A painted sign directing people to the SA's Food Cupboard (formerly the Wellness and Equity Centre) with a pride-coloured pillar is shown on Feb. 8, 2023. Photo credit: TJ Sider

The Algonquin Students’ Association’s Wellness and Equity Centre, a space dedicated to the college’s 2SLGBTQ+ community and allies, closed permanently last year due to low attendance.

The Wellness and Equity Centre, formerly known as the Pride Centre, opened in 2016 and offered peer support, resources and education for the college’s 2SLGBTQ+ community. Senior management of the Students’ Association made the decision to close the space at the end of the 2021-2022 school year.

The former centre, which used to be located in room B102 in the B-building, is now occupied by the Students’ Association’s Food Cupboard.

In a written statement sent to the Algonquin Times, Matt Regnier, manager of board communications and process at the Students’ Association, said recommendations to close the space were made by former Wellness and Equity Centre coordinator Quinn Blue when they left the role last year.

“Quinn’s recommendation was to transition from a physical space to events and having more of a presence outside that office,” said Regnier. “The physical space was rarely used, and it was generally for social time rather than resources.”

However, Baz Belliveau, 24, disagrees with the decision to close the space. Belliveau, a Level 2 community and justice services student, is the leader of Algonquin College’s Pride Club.

“The lack of space for 2SLGBTQ students does raise concerns with me,” Belliveau said. “I think people forget that while acceptance of the many sexualities under the queer umbrella is improving, our trans siblings are still facing massive amounts of vitriol and having a space in the college to retreat to is massively important.”

Belliveau is also a candidate in the upcoming SA Board of Governors election. They view the return of the space as a priority if elected.

“If chosen for the position, I plan to bring this issue up with my fellow directors to see if we can discuss it and find a way to bring it back,” Belliveau said.

The Students’ Association’s diversity and inclusivity coordinator, Nakeya Francis, oversees the college’s 2SLGBTQ+ tailored events. While she couldn’t comment on the Wellness and Equity Centre specifically, she says she is proud of the work she has done in the Students’ Association.

“I am personally enjoying my job a lot — like, a lot,” Francis said. “I really enjoy putting on these great events for all our diverse students, no matter where they come from, who they are. The SA is really investing this year into celebrating everyone and their differences and making everyone feel welcome as best they can.”