YMCA of Greater Vancouver apologizes for handling of homophobic incident

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      After community criticism and media coverage, the YMCA of Greater Vancouver has issued an apology for how it handled a homophobic incident at the Robert Lee YMCA.

      The Robert Lee YMCA is located on Burrard Street, close to Vancouver's West End queer communities.

      According to reports, 36-year-old Aaron Poirier was in the change room on November 3 when a man, who was encroaching upon his space, allegedly called him a "fag" and threatened to punch him. Poirier called a manager, who confronted the man, but the man denied anything happening.

      On November 4, the man allegedly threatened Poirier again, this time in front of a staff member (as well as Poirier's partner).

      Staff filed an incident report but did not suspend the man's membership.

      According to reports, spokesperson Kelly Walker stated that YMCA protocol permits the man to have a second chance. She stated that management met with the man, who assured them that it would not happen again; that there was a letter in his file; and that he would be suspended if there was another incident.

      Poirier, a longtime YMCA member, filed a criminal complaint with the Vancouver police and suspended his own membership.

      In the wake of news reports and public outcry, the YMCA suspended the man's membership and posted the following message on its website on November 9:

      An incident occurred between two of our members at the Robert Lee YMCA this week in which one member made homophobic and threatening remarks to the other member.

      A formal criminal complaint has been made to the Vancouver Police Department. The membership of the individual in question has been suspended.

      The YMCA takes this incident very seriously. We are working with other community partners, including our local MLA's office and QMUNITY, to be a part of the solution to address discrimination and homophobia.

      The Y acknowledges that the initial way in which we handled this situation has caused anger, frustration and hurt for those involved and members of our community. We are sorry and wish we did better.

      The Y works hard everyday to be a safe place for all. While this incident is regrettable, we value the diversity of our community and believe that by working together, we can build a stronger, more inclusive society.


      Simon Adams
      Vice President Membership
      YMCA of Greater Vancouver

      The YMCA will receive queer competency training from Qmunity, B.C.'s queer resource centre, and will work with MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig. You can also follow the Georgia Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/StraightLGBT.


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      Michele Baillie

      Nov 14, 2012 at 10:40am

      Nice Statement. However, it doesn't erase the arrant bigotry of the YMCA in the first place; supporting the homophobe and punishing his target. People who get bullied at work get treated the same way. Rape victims are treated in similar fashion; it's their fault; not the perpetrators. Look how much of an uproar it took to get this apology.

      Words just don't do justice to just how wrong the YMCA's conduct is; covertly supporting hatred; because that's just what they are doing.