UPDATE: Nov. 19
Fundraising efforts to refurbish a memorial for 2001 Vancouver manslaughter victim Aaron Webster have exceeded organizers' goals.
The aim was $7,000 but $12,340 has been raised so far.
Now, $7,000 will be used for the needed work. The remaining funds will be held in trust for a scheduled maintenance in 10 years.
“The work to be done will include cleaning the plaque, replacing the bench, and cleaning up the shelter over the bench,” said fundraising organizer Kevin Dale McKeown. “Work will likely begin in the early spring and be completed a couple of months thereafter.”
He said Vancouver Park Board staff would announce when a new bench is installed in case a memorial event is held.
ORIGINAL: Nov. 12
Twenty years ago, Aaron Webster was severely beaten in a gay cruising area of Stanley Park.
He died in a friend’s arms at the scene shortly after.
Now, an appeal has gone out to refurbish a bench and plaque, raised in Webster’s memory near Second Beach. The monuments, located at the intersection of two paths, also serve as a reminder of the violent homophobia that is not unknown in the Lower Mainland.
A year after the killing, a memorial calendar was published to raise funds for the bench. Webster, a noted photographer, took most of the images in the calendar.
It was friend Tim Chisholm who found Webster. He and other friends of Webster’s are reaching out to the LGBTQ2S+ community and its allies for help raising the $7,000 needed to refurbish the bench and plaque.
Vancouver-West End MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert is glad the call has gone out to maintain the memorial.
“It’s a very important place for us to go and remember him and the acts of hate over many years,” Chandra Herbert said.
Webster’s attackers used pool cues, a golf club and baseball bats when they attacked him, the court heard. They claimed they were looking for “peeping toms.”
Instead, they found Webster — naked, except for his shoes. They pursued him through the park to his car.
Webster fell to the ground and the beating continued, the court was told at trial.
Ryan Cran was convicted of manslaughter in BC Supreme Court on Feb 8, 2005. He's one of three people convicted in Webster's killing.
Of the three, two youths pleaded guilty in the case and both have finished their sentences.
A fourth male, Danny Rao, was acquitted in adult court on Feb 8, 2005, the same day Cran was convicted. Following his acquittal, he began screaming, “f**k you” at court spectators.
In one of the youth’s cases, however, the judge added a hate motivation designation to the teen’s sentence, although the prosecutor had chosen not to pursue it as a hate-motivated crime.
“I fail to see why this cannot be described as a gay-bashing,” Judge Valmond Romilly ruled, rejecting the youth’s claim that his actions were not motivated by a hatred of gays.
Romilly said it was hard to believe that the youth could be “so naive that [he] did not notice this area was frequented by gays.”
The attack horrified the city’s LGBTQ2S+ community, which waited for months as police worked to get a break in the case.
When it came time for BC Supreme Court Justice Mary Humphries to sentence Cran, she called the attack random, cowardly and terrifying.
“What is so chilling about this case is that this group seems to have done this for some reprehensible and almost inconceivable concept of entertainment,” Humphries said in sentencing Cran.
“He must pay for this crime,” Humphries said.
The day after Webster’s death, Murray Bilida organized a march in the West End. Hundreds of people marched through downtown streets to the site of Webster’s death. Other marches and vigils followed. A community meeting on how to combat homophobia was also held at a Davie Street hotel.
The funds for the memorial must be raised by the end of December 2021. A donation site has been set up online.