September 22, 2016 8:13 pm
Updated: August 1, 2017 9:18 pm

Saskatoon police headquarters opens gender-neutral washroom

WATCH ABOVE: A gender inclusive bathroom was always in the blueprints as the Saskatoon police service designed its current headquarters. Meaghan Craig reports.

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It’s a universal space that can cause a lot of anxiety which is why a gender inclusive bathroom was always in the blueprints as the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) designed its current headquarters.

READ MORE: University of Regina puts $82,500 into gender-based violence research study

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On Thursday, the police force officially opened the washroom in the lobby of the building available to any person regardless of their gender expression or gender identity.

The restroom contains a sink, toilet and urinal and it’s much different than any other but serves as a public symbol of the SPS’s dedication to be inclusive by naming the space – gender-neutral.

“There’s bravery in saying this space recognizes that there are many people in our society that aren’t comfortable in the gendered bathrooms that we use to make up society,” said Rachel Loewen Walker, executive director of OUTSaskatoon.

“So this space publicly stands up for those that are uncomfortable in those other settings.”

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At one point in her life, Miki Mappin said she was that person who found using a public washroom extremely daunting.

“I remember really early on in my transition, one of the first times I was out dressed as female I went to a play in Vancouver with a transgender friend who I had met and I didn’t know which washroom to use,” said Mappin, with TransSask Support Services Inc.

“So this kind of facility would have been really helpful for me at that time when I still wasn’t quite sure.”

READ MORE: Saskatoon police chief receives gold medal from Lieutenant Governor of Sask.

According to Chief Clive Weighill, anything the service can do to be more open with members of the public should build trust within the community and this washroom should help.

“We’re watching as a police service if there’s anything we can do to make our police service more open to everybody within the community so that they trust us, that they feel comfortable with us and they’ll work with us,” Weighill said.

“I think that’s what police is all about is working with people and building up trust and I think this is just one small step to signal to people, we’re on top of this – we’re working with the community.”

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Above and beyond the gender inclusive washroom, Chief Weighill said there are plans to provide members of the force with diversity training starting with the executive staff in November at an upcoming retreat.

“We have to learn ourselves what does the community really mean, what are their needs, how can we help them and how can we educate our members,” Weighill said.

“So once we get the executive staff done we’ll be rolling this out to the rank and file throughout the next year so we’ll have training components for the entire police service and it should be completed by the end of 2017.”

The service is already leading the way for other law enforcement agencies when it comes to its detention centre. The chief said trans- and gender-diverse individuals can say how they’d like to be searched and safely housed.

 

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