British Columbia

Plaza honouring LGBTQ activist, community pioneer Jim Deva opens in Vancouver's West End

Friends of Jim Deva, a community activist and champion for free speech, say the plaza is a fitting tribute for someone who was “an amazingly tenacious man who was very, very passionate about community.”

Named Jim Deva Plaza in recognition of the late community activist, champion for free speech and LGBTQ rights

West End BIA's Stephen Reagan (left) and Barb Snelgrove (right), who sits on the City of Vancouver’s LGBTQ2+ advisory committee, stand in the Jim Deva Plaza on Bute Street in Davie Village. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

A new community gathering space in Vancouver's West End honouring the late Jim Deva officially opens today — which friends of the late LGBTQ activist say is a fitting tribute for someone who was "an amazingly tenacious man who was very, very passionate about community."

The Jim Deva Plaza, occupying a section of Bute Street from Davie to Burnaby Streets, has opened as part of Vancouver's 2016 Pride festivities.

"It's an amazing space," said Barb Snelgrove, a member of the City of Vancouver's committee overseeing management and programming in the plaza, speaking on the day before the opening.

"It's a beautiful sunny day, and it almost seems sunnier overlooking the plaza."

'A fitting tribute'

Deva, who died in 2014 at age 64  after falling off a ladder in his home, co-founded Little Sister's Book & Art Emporium on Davie Street.

He battled censorship by taking the federal government to court when it stopped gay and lesbian books from crossing the border into Canada in the late 1980s.

Deva, who died at 64 years old after falling off a ladder in his home in September 2014, co-founded Little Sister's Book & Art Emporium on Davie Street. (CBC)

Thousands turned out to his memorial at St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church in Sept. 27, 2014, with many friends sharing stories of how Deva personally went to bat for them when they were facing discrimination.

Snelgrove said the plaza, which will be host to a number of regular community events, is a "fitting tribute" to Deva and all that he stood for.

"He was very active in community policing and making sure — through city hall and the police department and businesses and the LGBTQ community — that all the voices had a place at the table and were all talking," she said.

"[He was] an amazingly tenacious man who was very, very passionate about community, very, very passionate about human rights and free speech.

"I'm glad that we are able to honour him with this legacy."

Plaza will host regular events

Stephen Reagan, executive director of the West End BIA, described Deva as someone who could apply just enough pressure when needed to get things done.

Friends of the late LGBTQ and free speech champion Jim Deva say the plaza is a fitting tribute to his legacy. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

"He and a few others worked very hard when there was a lot of street-involved youth in the West End in Davie Village," Reagan said.

"Case by case, person by person, Jim would take the time to find out what's needed.

"He would treat you the same whether you were the mayor of Vancouver or the server at the local restaurant or you're somebody involved in the street."

Reagan said that in addition to the benches and chairs that are in the plaza permanently, other tables and chairs with pride colours will also be put into the space, and there will be a public art work of a megaphone to "celebrate Jim's legacy of advocacy and speaking out."

"Then we're going to program regular occurring events, we're going to encourage a West End games night, an art market on Saturdays, we're working with Youth Direction Services to bring young talent, street-involved youth in the neighbourhood … a space to showcase their talents and be part of the community ...the sky's the limit."

Reagan added that he hopes the plaza will become a place where friends can meet up.

"My hope is that people as they come into this space will slow down. It's like a little eddy in the current of life."

With files from CBC's The Early Edition


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