss a motion to dissolve the corporation due to a decline in membership.

The motion suggested dispersing the corporation’s assets to Pink Triangle Services, an organization that provides programs and services to Ottawa’s GLBTTQ (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Trans, Two-Spirit, Queer) community.

“We can’t even dissolve the corporation,” says James Bromilow, former chair and current member.

“The motion . . . was to draw a line in the sand,” Bromilow says. “Either you want a community centre, or you don’t want a community centre.”

The numbers speak for themselves, he says.

This year, several board and general members resigned, halting the centre’s development.

The corporation has 63 official members, but only a small number are actively involved in the project.

“Building a community centre takes more time and energy than any of us could give,” says Peter Zanette, the corporation’s interim chair and treasurer.

Many corporation members volunteer with other organizations, which results in scheduling conflicts.

Meetings for these groups often fall on the same date, forcing members to choose which one to attend.

“What this community centre needs is a consistent core of people whose primary volunteer focus is this community centre project,” says Zanette.

Ottawa hasn’t had a common organization for sexual and gender minorities since the Association of Lesbians, Transgender(s), Gays and Bisexuals of Ottawa shut down in 1995 due to financial problems.

The association offered social gatherings, a newspaper, and was a political advocate for the GLBTTQ community.

A city-funded study in 2002 recommended the development of a community centre for GLBTTQ residents. The study said Ottawa needs such a centre to break isolation and foster belonging for people within the community.

The centre has been in the planning stages for nearly a decade. It is envisaged that it would provide a home to GLBTTQ organizations and health and social programs.

Jessica Freedman, centre trustee for the designated transsexual or transgender seat, says there has been no progress since the September meeting.

“It was very disappointing,” she says. Part of the problem is finding a common goal for the centre, says Freedman.

Some members of the community want the centre to be a social hub, complete with a gym, swimming pool and other such facilities, she says.

Other community members, such as bisexual, two-spirit (aboriginal people with both masculine and feminine qualities), transsexual and transgender individuals, see the centre’s main use as a provider of social services, she says.

“There’s a real difference of opinion,” Freedman says. “Both sides need to be considered.”

Left in limbo, remaining board members will brainstorm the next move for the centre initiative. Though there are no concrete plans, the board might organize a special general meeting to formally determine the future of the community centre, says Freedman.

“It may be on the back burner, but it’s not extinguished,” says Zanette. “We may have to walk slower, or go a different path, but I think it ain’t over yet.”