Police chief apologizes to city’s LGBTQ2S+ community
Chief Dale McFee apologized to the LGBTQ2S+ community on behalf of the Edmonton Police Service on Friday.
“As the Chief of the Edmonton Police Service I have the responsibility to acknowledge that in our history we have failed specific communities,” McFee said.
“To the members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer and Two-Spirit community – both across our public and within our service – on behalf of the Edmonton Police Service, I am sorry and we are sorry.”
The apology is what the service said is the start of a reconciliation process.
“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,” McFee said.
“It was meaningful, it was personal,” said Marni Panas, a community advocate who worked on a committee leading up to the apology.
“I think it really resonated with everybody but on a very personal level I felt that apology. I felt the sincerity,” she added.
The chief vowed to stand against homophobia, transphobia and any other kind of marginalization, denigration or disrespect.
“An apology is only meaningful if it acts as a marker of sustained change in the nature of our relationship,” McFee said.
Mayor Don Iveson said he’s proud of the chief, EPS and community for working together to get to this point.
“I appreciate that the chief didn’t just apologize; he laid out tangible actions to make this a safe place for LGBTQ2S employees of the police service as well as members of the community,” Iveson said.
The service is also launching an engagement process to help improve the relationship between members of the LGBTQ2S+ community and EPS.
“To make sure we get this right it has to be guided and informed by those in our community,” said McFee.
“There’s still a lot of voices, even in this room, that were not here yet, that still don’t feel safe to share their experiences and their feedback so it’s going to be really important that we find many ways to engage all the different voices that have to be heard and not just the same voices all the time,” said Panas.
Corey Wyness, project coordinator with the C.H.E.W. project at the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minorities Studies and Services, agreed.
“The group I work with is often unheard, not even kind of factored into these sorts of equations so I think when the chief said, ‘The first action is to hear the stories,’ I think that’s going to be really important because those stories are what we can learn from, and what most people don’t get a chance to share,” he said.
He said the youth he works with often face racism, homophobia and transphobia from the community and police officers.
“I hope moving forward with some education and training we can try and change that,” said Wyness.
Members of the LGBTQ2S+ community can share their ideas through a new website.
According to police, interactions with the LGBTQ2S+ community have been damaging, and have left some members feeling marginalized.
In June 2018, EPS, RCMP and the military were banned from future Edmonton Pride parades after a group that included trans people and people of colour protested the involvement of police. Area police organizations participated in civilian clothing in 2018, not in uniform, in an effort to ensure marginalized people within the LGBTQ2S+ community would feel more comfortable.