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Moose Jaw Pride, police working together to move forward after chief’s apology

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WATCH: The Moose Jaw Police Service is working to build bridges with the LGTBQ2 community after years of a rocky relationship – Nov 18, 2020

The Moose Jaw Police Service offered an apology Tuesday morning to members of the LGBTQ2 community in efforts to continue to improve relationships and increase safety for all in the city.

Chief Rick Bourassa said the conversation started over a year and a half ago and turned into a planning circle in partnership with Moose Jaw Pride.

Read more: Charges laid in connection with video showing bullying of transgender girl in Moose Jaw

“The circle’s work tells us we haven’t lived up to these principles, we haven’t been everyone’s police, we haven’t protected everyone, we haven’t been as inclusive as we should and must be … rather than earning respect and trust, we have allowed fear and mistrust to continue rather than being inclusive,” Bourassa said.

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“We have not done what we should to eliminate divisions rather than being included and protected. Many have been excluded and unsafe. This is a failure, a failure we and I own. For that, I am truly sorry. For that, I apologize on behalf of all of us at the Moose Jaw Police Service.”

Bourassa admits that, in the past, the Moose Jaw Police Service has failed regarding the proper treatment of the LGBTQ2 community. He added officers have learned from it and are ready to change their treatment in the future.

“We can’t change the past, that’s already been written, but we can learn from the past and work in the present to shape the future. A future in which we’re all protected, we’re all included, and the police are truly everyone’s police. Shaping this future to make it a reality demands that we act today, that rather than just talk, we do. And here’s what we’re doing and will continue to do,” Bourassa said.

“This is an ongoing piece of work … and it includes training our members to ensure that our people understand what the issues are, how we can build greater trust, how we can provide a policing service that meets people at their point of need, how we can do all of those things. So that training is a very critical part.

“Another critical piece is to make sure that we have policies in place that guide our actions so that we can be inclusive, that we can interact with empathy and with compassion with people.”

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Read more: Small community, big pride: Investment hoped to boost LGBTQ tourism in Moose Jaw, Sask.

Moose Jaw Pride vice-chair Cole  Ramsey was in attendance to respond to the apology.

“The Moose Jaw Police Services have acknowledged responsibility for their part in the harm that has been done to LGBTQ2S people and families. It is a significant step in making change. Thank you (for the apology). But this apology is also only one of many steps along the path towards doing better,” Ramsey said.

“Moose Jaw Pride is not here to accept this apology on behalf of LGBTQ2S people and families, we can’t. We can only speak on behalf of ourselves as individuals. We know that many people in our community are at different places in their healing journeys.

“For other people who may not be ready to accept an apology or maybe still be grappling with forgiveness for the things that have been done to them or that they’ve experienced. All we can do is try to support them along that path because forgiveness, I think, is something that people give because it heals them, not because it is required or demanded.”

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Bourassa has signed a letter of commitment with Moose Jaw Pride, promising to — among other points — seek knowledge through education and outreach.

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Ramsey hopes it’s a commitment that will help those who carry trauma from past discrimination feel safe.

“There are people in our community who have experienced a great deal of harm and neglect over decades. So it’s important for this to happen because people are still living with the trauma of things that have happened like last week and 30 years ago. And those are experiences that affect someone’s entire state of being. You carry them with you,” Ramsey said.

“Part of the work we’re doing is to make sure that people feel safe with their police service, with the people who are supposed to protect them. If nothing else. A lot of the work that we’ve been doing with Moose Jaw Police Services is to visibly repair a relationship that has historically been fractured … to repair that relationship.”

“We are proud of the relationship that we’ve built with our police service, a relationship that makes both of our organizations better able to respond to meet future challenges. We’re confident that together we can help change the pattern of discrimination, trauma and injustice … we can fulfill the duty that we all have as loving neighbours to create a safe and thriving community for all.”

A Pride flag will also be permanently displayed at the police station as a reminder of these commitments and a symbol of support.

— With files from Kayleen Sawatzky 

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