Tolerance in the city: why Calgary still has a long way to go

Warning: This article contains graphic language that some readers may find offensive.

CALGARY- Walking along 11th Ave. S.W. brings back horrible memories that will forever scar Calvin Campbell.

Just a few years ago, he was attacked along the busy downtown street—because he’s gay.

“My roommate, his boyfriend and I were walking home from the bar one night. Just around the corner, one guy was standing in the middle of the sidewalk and said ‘look at these f’ing faggots walking down here,’ he remembers.

In a matter of minutes, they were surrounded by a group of eight or nine men.

“One guy even said, ‘let us know if you are gay and we will leave you alone’…That’s when the guy standing behind him through a punch over his shoulder and hit me in the face.

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“By the end of it, I ended up lying in the street here getting kicked in the head and ribs by a couple different people, while my roommate and his boyfriend were beat up pretty bad in the face and chest.”

Police never caught the attackers, and there has been no justice for the crime. Sadly, that wasn’t the only time Campbell has been victimized.

“It happens all the time and it’s just a sad fact. Calgary is just a little more conservative and a little less educated about the issues sometimes.”

Statistics show the most common hate crimes in Calgary are damage to property, assault, and threats or harassment.

“The reality is every day or every few days, somebody here in the city of Calgary is victimized because of who they are, something they can’t change,” says Cst. Eric Levesque, Calgary Police Hate Crimes Coordinator. “That is a hate bias crime.”

He adds that only between 10 and 25 per cent of victims actually come forward, and the majority are victimized because of their race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

“Most of the hate bias crimes are just committed by regular people who have certain biases and prejudices and act out on that.”

Campbell now works every day to try and change attitudes, even working with the Calgary Police Service on diversity issues. For now, he takes extra precautions to avoid being a target.

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“I probably would never be caught holding my partner’s hand walking down the street, and that’s something that’s kind of pathetic,” he says. “It’s actually hard some days to see straight couples out there being so affectionate, even if it’s just two people giving a kiss before parting ways, and the fact I can’t do that in my day to day life.”

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