National Post

Page URL: http://www.nationalpost.com/news.asp?f=991203/143139

Friday, December 03, 1999

Gay group wants another $310,000 for national survey
Would raise cost of controversial project to $500,000
Stewart Bell and Marina Jimenez
National Post

A national lobby group for gays and lesbians has asked the federal government for more money to finance a controversial study on discrimination against homosexuals and bisexuals that has already cost taxpayers $185,000.

According to a leaked application for a government research grant, obtained by the National Post, Equality For Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE) asked Health Canada for an additional $310,391 for the study.

The project has been criticized ever since the government announced last year that Canada's first government-financed national survey of gays and lesbians would be conducted by a lobby group with a vested interest in the results.

The study went ahead anyway, but is bogged down in a legal wrangle between EGALE and the two British Columbia researchers working on the project, who refuse to hand over the 8,000 completed survey forms because they fear the study's integrity is at risk.

Despite the ongoing problems, EGALE applied to the federal government's National Health Research and Development Program in March for more money that would bring the cost of the project to $500,000.

A Health Canada spokesman said yesterday the department gave $20,000 to the group last year but was holding off on approving additional grants for the study. "The program's been aware that there are legal matters, so we're just taking a wait and see approach," said Jeff Pender.

John Fisher, the EGALE spokesman in Ottawa, declined to comment due to the court dispute.

In the grant application, Laurie Arron, the EGALE president, asks for $24,000 for "personnel," $8,500 for travel, $1,800 for equipment and $276,000 for "supplies/services." The money is for 12 months of work.

"I don't think we should entertain this request," said Deepak Obhrai, the Reform MP for Calgary East, who has criticized the project from the start. "There's no value to the Canadian taxpayers out of this funding and absolutely there is no reason why taxpayers' dollars should be spent on this.

"First of all, this research does not have much credibility behind it due to the fact that it's done by a lobby group with a self-interest. Second, I don't see why taxpayers should fund it. This additional request, I mean, this is ridiculous, it should be stopped."

The First National Survey of Lesbians, Gay Men and Bisexuals, funded by the Department of Justice and several other federal departments, was meant to help guide lawmakers by providing a snapshot of the lives and concerns of homosexual Canadians. The surveys were distributed across Canada and given to two professional researchers for analysis.

In documents filed in court, however, the researchers allege that while the survey was advertised as "totally anonymous, completely confidential," EGALE had kept a database of those who had contacted its offices to request a copy of the questionnaire, which the researchers said was "unequivocally wrong."

EGALE replied that the accusation was defamatory and that its research methods were endorsed by a committee well-versed in social sciences. EGALE accuses the researchers of trying to hijack the study through "a campaign of demands, complaints, vilification, self-serving argument and refusals."

The dispute has also created the "jeopardy" that "adverse political forces, including but not limited to the Reform Party of Canada" and the auditor-general "will question EGALE's accountability and integrity," the group claims in court files.

A series of leaked internal reports on the project suggest the lobby group drew up elaborate plans -- including monitoring and tracking opponents -- to prevent its foes from influencing the study. EGALE said in the reports it was concerned that those opposed to the study "might seek to co-ordinate a broad-scale campaign to ... slant the final results."

Opponents "might seek to obtain and destroy large quantities of the survey," the group warned. It pledged that "any opposition to the project will be monitored ..." In addition, it said individuals wanting to fill out survey forms should be "pre-screened" and that there should also be "some tail-end scrutiny."




RELATED SITES:

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  • EGALE

    Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere, one of the prime lobbying groups for gays and lesbians in Canada.

  • Foundation for Equal Families

    Their proclaimed mandate is mandate is "to achieve equality and recognition for same-sex relationships and associated family rights through legal action and education." Look for updates on their court battles.

  • Copyright Southam Inc.