Stephen Boissoin in the Kelowna hospital (contributed image).

Red Deerians supporting cancer-stricken pastor with controversial past

Stephen Boissoin’s family is in dire financial straits

A former Red Deer pastor, who caused provincial controversy over his anti-homosexual letter to the Advocate in 2002, has been stricken with cancer in Kelowna, B.C.

Many Red Deerians – even those with homosexual friends – have been fundraising to help Boissoin, his wife and their five-year-old daughter get through the fiscal difficulties they are experiencing.

While some organizers of a fundraiser Saturday at Cheer’s Pub in Red Deer, were taken aback to hear about Stephen’s controversial past, they decided his family needs their support — so the benefit with music, a silent auction and raffle, is going ahead.

One friend feels Stephen has learned from the controversy: “He has certainly softened over the years … and has come away a better person.”

Boissoin’s anti-gay letter got broad coverage after a formal complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission was made by former Red Deer teacher Darren Lund.

A court case over it was eventually heard by the Alberta Court of Appeal, which ruled in 2012 Boissoin did not go far enough to violate the Alberta Human Rights Act.

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While local fundraisers don’t support the views expressed in his letter, they say “Everyone deserves a second chance…

“Cancer is certainly something that brings us together in commonality. It affects us all.”

Some $15,000 has been raised so far for the Boissoins — who moved to Kelowna a couple of years ago — through a Go Fund Me campaign. The page states that neither Stephen nor his wife, Heather, are now working. Stephen had just left a job when he was diagnosed with stage-four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and is no longer well enough to seek other employment.

Heather (formerly Lynch), who’d made many friends in Red Deer through serving at Cheer’s Pub and working at a local copy shop, is a stay-at-home mom who’s been volunteering with a Kelowna homeless shelter.

Friends say the cost of Boissoin’s cancer-fighting medication is only partially covered in B.C., and even groceries are a huge financial burden on the family.

Saturday’s 6 p.m. benefit, featuring three local bands, is free. But donations will be accepted throughout the night and all money will go to the family. Local artists and merchants can drop off items for the silent auction until 3 p.m. Saturday at Cheers.

Donations can also be made at www.GoFundMe.com/526y1so.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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