Skip to content

Dara Parker: Executive Director, Qmunity (Part Two)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2015/09/08


Interview with Dara Parker. Executive director of Qmunity and co-president of the board (Vancouver) for the United Nations Association of Canada. She discusses: family geography, culture, and language; academic qualifications; skills and knowledge from volunteering;  previous work experience for present position; earning executive director position of Qmunity, media appearances in video and writing, and responsibilities of this public representation; definition and sub-populations contained within the umbrella term “queer”; queer sub-population numbers; import for unified services of Qmunity; most important provision of Qmunity to the queer community; importance of inclusive provisions by Qmunity; Reconciling Injustices in a Pluralistic Canada at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue quote with international, national, and provincial context and possible futures; and ways to become involved with Qmunity or the queer community in general.

Keywords: binary, bisexual, British Columbia, Canada, Dara Parker, executive director, gender identity, non-profit, Qmunity, queer, sexual orientation, trans, United Nations, Vancouver.

Dara Parker: Executive Director, Qmunity (Part Two)

7. Approximately, how much of the British Columbian and Canadian general population might fit into this categorization of “queer”?

Well, that is a challenging question.  A lot of people ask.  A lot of people have various theories of response.  The short answer is we do not count it in census data.  We do not ask about sexual orientation. We ask about gender identity, but only in a binary concept, which is very limited in our perspective.  You are still not capturing folks who are transgender versus cisgender.  We just don’t know.  So there isn’t any countrywide survey data that accurately represents, and so you’re drawing conclusions from other indicators.  You might look at how many people self-identify on a smaller-scale survey.  And you get varying ranges of answers from that.  I would suggest that it is an underreported population because there is still fear of discrimination, a fear of being out.  And so when you are asking folks to report, they might not be fully answering.  And the studies that do exist, if you compare self-reporting versus behaviours, so for example, a man who has sex with a man who does not identify as gay.  That is my long answer that does not give a number

8. Qmunity provides a number of support services including Bute Street clinic, counselling, naturopathic clinic, older adult services, referrals, support groups, and youth services.[1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6],[7]What remains the greatest importance of these services in unison through Qmunity?[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14]

Ultimately, we exist to improve queer and trans lives.  And I think there are multiple pathways to doing that.  And so we like to think we do our work in four pillars.  We believe in meeting individual needs and empowering people where they’re at by providing direct support.  So, for example, that would be something like the counselling program, the naturopathic clinic, or our peer-facilitated support group, but we also believe that sometimes just having physical space is critically important to building healthier lives, and so we provide meeting rooms, and volunteer opportunities in our centre, as well as coming out special events like our queer prom and our honoring our elders tea in order to create spaces for people to connect and engage, and feel safe.  We also do a lot of education and training.  So we go out into community, businesses, government, other service providers to provide workshops on how to create more inclusive spaces, and we develop our own resources.  For example, our LGTBQ glossary, which you were perhaps quoting earlier, which provides tools for people on language, which is a tricky thing to navigate.  And then lastly, the media work that we do.  We might be called on to share expertise around queer and trans lives.  We consider that some of our advocacy work around raising visibility and providing queer expertise in the community.

9. Of these provisions, what one gives the most services to the queer community?

It depends on how you’re measuring it.  I would suggest that our youth program is our most active programs if you’re just looking at number of participants.  We have two weekly drop-ins that regularly serve between 40 and 60 youth that come from across Metro Vancouver, and sometimes beyond.  So that’s one of the core programs that our organization offers.

10. Qmunity hosts a number of events including Spring Fling (Adults 55+), International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia Breakfast (Fundraising event), Honouring our Elders High Tea (Adults 55+), Queer Prom (Youth 14-25), Pride Parade (All ages), Gab Youth Summer and Winter Cabarets (Youth 14-25), Volunteer Appreciation Party (Active Volunteers), Stack the Rack (Fundraising event), and Holigays Celebration (Adults 55+).[15] How does bringing in every sector (age, gender, orientation, and so on) of the queer community provide the necessary environment of inclusion through Qmunity?

As an umbrella organization, we do serve a very diverse population. We try to provide opportunities for everyone in the community to come together.  We also recognize there is a need to serve individuals of communities within the much larger community.  And so, we do a combination of both.  Some of our programs are restricted by identity. We have women-specific programming, trans-specific programming, youth-specific programming, et cetera, cutting along various identity lines.  And some of our programming is open to everyone, and encourages bringing various identities together to connect, share, engage, learn.

11. In your speech entitled Reconciling Injustices in a Pluralistic Canada at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue, you said, “Canadians are fortunate to live in one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to queer rights. This is especially important in a world where being queer is a criminal act in 76 countries and punishable by death in 5 countries.”[16] With some of these statements from last year in mind, what near, and far, future seems most likely for the queer community internationally, nationally, and provincially?

Those contexts are very different when looking from both a policy and cultural perspective, and those two things intersect.  So I think the differences will be extreme.  The good news, I think, is we’re all headed in the right direction.  I think, as evidenced by the SCOTUS decision.  You know, there are many of my colleagues in the states who never thought they’d see marriage equality in their lifetime.  And now, the US has declared marriage equality across all 50 states.  So that’s pretty exciting. I think we’re moving in the right direction, progress is being made toward more inclusion, more equity for queer and trans folks, and simultaneously, yes, there are many countries where it’s illegal to be gay and in 5 of those countries you can be punished by death.  While I see the conversation shifting, even internationally, I think it’s happening much more slowly in some of those contexts. And I also see that sometimes when progress happens in certain regions, for instance the US recognizing that, there are places that are more regressive.  There can be backlash against that progression because people are afraid.  In Turkey, the Pride Parade was cancelled in Istanbul.  I do not know why they did that, but it is interesting that as one region gains rights another used tear gas and rubber bullets to restrain a previously-approved Pride Parade in Istanbul.  I think we have to be conscious that there are communities that might suffer disproportionately when rights are gained in other areas.  And then fundamentally, in contexts like Vancouver, BC, Canada, where the majority of our legal rights have been enshrined for over a decade, it doesn’t necessarily mean they translate into lived equalities.  That is where our work is centered in taking those legislative changes and shifting culture to raise the visibility, create more inclusion, safety, acceptance, et cetera.

12. For those with an interest now or in the future, how can individuals donate, volunteer, become a member, or take action through Qmunity, or for the queer community in general?[17]

A good place to start is the website.  If you are new to the organization, you can find all of the details on some of the options you just listed: volunteering, donating, or getting involved in other ways.  And I think a more general starting point is to learn and embrace [allies].  And that’s both for folks in our community and external too.  I think we all have the potential to be allies.  As a white, cisgender, queer, able-body, Canadian, woman, I am an ally to almost everyone I work with.  I am an ally to gay men, queer people of color, trans folk, et cetera.  I think there’s an opportunity for all of us to do learning around our own communities and people we can be allies to, within, and outside our own communities.  We can do that by using the internet. (Laughs) There are an incredible number of resources out there in terms of articles, and films, and books.  You know, to get to know culture outside your own, and learn how to be a good ally.


[1] See Qmunity (2015). Youth Services.

[2] See Qmunity (2015). Older Adult Services.

[3] See Qmunity (2015). Support Groups.

[4] See Qmunity (2015). Counselling.

[5] See Qmunity (2015). Referrals.

[6] See Qmunity (2015). Bute Street Clinic.

[7] See Qmunity (2015). Naturopathic Clinic.

[8] See Qmunity (2015). Youth Services.

[9] See Qmunity (2015). Older Adult Services.

[10] See Qmunity (2015). Support Groups.

[11] See Qmunity (2015). Counselling.

[12] See Qmunity (2015). Referrals.

[13] See Qmunity (2015). Bute Street Clinic.

[14] See Qmunity (2015). Naturopathic Clinic.

[15] See Qmunity (2015). Special Events.

[16] See [Dara Parker] (2013, September 13). Here’s The Deal Sept 11.

[17] See KCR (2015). Qmunity: BC’s Queer Community Resource Centre.

Bibliography/References/Reference Listing

  1. [Dara Parker] (2014, March 28). Here’s The Deal. Retrieved from
  2. [Dara Parker] (2013, December 6). Here’s The Deal Dec 4. Retrieved from
  3. [Dara Parker] (2013, December 19). Here’s The Deal Dec 18. Retrieved from
  4. [Dara Parker] (2014, February 13). Here’s The Deal Feb 12. Retrieved from
  5. [Dara Parker] (2014, February 25). Here’s The Deal Feb 24. Retrieved from
  6. [Dara Parker] (2014, March 11). Here’s The Deal Feb 26. Retrieved from
  7. [Dara Parker] (2014, January 16). Here’s The Deal Jan 15. Retrieved from
  8. [Dara Parker] (2014, January 28). Here’s The Deal Jan 27. Retrieved from
  9. [Dara Parker] (2014, March 11). Here’s The Deal Mar 10. Retrieved from
  10. [Dara Parker] (2013, November 21). Here’s The Deal Nov 20. Retrieved from
  11. [Dara Parker] (2013, October 8). Here’s The Deal Oct 7. Retrieved from
  12. [Dara Parker] (2013, October 24). Here’s The Deal Oct 23. Retrieved from
  13. [Dara Parker] (2013, September 13). Here’s The Deal Sept 11. Retrieved from
  14. [Dara Parker] (2013, September 26). Here’s The Deal Sept 25. Retrieved from
  15. [Dara Parker] (2015, February 19). Inclusion Café at BC Housing. Retrieved from
  16. [Dara Parker] (2015, January 15). Unfiltered January 9, 2015. Retrieved from
  17. [SFU Centre for Dialogue] (2014, January 31). Dara Parker, Reconciling Injustices in a Pluralistic Canada. Retrieved from
  18. admin (2013, February 27). Thank Q. Retrieved from
  19. Ball D. (2015, August 5). Pregnancy a greater risk for lesbian, gay and bisexual B.C. teens, study finds. Retrieved from
  20. Barsotti, N. (2012, November 25). Staff shakeup at Qmunity. Retrieved from
  21. Bernardo, M. (2015, June 26). Vancouver advocates cheer top US court ruling on same-sex marriage. Retrieved from
  22. Brocki, L. (2013, November 21). Vancouver city council approves 30-year vision for West End. Retrieved from
  23. Carney, L. (2013, August 29). Five Vancouver restaurant faves from QMUNITY’s Dara Parker. Retrieved from
  24. Cassell, E. (2013, June 20). Canada marks 10 years of marriage equality ruling. Retrieved from
  25. Chan, K. (2014, May 16). International Day Against Homophobia Breakfast Celebrates Being Gay and Grey. Retrieved from
  26. Chhibber, A. (2014, August 6). Canada: LGBs more at risk of teenage pregnancy, says British Columbia study. Retrieved from
  27. CTV (2015, June 19). Business owner under fire. Retrieved from
  28. Dedyna, K. (2014, November 22). C. says ‘no one came forward’ for gender-alignment surgery. Retrieved from
  29. Dimera, M. (2012, May 24). People see Qmunity as relevant, says new ED. Retrieved from
  30. Edmiston, J. (2013, July 25). ‘Heteronormative’ Burger Family no threat to LGBT, rights tribunal says after receiving ‘outrageous’ complaint. Retrieved from
  31. Fellows, O.Z. (2013, October 21). Davie Village aims to grow from gay roots. Retrieved from Davie Village aims to grow from gay roots. Retrieved from
  32. Filipenko, J. (2013). Aging with Uncertain. Retrieved from
  33. Flock, E. (2013, August, 1). Russia’s Olympic Anti-Gay Threats Come After 2010’s ‘Gayest Olympics Ever’. Retrieved from
  34. Fumano, D. (2015, February 2). ‘A tragic day’: Ritch Dowrey, victim of violent 2009 West End gay bashing, dies. Retrieved from
  35. KCR (2015). Qmunity: BC’s Queer Community Resource Centre. Retrieved from
  36. Lee, F (2012, September 28). Robust belief in inclusion brings globe trotter to West End QMUNITY. Retrieved from
  37. Lewis, S. (2015, January 22). City still searching for new site for Qmunity centre. Retrieved from
  38. Lewis, S. (2015, April 14). Qmunity to begin consultations on new queer community centre. Retrieved from
  39. Lewis, S. (2013, April 16). Tight budget pushes Qmunity to plan programming changes. Retrieved from
  40. LinkedIn (2015). Dara Parker. Retrieved from
  41. Mertl, S. (2014, September 23). Gay seniors fear going into care means going back in the closet: report. Retrieved from
  42. Mietunnen, A. (2014, February 27). Community Voices: Responses to the West End Plan. Retrieved from
  43. Morris, K. (2014, August 11). Canadian Study Finds Gay and Lesbian Teens More Likely to Become Pregnant. Retrieved from
  44. Mui, M. (2013, October 17). Reprimanded teacher questioned whether parent was homophobic. Retrieved from
  45. News 1130 Staff (2015, June 26). Local gay community says SCOTUS ruling about same-sex marriage is ‘overwhelming’. Retrieved from
  46. News Staff (2015, March 11). Hurtful messages from father after finding out son is gay raises questions on parental response. Retrieved from
  47. Nursall, K. (2013, August 20). Anti-homophobia policies in schools reduce alcohol abuse for all students, UBC study finds. Retrieved from
  48. Parker, D. (2000, September 19). A few thoughts on being a girl. Retrieved from
  49. Janssen, M. (2015, May 27). Community Building 101. Retrieved from
  50. Parker, D. (2015, June 1). Have you forgotten already?. Retrieved from
  51. Parker, D. (2013, August 3). It’s not safe for queer athletes at Sochi 2014 Olympics. Retrieved from
  52. Parker, D. (2013, September 25). Qmunity. Retrieved from
  53. Parker, D. (2015, April 2). Qmunity’s Dara Parker: Proving queerness a challenge for LGBT refugees in B.C.. Retrieved from
  54. Parker, D. (2014, November 5). Qmunity’s Dara Parker: Three reasons why queer citizens should vote. Retrieved from
  55. Parker, D. (n.d.) Urban Travel Tales: About. Retrieved from
  56. Parker, D. (n.d.). Urban Travel Tales. Retrieved from
  57. Perelle, R. (2015, June 4). Qmunity centre consultation seems transparent and sincere. Retrieved from
  58. Positive Living Society of British Columbia (n.d.). Qmunity launches community consultations for new LGBT centre. Retrieved from
  59. Qmunity (2015, March). Aging Out. Retrieved from
  60. Qmunity (2015). Bute Street Clinic. Retrieved from
  61. Qmunity (2015). Counselling. Retrieved from
  62. Qmunity (2015). Naturopathic Clinic. Retrieved from
  63. Qmunity (2015). Older Adult Services. Retrieved from
  64. Qmunity (2015). Referrals. Retrieved from
  65. Qmunity (2015, April). Routes to Roots. Retrieved from
  66. Qmunity (2015). Special Events. Retrieved from
  67. Qmunity (2015). Staff: Dara Parker. Retrieved from
  68. Qmunity (2015). Support Groups. Retrieved from
  69. Qmunity (2015, March). Supporting LGBTQ Folk Experiencing Relationships Abuse. Retrieved from
  70. Qmunity (2015). Youth Services. Retrieved from
  71. com (2015). Dara Parker. Retrieved from
  72. Robins, M. (2012, June 20). 20 Questions With QMUNITY’s Dara Parker. Retrieved from
  73. Robins, M (2012, November 13). Spend 69 seconds with … Dara Parker. Retrieved from
  74. Russell, R. (2013). Free to be me. Retrieved from
  75. Schmunk, R. (2015, March 13). ‘This Is Worse Than Death’: B.C. Dad Reacts To His Son Coming Out. Retrieved from
  76. Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue (2015, June 4). In the Media: Daily XTRA and The Georgia Straight Credit QMUNITY Consultation. Retrieved from
  77. Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue (n.d.). Reconciling Injustices in a Pluralistic Canada. Retrieved from
  78. Takeuchi, C. (2013, December 20). Qmunity’s Dara Parker tackles homophobia against gay tenant in Retrieved from
  79. Takeuchi, C. (2015, May 19). Speakers express challenges of being LGBT refugees and parents of trans children. Retrieved from
  80. The Globe and Mail (2014, November 12). Transgender man files complaint against B.C. health ministry over surgical delay. Retrieved from
  81. The Vancouver Sun (2012, July 27). Dara Parker fell in love with Vancouver when she was 18. ‘I hate being cold. So for me, the trade-off of grey and wet here over being shivering cold in Toronto was a good one.’. Retrieved from
  82. The Vancouver Sun (2012, August 4). Video: The winding road back. Retrieved from
  83. The University of British Columbia (2015). Student Leadership Conference: Featured Presenters. Retrieved from
  84. Twitter (2015). Dara Parker. Retrieved from
  85. org (2008). 3Q’s. Retrieved from
  86. WTC Café XXIV: LGBT2Q+ Café (2015, January 24). WTC Café XXIV: LGBT2Q+ Café. Retrieved from
  87. YouTube (n.d.). Dara Parker. Retrieved from
  88. Yuzda, L. (2015, March 25). Vancouver Police accused of failing to update discrimination policies. Retrieved from


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: