The past year brought changes to members of the community
June is Pride month, so happy Pride to you! It has been quite the year for the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Last June, a group of peaceful LGBTQ2S+ people of colour and their allies paused the Pride parade. They were protesting the lack of programming and safe places for people of colour within the Pride week festivities as well as police and military participation in the parade. The Edmonton Pride Festival Society agreed to these demands and the parade continued in all its rainbow glory.
The 2019 parade and festival was ultimately cancelled. According to other media news outlets, two anonymous members of the Edmonton Pride Festival Society said it was cancelled because the society couldn’t meet the protester’s demands.
Police marching in the Pride parade is a divisive topic in the community. Half of the community support the participation of police and the other half think police should be banned. These divisions are generally split along demographic lines. Many people in the older and mostly white community view police involvement in the parade as a symbol of societal progress and how far we have come as a community. Others in the younger community say it’s as though we are inviting their oppressors to the party. Although things may have gotten better for the typical cis (when your identity matches your gender at birth) white male in the community, that’s not always the case for other people, such as trans and people of colour. I am generalizing of course, and views range all over the spectrum.
On May 3, Edmonton’s new police chief, Dale McFee, apologized to the LGBTQ2S+ community for historical and current injustices within the force and the larger community.
“To the members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, transgender, queer and two-spirit community, both across the public and within our service, I am sorry and we are sorry. Our actions caused pain. They eroded trust. They created fear. They caused members of the public and our service alike to feel unsafe on their own streets, in their workplaces, and even their homes,” says McFee.
According to Murray Billett, former police commissioner and civil rights activist, the apology had been in the works for a long time before the parade protests happened.
Billett says, “Other big city police chiefs had issued apologies; our community had previously requested an apology from EPS to no avail. Clearly our new chief, Dale McFee, has made it—the apology—a priority. His robust apology to not only our community but also his officers was well received.”
McFee wanted to let the community know that the apology is only a first step in the reconciliation process with the LGBTQ2S+ community.
“Let us be clear, this is not behind us. There is a lot of work ahead,” says McFee.
He is right, there is a lot of work ahead for the LGBTQ2S+ community in improving relationships with EPS, but this can only happen if people are willing to step up and put in the work.
“If our fabulous community wants change, it can only happen with our instructive feedback. Improvements occur when they [EPS] learns our stories and expectations. We all have the right, responsibility, and obligation to participate to make our city and LGBTQ2S+ community the best it can be,” says Billett.
EPS has set up a website where members of the LGBTQ2S+ community can provide confidential feedback towards the consultation and reconciliation process. Find out more information and get involved at www.epsinput.ca.
Featured Image: On May 3, EPS police chief Dale McFee apologized to the LGBTQ2S+ community. | Edmonton Police Service