GayCalgary® Magazine [copy]

Fire Disrupts Pride Centre of Edmonton

News by Carey Rutherford & Rob Diaz-Marino (From GayCalgary® Magazine, September 2011, page 14)

Last month the Pride Centre of Edmonton posted a notice and media release on their website with alarming news.

"Due to a fire, the Pride Centre will be closed temporarily. We will continue to respond to telephone calls and email inquiries during this temporary closure. Regularly scheduled group meetings may experience a temporary change of location or hiatus, please contact us if you require further information on a particular group, program or service during this unfortunate disruption to our services."

You may be wondering what actually happened. As Executive Director Ashley Matchem explains, there isn’t much to tell.

"Unfortunately at this point, there’s not a whole lot of information to give. It was investigated as a hate crime. I think that was more of a precautionary item than an actual concern that it may be a hate crime. Because of the nature of what we do, serving a community that is marginalized, and does experience hate crimes for a number of different reasons."

"It was determined to be an arson fire.. Unfortunately the area that we’re in is prone to transient persons, so it’s not uncommon for there to be homeless people around that pick through dumpsters or have fires in the area. It may very well be that we were the unlucky centre of the night."

Ms. Matchem mentions that, as the fire was isolated around the electrical panels of the building, the building as a whole looks pretty much as it did beforehand, but their offices and programs can’t do a lot without an electrical supply.

"Right now, until we hear from insurance and the landlord as to when we can return to the building, we’ve arranged some temporary space through HIV Edmonton."

She’s pleased with the community response to their time in need, and she doesn’t just mean the LGBT community.

"I’ve been comforted in some way by the number of organizations and individuals that have reached out to help the Centre. And some of them aren’t necessarily organizations that you would see affiliate with a Pride Centre because of the nature of what we do. But a lot of people have been willing to help, to provide space, willing to volunteer: if we need to get in there and clean some stuff up, what can we do? It’s been comforting to see that there’s such community support from people who don’t identify anywhere along the LGBTQ spectrum; realizing that there’s more allies out there than what you think there are."

The Pride Centre of Edmonton’s phone and email contacts remain intact, so they can be reached for details about activities and support programs during their temporary closure.


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