Moose Jaw Police Build Trust in Plainclothes at 2017 Pride Parade
Last summer, Canada’s largest Pride Parade was stalled by a group of activists for 30 minutes—sparking a controversial national discussion about race and racism in the LGBT+ community as well as the role of police at Pride.
The unfortunate reality is that racism, homophobia and transphobia (not to mention sexism, socioeconomic discrimination, ableism, etc.) are common experiences in every community—including the LGBT+ community and policing communities. This behaviour is more often subtle or unintentional than it is calculated or overt. However, when those with significant power and authority are caught up in discrimination, the consequences can be devastating.
We know that for some people in the LGBT+ community, the distrust, fear and resentment of police is significant. For some this distrust is based solely on perceptions, while for others it is rooted in painful life experiences that may have occurred recently or well into the past.
This year, we are making an intentional effort to welcome these individuals to Pride Week and to have their moment to march proudly with us down Main Street. In solidarity with these individuals, as well as many Pride festivals across Canada, we have asked our local police to attend our 2017 parade in plainclothes.
This request is a symbolic gesture more than anything. Last year we had only one police officer walk in our parade—a far cry from the hundreds marching in past Toronto Pride Parades. Further, an on-duty officer in uniform will lead this year’s parade on a police motorcycle, and we have received confirmation that Chief Bourassa will attend our Pride Week flag-raising and our luncheon in uniform. He will also march in our parade in plainclothes.
For several years, Moose Jaw Pride has been developing a strong and healthy relationship with various members of the Moose Jaw Police Service. We have invited the police to attend our events, conducted the force’s first LGBT+ diversity training, toured the police station with our youth leaders, and hosted a police / LGBT+ community forum. We have also seen the police building bridges with Moose Jaw’s aboriginal community as well as newcomers to Canada. These are all important steps that the Moose Jaw Police have taken to combat racism, homophobia and transphobia within their ranks and within our community.
I was personally very touched when Chief Bourassa called me after the Orlando shootings and I was sure to do the same after the shooting deaths of police officers in Dallas last year. Our organizations have much to gain by working together to build trust and mutual respect.
We are proud to see the Moose Jaw Police Service honour our request to attend our parade in plainclothes. This is an important gesture that shows that our police are willing to work with us and build trust by meeting our most marginalized LGBT+ individuals where they are at. For some, this may be their first opportunity to see our local police as respectful community members as well as the LGBT+ allies that they are quickly becoming.
We are also proud to see the senior leadership of the Moose Jaw Police Service understanding the simple fact that Pride is not about “them” and “us” but about all of us working together towards a safer and more welcoming community.