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First Canadian GLB Survey Dispute Settled
Completion of project uncertain

AFTER a year and a half the researchers involved with the First National GLB Survey have settled their differences with the national rights / lobby group Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere (EGALE) regarding the two parties' relative roles in the project and ownership of the survey data.

"The Board ... decided to withdraw from further involvement in the project and allow the researchers to continue alone," announced EGALE President Kim Vance to that organization's membership on April 20th.

"The researchers retain exclusive ownership and copyright of all materials and assets relating to the project, including the returned surveys and the database," declared Survey Principal Researchers Sandra Goundry and Stephen Samis in a separate statement on April 26th.  "In addition, EGALE will forward information related to distribution methodology to the researchers and destroy any survey information in its possession that could identify survey respondents.  EGALE will also pay the researchers the sum of $6,000," they added.

The dispute began in late 1998, shortly after the data collection stage of the survey was completed.  It became a somewhat embittered battle with attempts to reconcile differences failing.  According to Ms. Vance "by the end of last year it appeared inevitable that the matter was headed for court."

After much discussion EGALE decided not to litigate the matter.  "[The] Board of EGALE has been increasingly concerned that by the time the parties finished fighting over the data in court, the credibility of the project as a whole would have been substantially diminished, regardless of who won in court," continued Ms. Vance.

"Ultimately we would like to see the project completed, and our decision will allow that goal to be accomplished without the project being undermined through adversarial public proceedings.  This decision will also allow EGALE to focus its finances, time, energy and other resources exclusively on our many other upcoming projects ... We wish the researchers well in their efforts to complete the project," concluded Ms. Vance.

"With the lawsuit behind us, we can get back to work," said Mr. Samis in his joint statement with Ms. Goundry.

Nowhere to go?

But the Researchers won't be able to go far, impending possession of the data notwithstanding.  The project is almost broke.

The $185,000 in federal government funding for Phase I of the project - survey development and distribution - has been spent.  And the application submitted for funding to complete the project - data analysis, formation of possible conclusions, report generation and distribution - has been made moot by EGALE's exiting the project.

"We've withdrawn from that joint application," stated EGALE Executive Director John Fisher yesterday, who confirmed that the federal government has been notified of EGALE's role in the project having ended.

The researchers have raised some private funding - donations from individuals - which will enable them to begin the next task of data entry.  But the amount of money raised won't be enough to see them through.

"We'll be asking the government for more money," said Lawrence Aronovitch, spokesperson for the Researchers, from Vancouver yesterday.  But he was unable to state how much will be requested.

The researchers had made no plans, either, to accommodate a positive dispute outcome for them or the void which will be left by EGALE's withdrawal from the remainder of the project.  Nor are they able to account for the use of the funds to date.

"The accounting was done by EGALE," said Mr. Aronovitch, who explained that that organization "submitted forms to the government to get reimbursed."  EGALE's role included budgeting and administration in addition to distribution of the survey, in return for a piece of the Phase I funding of $185,000, he stated.

Mr. Samis and Ms. Goundry do not combine to form any organization.  They refer to themselves as simply the 'Principal Researchers' of the First National GLB Survey.

Additional federal government funding, however, may be contingent upon the recipients being organizationally housed or associated.  Without the involvement of EGALE, it is uncertain whether the Survey data, now owned exclusively by Mr. Samis and Ms. Goundry, will be government financed in their being processed - if at all - into a report product.

Surveygate?

The matter of the Survey having received federal government funding was brought to the attention of the Opposition parties in the House of Commons this week, who together with the Ottawa Sun seem intent on creating a miniature rainbow version of last winter's HRDC grants scandal.

Opposition MPs were quoted as emphatically disagreeing with further government funding, saying the whole project should be abandoned.  They reportedly are appalled at the $300,000 figure which had been in the joint application for funding for completion of the project.

"We aren't asking for anything," stated Mr. Fisher with clarity yesterday on behalf of EGALE.  "That joint application was 2-years ago," he added.

When questioned regarding the size of the funding request, Mr. Fisher described it as representing a "wish list," referring to the frequent result of the size of government grants provided being less than that requested.

"A large chunk of that money was to go to EGALE," commented Mr. Aronovitch.  Now that the joint application is moot, he stated that he didn't think the Researchers would be requesting that much in resubmitting.  He admitted that the void left by EGALE will have to be filled one way or the other as well as cost-estimated.

Solid foundation, great potential

Disputes, money, and parliamentary rhetoric aside, completion of the survey promises to reveal valuable aggregate descriptions of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Canada.  Applications of such measurements are many and this type of data has been long sought.

"I don't know of any other study in the world that has that size of data set," stated Mr. Aronovitch of the 8000 returned surveys.

We look forward to analyzing the data and sharing our findings.
- Sandra Goundry and Stephen Samis
 
 
Forty thousand surveys were printed and distributed, asking questions ranging from basic demographics to relationship status, family, and coming out factors such as 'when' and 'how much.'  Taking several months to develop, the process included half a dozen focus groups from across the country, graphic design, translation and printing.  Descriptions of distribution methods used have yet to be released from EGALE, although electronic distribution was not among them.

Mr. Samis, who lives in Vancouver, holds a Master's Degree in Sociology.  He came across the idea, according to Mr. Aronovitch, while performing graduate research on the subject of violence against gay and lesbian people in Vancouver.

"He wanted to expand it nationally," said Mr. Aronovitch of Mr. Samis.  "He spoke to [officials at] the Ministry of Justice - it was during the time that Bill C-41 (Hate Crimes) was going on.  The content of the survey was expanded beyond violence."

Ms. Goundry, who Mr. Aronovitch described as a research lawyer and Vancouver independent consultant, joined the initiative in order to have it balanced with a lesbian perspective.

EGALE came to be involved as well, according to Mr. Aronovitch, and funding was requested and received from various federal government ministries through the coordination of the Ministry of Justice.

Ms. Goundry concluded her statement with Mr. Samis by saying "Subject to funding, once the data entry is complete we look forward to analyzing the data and sharing our findings ... [W]e are grateful for all the support we received over the past 18 months and hope that we can rely on further support from the community, the funders and other interested stakeholders."