Marriage in the council chambers? Vancouver politician proposes City Hall weddings – BC

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A Vancouver politician has a marriage proposal for City Hall.

Melissa De Genova is calling for a simple process that would open up the council chamber to couples who want to get hitched at City Hall — in order to cut red tape and offer affordable options for wedding ceremonies.

“People have asked me if it’s possible to book council chambers or areas of City Hall for weddings and they were quite surprised that there’s an entire program offered on Vancouver.ca, our city website, for booking park facilities. There’s a one stop shop permit program there, but not here at City Hall,” said the Vancouver NPA councillor.

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Even though the Vancouver Park Board offers permits for public wedding options on its sites, the City of Vancouver currently has no formal program in place for weddings at its heritage building — although couples have tied the knot outside.


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Mira Oreck and Stepan Vdovine got married on the Helena Gutteridge Plaza on Vancouver City Hall grounds this past summer — but the couple had to apply for an $800 film and special events permit — and rent their own washrooms for the big day.

“There isn’t infrastructure here. There aren’t bathrooms, there’s not shade cover for the sun or for the rain. There’s not an inside space to put any personal items so I think it’s a great idea but I think it needs to be supported by some infrastructure and resources,” Oreck told Global News.

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De Genova wants the city to consider its council chamber, Helen Gutteridge Plaza and the garden at City Hall as possible wedding venues.

In a motion set to go to council on Tues. Dec. 18, the NPA city councillor states that many other Canadian cities “including Victoria City Hall, Calgary City Hall, Fredericton City Hall, Ottawa City Hall and Toronto (both Old and New City Halls) offer the opportunity for couples to book in advance and hold wedding ceremonies on-site.”


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At Ottawa City Hall, wedding costs range from “$141.30 for week day ceremonies to $212.00 for weekends, subject to availability.”

A marriage licence can also be obtained on-site for a $161.60 fee – provided all requirements are met.

In the capital city, couples can say “I do” at the heritage City Hall building four days a year – when three one-hour ceremonies are offered each day for a room rental fee of $150.

On Fri. Dec. 14, Vic PD’s top cop crashed one couple’s municipal wedding. Chief Del Manak posting a photo with the tweet, “Love is in the air @CityOfVictoria City Hall. Ran into a happy couple coming to City Hall to get married. Now @vicpdcanada is a part of their wedding pics. Congrats to Peter and Sandra. Such a great couple! May you enjoy a life of laughter and #happiness.”

De Genova wants the city to consider the structure city halls across Canada practice in providing marriage venues and services – and then report back to council by December 2019 with recommendations, including any budget implications, and recommendations for a possible pilot or trial program for holding weddings on set days of the year or regularly at Vancouver City Hall.

Vancouver’s City Hall opened in 1936 and was designated a heritage building in 1976.


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The city of Vancouver website states that, “On the third floor, the ceremonial and formal spaces including the Council Chambers are substantially intact.”

Currently, the Vancouver council chamber is not available for external bookings.

In a statement to Global News, the city of Vancouver wrote that since Helena Gutteridge Plaza opened earlier this year, it has received some inquiries about the use of the space – and one wedding, Oreck and Vdovine’s, has been held there.

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Oreck says she and her husband chose the venue for a reason.

“My husband and  I met actually campaigning, door knocking for Vision Vancouver many, many years ago and so this was a meaningful space for us — but it was also meaningful because of Helena Gutteridge Plaza. It’s named after the first woman elected to city council, a labour activist, a suffragette.”

The emailed city statement says a permit to hold a wedding at a city-managed public space such as the Helena Gutteridge Plaza can be requested via the Film and Special Events group and that “the fees associated with that depend on where/how many people/what type of event, etc.”

The city says it can’t comment on what a more formal program or fee structure might look like until after the Dec. 18 council meeting.

“It’s a fun light-hearted motion for our last council meeting of the year, ” said De Genova.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Judge finds man guilty of four counts of sexual assault and one count of assault against wife during brief arranged marriage

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Over the course of their three-month marriage in 2015, Rajinder Gupta repeatedly raped his wife, telling her to “just let the pain happen,” a court found Thursday.

Superior Court Justice James Diamond found Gupta guilty of four counts of sexual assault and one count of assault.

His parents, Sheela and Vinod Gupta, were both convicted of uttering death threats.

According to the decision, the complainant testified Sheela told her she “should be killed” for not making her son happy and that “these types of daughter-in-laws should be killed” after a news story about a woman killed in India came on the television.

The complainant and her father testified Vinod said he would hang them and cut them to pieces during a bizarre dispute about living arrangements.

Diamond found the complainant, whose identity is under a publication ban, to be a credible witness and accepted her characterization of her marriage “as being controlled and dominated by (Gupta) and his parents.”

But while she “obviously (was) not expected to testify as if she kept a diary of every event that occured in her three-month marriage,” he said, she was not always consistent or reliable in her description of some of the incidents that took place over the three months, leaving him with reasonable doubt on those charges.

The complainant testified with the assistance of a Punjabi interpreter, as did Rajinder and Sheela Gupta. Two Punjabi interpreters also translated Thursday’s verdict to the Guptas. A sentencing hearing is set for December.

Diamond specifically rejected an attempt by Gupta’s lawyer George Tsimiklis to portray the complainant as someone “motivated to leave her marriage to (Gupta) ‘with honour’ by fabricating her evidence so that she would still be looked as a ‘pure’ in her community.”

Diamond said no expert evidence was called on this point and both the complainant and her father testified this was not the case. He found the complainant held off reporting the sexual assaults for months in the hope that things would change.

Diamond also rejected the defence assertion that the complainant made up the “non-consummation” of her first marriage to support her request for a divorce — no evidence was presented and the issue was “clearly collateral,” he said.

According to Diamond’s ruling, the complainant and Gupta had an arranged marriage organized by their parents through the popular website shaadi.com. The wedding took place on April 15, 2013. The complainant went to the police on July 13, 2015.

The complainant moved into the Guptas’ home after the wedding and eventually got a job at a factory, although she would have preferred a job in the restaurant industry.

Gupta testified that he wanted his wife to work at a factory, rather than a Tim Hortons, because she should have a job where “she has to work every single day and not have it easy … working hard means a factory job.” He also forbid her from wearing make-up to work because he did not “want her looking attractive when she was at work.”

The complainant’s allegations of sexual assault start from the wedding night. She testifed Gupta raped her twice. The second time, she said, she told him it was even more painful than the first time and he responded: “don’t worry … let it happen … let the pain happen.”

Gupta claimed they had consensual sex, and that the complainant made him feel ashamed by commenting that he had a “tiny penis.” Diamond found Gupta’s claim that the complainant was not satisfied with their marital sex life and sought to leave the marriage as a result had “no air of reality.”

Diamond said he acquitted Gupta on the two counts of sexual assault from the wedding night because the complainant gave conflicting testimony on whether she had consensual sex with Gupta during the first two weeks of their marriage — although she did testify she did not want to have sex with Gupta “most of the time” and that “just to make him happy, I would say okay.”

For their honeymoon, two weeks after the wedding, the couple took a day trip to Niagara Falls where Diamond found that Gupta raped the complainant at a hotel.

When they returned home, the complainant testified Gupta bit her breasts hard enough to draw blood, and also bit her shoulder and thighs. Gupta was also found guilty of sexual assault for this incident.

Several days later, the complainant testified when she refused to have anal sex with Gupta, he told her he would “jump from the window” and die. She testified that after he said that, she said “okay, if you want, you can do it from the front side.”

Although Diamond acknowledged a decision to consent must be voluntary and made without the influence of force, threats or fear, he acquitted Gupta of sexual assault on this count due to concerns about the complainant’s reliability.

Gupta was convicted on two counts of sexual assault, including one incident where the complainant testified Gupta anally raped her and forced her face into a pillow until she had trouble breathing. Diamond found the complainant’s sincere and truthful testimony was enough to sufficiently support a conviction on this count. On another night, Gupta raped the complainant twice, telling her to “just let the pain happen.”

Gupta was also convicted of assault for grabbing the complainant by the neck and telling her to get out of the home.

However, he was acquitted of uttering a threat to cause death. Diamond found that Gupta telling the complainant during a fight that she could or should jump from a bridge as they crossed one driving home did not constitute an “actual threat to cause the complainant’s death.”

Alyshah Hasham is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court. Follow her on Twitter: @alysanmati

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