Moose Jaw police chief apologizes to LGBTQ community for failing to protect them

·2 min read

Moose Jaw's LGBTQ community received an apology from the city's police chief this morning.

Chief Rick Bourassa said the force has not lived up to its duty of protecting everyone.

"Rather than being included and protected, many have been excluded and unsafe. This is a failure. A failure we and I own. For that I am truly sorry," Bourassa said.

Moose Jaw Pride vice-chair Cole Ramsey says the apology is only one step in improving relationships.

"The legal system of Canada has never not been hostile to two spirit people, to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people and families," Ramsey said.

"Though our society has changed a great deal in the last centuries and certainly decades, systemic and interpersonal discrimination continues. 2SLGBTQ people, as a community have inherited a great deal of trauma and our direct and indirect experiences with a hostile world continue to affect us today and into the future."

Ramsey said Moose Jaw Pride and police formed a planning circle to better train officers.

"We're confident that together we can change the pattern of discrimination, trauma and injustice that we have all inherited from history."

Cory Coleman/CBC
Cory Coleman/CBC

Ramsey said through workshops Moose Jaw officers are now better trained to provide service to the LGBTQ community, but that more work needs to be done for everyone to feel safe when dealing with police.

"2SLGBTQ people and families remain vulnerable in society and many are marginalized in more than one way. Indigenous people, people of colour, people with disabilities and with addictions and those living in poverty."

Bourassa said police are supposed to protect everyone's rights and freedoms and the planning circle has shown the force has not lived up to those principles.

"Rather than earning respect and trust. We have allowed fear and mistrust to continue. Rather than being inclusive. We have not done what we should to eliminate divisions," he said.

"For that, I apologize."

Bourassa said going forward the police will engage and support the LGBTQ community.

For example, policies have been developed around arrest and detention that allow for people to be treated based on gender identity when being searched for detention.

The Pride flag will be permanently flown at police headquarters as a sign of support.

Ramsey said the police apology is important because people are still living with the trauma of things that happened as recently as last week or as far back as 30 years ago.

"You carry them with you," Ramsey said. "Having that weight in the back of your mind lifted, or being able to know that despite what has happened before, things could be different in the future, is something you can't underestimate in improving someone's life."