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Decision to cancel event made to protect vulnerable social groups

City council doesn’t want a hand in deciding events hosted by Vancouver Island Conference Centre, but it will step in if there’s even the potential for discrimination, according to Mayor John Ruttan.

Four days before a leadership teleconference was set to broadcast in Nanaimo, city council decided to advise the Vancouver Island Conference Centre not to host the event.

The motion, proposed by Coun. Fred Pattje, called for the City of Nanaimo, as owners of the conference centre, to advise the VICC that events will not be permitted if they are are associated with people or organizations that promote or have a history of divisiveness, homophobia or other expressions of hate.

According to Pattje, people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community felt Leadercast, a live simulcast featuring world leaders, was offensive and shouldn’t happen in a publicly owned facility.

Its sponsor is American fast-food chain Chick-fil-A, whose chief operating officer Dan Cathy has spoken out against same-sex marriage.

The event is also associated with Henry Cloud, a psychologist that Pattje said had been involved in therapy practices to heal gay people.

Pattje said he was trying to protect people who were hurt and offended when he made the motion.

But the move has also sparked debate about how much reach city politicians should have in deciding on events hosted in civic buildings.

City watcher Ron Bolin said city officials are not elected to be the community’s conscience: “are we going to make up a list of all those groups and decide who deserves to use our facilities and who doesn’t?”

Pattje and Ruttan, however, say as caretakers of what happens in city buildings there is a role for politicians to play.

“We do not want to become involved in making decisions about who can use it and who can’t but if there is discrimination against any sector of our community or even if there’s the potential for discrimination against any sector of the community then the city has an obligation to act where we can,” Ruttan said.

He also called the Leadercast a “unique issue” and one city council felt was an inappropriate use of the facility.

E.T. Turner, with the Vancouver Island Rainbow Association, also feels city leaders should have some say over what happens in public facilities. She said she was offended by the actions of the event sponsor and felt city council made a right move in not allowing Leadercast.

“I know that they are taking some flak for it and that’s unfortunate, but I do think it was correct,” she said.

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