LGBTQ2S+ community responds to the Kelowna RCMP's apology Tuesday

RCMP sorry for 'misstep'

UPDATE: 5:23 p.m.

Kelowna Pride says it's "cautiously optimistic" about its upcoming meeting with the Kelowna RCMP.

"Why was the LGBT community not consulted?" asks Dustyn Baulkham, general manager of Kelowna Pride, after today's press conference by Supt. Kara Triance.

"A lot of the LGBT community doesn't actually feel safe with the police, so to have the police symbol as this 'safe space' isn't actually going to do that," he explains.

Kelowna Pride says to do this properly, it's going to be resource intensive.

"A business could ask for this sticker and not actually be LGBT inclusive, A," says Baulkham. "Or B, They could be inclusive of the L the B the G but not the T, right? Where they could be on social media the next day spewing hate against the trans community."

Baulkham went on to add that if there isn't a proper process to regulate how these businesses treat every member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, it defeats the purpose of having it.

As for Kelowna Pride's upcoming meeting with the Kelowna RCMP, Baulkham says one sit-down won't solve the issue.

"Hopefully we see some good come out of it," he says. "This is a long term thing that we need to work through."

UPDATE 1:45 p.m.

The Kelowna RCMP is pausing the rollout of its new Safe Place program in response to concerns from the LGBTQ2S+ community.

Supt. Kara Triance said Tuesday at a news conference that the rollout of the program happened “too quickly” and without proper consultation.

“We deeply regret a misstep and a failure in that process,” she said.

The program provides stickers to building owners who want to mark themselves as safe spaces for LGBTQ2S+ people who feel threatened or are in crisis.

Triance explained that the program has been operating elsewhere in BC for about five years and she should have contacted the local Pride Society before rolling it out here.

“I wish that I could circle back and start this over again and have had those discussions beforehand,” she said.

Triance said the Kelowna Pride Society has accepted her apology and will be meeting with her later this week to determine a collaborative way forward.

In the meantime, the program has been paused to allow the police to address concerns the Pride Society had around safety and vetting of those who participate.

ORIGINAL 12:40 p.m.

The Kelowna RCMP have announced the launch of their 'Safe Place' program – and the LGBTQ2S+ community has some questions.

The program will offer LGBTQ2S+ community members shelter if they are feeling unsafe by giving participating businesses, schools, and other organizations an RCMP Safe Place' poster/decal to display on their windows.

The poster/decal tells a person from the LGBTQ2S+ community that they can seek help and safely wait for police in that building, if they are ever in an unsafe situation.

"Displaying the RCMP Safe Place decal or poster carries some important responsibilities that will greatly assist in protecting lesbian, gay, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ2S+) victims of crime," says Const. Robyn Boffy of the Kelowna RCMP.

"That individual will be welcomed in and assisted. Assistance in calling the police will be provided if required and they will be permitted to remain until officers arrive to assist them," she explains.

In a response to the announcement, the Kelowna Pride Society says it would have been beneficial for the police to consult them about this program and allow them to be part of the conversation.

"We have been able and willing to contribute to such initiatives to ensure effective, inclusive and safe program delivery and accountability," said society general manager Dustyn Baulkham in a release.

"Now more than ever the LGBT2Q+ and BIMPOC communities need to be a part of any dialogue regarding their own well-being," he explains.

Baulkham went on to note in his release that historically the relationship between the RCMP and the LGBT2Q+ community has been tumultuous. "This is why we are disappointed and concerned about the lack of community consultation which leaves us with many unanswered questions at this time," he adds.

The society raised questions about the criteria and vetting for those who want to be involved in the program, what training will be provided, how program participants will handle a crisis and more. Detachment commander Supt. Kara Triance is holding a media availability at 1 p.m. to address the concerns. Castanet will carry that live.

"While we understand the intention that comes from creating such a program, we firmly believe as a PRIDE Society that proper steps and consultations need to be taken to ensure that the impact is one that brings forth positive changes in the community, as opposed to becoming a detriment. We must protect our community from further trauma," says Baulkham.

The Kelowna Pride Society says it will be hosting a discussion on the topic on its Facebook Page on Thursday, February 25 at 7:30 p.m.

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