The City of Kamloops will be implementing the Safe Spaces program, a pilot initiative launched by police in partnership with the Kamloops Pride Society, at several city facilities.
During a Tuesday council meeting, Cpl. Dana Napier said the Safe Spaces program is meant to identify places where people of the 2SLGBTQPIA+ community who have experienced hate crimes or discrimination can find help.
"When they see this sticker — you can see the shield with the rainbow — it indicates to them that this is a safe place for them to go, whether it's a business or an organization, once they have been a victim of a hate crime,” Napier said.
“They are able to wait there in a safer place until police arrive. And not only is that organization and business vetted by the Kamloops RCMP, we've collaborated to have it also vetted and supported by the Kamloops Pride Society.”
The program was launched on Nov. 20, 2022, the National Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Napier said rainbow shield stickers have since been provided to vetted businesses, and the next phase includes implementing the program throughout city facilities.
“We will be including training to staff and then hopefully being able to provide stickers so that people in the community can see that this is a safe place for them to be and that should they be a victim, that they can report that safely,” she said.
According to the city, training and certification will take place for council members and city employees over several days in April and May at a number of city locations.
These include city hall, the city’s development, engineering and sustainability offices, Kamloops Museum and Archives, Station Plaza, the Tournament Capital Centre and McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre.
Kamloops Fire Rescue stations and Sandman Centre are also included.
Ashton O’Brien, director of resources and past president of the Kamloops Pride Society, said hate crimes don’t always get reported from the queer community to the RCMP.
“That’s part of why we’ve wanted to work together and bridge some of that gap, so these businesses all get vetted by Kamloops Pride first and then over to RCMP so we can make sure anything that’s reported to us is covered,” O’Brien said.
They noted “heightened emotions” around drag events, which have been increasingly targeted by hateful messages and protests.
“It's really good for the community to know that there are businesses that are supportive.”
O’Brien said they are excited about the training being offered.
“I'm really excited about this part, just so we can build some understanding around some of the experiences in Kamloops. …It’s not necessarily known for being a queer safe space, so this is something that really is going to help us get to that point,” O'Brien said.
Coun. Dale Bass and Coun. Bill Sarai praised the initiative.
“I hope you have the best success possible,” Bass said.
Sarai said this program is the “perfect opportunity as a community to make us stronger.”
“The more voices we have supporting it, the better it is,” Sarai said.
Napier said businesses interested in participating in the program can reach out to the Kamloops RCMP Detachment.
O’Brien said in the next month or so, a link will be also up on the Kamloops Pride Society website to allow businesses to express their interest.