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Tuesday, January 04, 2000

Lesbians get $250,000 in handouts from Ottawa
Hedy Fry's ministry sends lion's share to her home province
Stewart Bell
National Post

While federal agencies that provide essential services have been struggling with reduced budgets, the government has been handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby groups for lesbians, a leaked document shows.

According to a draft working paper titled Approved Funding ... Target Group: Lesbians, Status of Women Canada paid $253,918 for a "lesbian planning conference" and other similar events during the 20-month period ending Dec. 4, 1998.

Groups such as the Newfoundland Amazon Network, Lesbian and Bisexual Wimmin in Action, in Prince George, B.C., and La Collective Lesbienne in Ottawa were among those that received grants from the federal ministry's Women's Program between 1996 and 1998, the report says.

Since then, the ministry, headed by Hedy Fry, the Secretary of State for the Status of Women, has continued directing tax dollars to lesbian causes, funding such studies as "Alternate visions of lesbian family" and "A feminist analysis of needs, models and their major social, economic and legal impacts for women in lesbian relationships."

More than half the spending outlined in the report was in British Columbia, where Ms. Fry is an MP. Advocacy groups there were given $145,418 over the 20 months, including a $15,800 grant to the Wimmin in Action group for an "investigation of support services required by lesbian and bisexual women."

The Lesbian and Gay Immigration Talk Force, in Vancouver, got $45,525 "to formulate recommendations on how federal immigration regulations can be changed to recognize same-sex relations."

A $22,093 grant to the Quesnel Women's Resource Centre in the B.C. Interior aimed "to increase the access and participation of lesbians in the community of Quesnel and to organize the community to address the economic issues for women to obtain higher education."

Atlantic Canada got the least money, with $4,000 going to the Amazon Network for "a two-day working session for the purpose of identifying the human rights issues affecting lesbians, developing strategies to address those issues, and taking responsibility as individuals and as a committee to implement the strategies."

As the grants were being distributed, the Canadian Armed Forces was trying to keep up with a growing number of international peacekeeping missions, despite a budget that has dropped 23% since 1991, and the RCMP was abandoning fraud cases because it did not have enough funding.

But there was no shortage of government money for groups such as La Collective Lesbienne, which got $20,000 to study "the reality of lesbian francophones in Ontario." A $10,000 grant to Environments for Women, "a group of women who are concerned about the lack of a gender perspective in school curriculum," aimed to encourage students to explore the lives of lesbians and other women. The government funding "will support the revision and production of the curriculum as well as the support material."

The Ad Hoc Committee of Accessibility and Lesbian Issues was given $21,500 to study the needs of "abused lesbians and abused women with disabilities." The program also gave $20,000 to Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE) for a controversial study on discrimination against homosexuals and bisexuals that has already cost taxpayers at least $185,000 and is now frozen due to a legal dispute between the researchers and the lobby group.

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