Calgary police issued a formal apology to the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community Friday.
“We have learned over time and there are things we did in the past that we would not do the same way today,” said Calgary police chief constable Roger Chaffin in a news release Friday. “This apology is a way for us to acknowledge that our relationship with gender and sexually diverse Calgarians has changed and we now know that the things we did in the past were not the right things to do.”
Chaffin said Calgary police spoke out against the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969 and struggled to embrace the new law when it passed.
“Acknowledging and expressing regret for this history is absolutely necessary,” said Brian Thiessen, Calgary Police Commission chair. “It is an important part of moving the relationship forward and building mutual trust. Citizens expect police to be inclusive, fair, and respectful, and all police service members must display those community values.”
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Chaffin also apologized for police denying permits to Pride parades in the 1980s and failing to consider the impacts of a 2002 bathhouse raid.
For the first time, Calgary Pride banned police and military uniforms from the annual Pride parade last year. In response, some police and military members wore Calgary police and military t-shirts in the parade.
An alternative LGBTQ pride event called Unity in Uniform for police and military was also organized.
Some of the regrets within the police force come from a controversial 2002 police raid of the gay establishment Goliath’s Bathhouse where arrests were made.
All charges were eventually dropped but many within the LGBTQ community say a lot of damage was done. Mark Randall wasn’t present at the raid but was working at the establishment during that controversial time.
“I didn’t think I would see this,” Randall said. “I was employed in the bathhouse at the time of the raid and the impacts that had on the trust that was slowly building within the Calgary Police Service was submarined by that action.”
“This is a big day and I wish some of those people arrested could have been part of this.”
Others who are involved in the Gender and Sexually Diverse Advisory Board said they were humbled to have witnessed the apology.
“This is an incredible privilege for me to see this change occurring. I knew the work was going on and I knew the changes were happening but actually being able to see an apology is life-changing for me,” Aaron Thorsten.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he’s very proud of both the Calgary Police Service and the diverse community for taking this first step together.
“It’s extraordinary,” he said. “The LGBTQ community and police service have come together as human beings with open hearts and open minds and say, ‘It doesn’t matter who you love or what you look like but that everybody deserves to live a life of dignity.'”
With files from the Canadian Press