Local politicians address plight of gay and lesbian youth

An interview with local politicians

The Mind’s Eye, May 14, 1999

I recently interviewed Nanaimo’s representatives MP Reed Elley (Canadian Alliance Party), MLA Dale Lovick (New Democratic Party of British Columbia), and Mayor Gary Korpan to discuss their views about gay and lesbian youth, and our rights. While this interview focuses one specific issue, it can teach us much about who is representing us in government.

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of gay and lesbian youth?

Gary Korpan: I don’t recall ever having thought about it

Dale Lovick: I think of the discrimination these young people face and Their feelings of isolation. Intolerance in society can create a difficult and sometimes dangerous environment for gay and lesbian youth.

Reed Elley: I see young people as varied as any other group of people.

What do you know about the problems facing gay and lesbian youth in Nanaimo?

Gary Korpan: Well, I imagine like any community there are always people who take offence to that lifestyle and activity. Some of the more outraged might make violent threats, I might imagine.

Dale Lovick: Youth in Nanaimo experience the same problems as in any other area.

Reed Elley: My office has never had any complaints, letters, or calls that I am aware of, regarding this subject.

What do you plan to do to educate people about the problems facing gay and lesbian youth in Nanaimo?

Gary Korpan: Nothing that is not my area of issues

Dale Lovick: I think what the Minister of Education has done in the last few years provide a dramatic education on the problem. Specifically, Mr. Ramsey stood up to those reactionary, narrow-minded school trustees who wanted to discriminate Against same sex families when they tried to ban books in Surrey.

Reed Elley: I respond to every constituent’s problems within the sphere of federal jurisdiction.

What are you doing to improve the state of gay and lesbian youth in Nanaimo?

Gary Korpan: The activities that I undertake as Mayor are meant to improve the quality of life for the whole community, not any specific minority group.

Dale Lovick: As a politician I am a member of a government which has taken a very clear position on the matter. We have recently passed legislation extending pension benefits For same sex couples and I will continue to speak out against discrimination.

Reed Elley: All youth in Nanaimo as in the whole of the Nanaimo-Cowichan riding, face the same difficulties of high-cost education, high unemployment, and high taxes. I am working in Ottawa to improve opportunities for all youth.

What do you plan to do about underfunded gay and lesbian youth programs such as Youthquest?

Gary Korpan: They are entitled to apply to the City Council if they can meet the requirements of the municipal grant application. I would expect the grants committee would analyze it and my recommendation considered by council like any other group.

Dale Lovick: I believe that British Columbia has the best track record of all provinces in Canada for funding programs in this area and our government will continue to support these kinds of programs.

Reed Elley: No comment.

What do you think should be done to protect Gay and Lesbian Youth?

Gary Korpan: I think that we have sufficient sections of the criminal code to protect any person from physical violence and we have a dedicated police force to investigate and charge offenders no matter who the victim is.

Dale Lovick: We need to ensure that harassment and violence are not tolerated anywhere in our society. Young people regardless of their sexual orientation need to be able to grow up in a safe and secure environment.

Reed Elley: Any criminal act should be reported to the local police and dealt with under the criminal code.

What steps do you plan on taking to eliminate homophobia?

Gary Korpan: I think my responsibility, as mayor is one of trying to encourage all people to be law abiding.

Dale Lovick: I think it’s all about education. As Minister Ramsey has done, we must continue to present these innocent stories about children with two moms and dads.

Reed Elley: I believe the best way eliminate discrimination is through education, legislation, and the courts. Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms should guarantee that everyone is treated equally. Often when people feel threatened they may lash out at those they feel are the cause, therefore eliminating the fear, though true equality is our best hope of living in harmony.

What’s your opinion on the gay and lesbian rights movement?

Gary Korpan: I think there’s a danger that some advocates are demanding so much for themselves that they may alienate the majority.

Dale Lovick: I admire the courage of the people involved. But it’s sad that there is need for such an organization.

Reed Elley: “Rights movements” is created when it is seen that one particular group is not receiving fair and equal treatment from society or government. The problem with all such movements is knowing when they have achieved their aims and learn to step back and not produce a backlash from the majority of society.

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