Letter from Mark Saunders to Pride Toronto board of directors

On 2016.08.03, the Toronto Police Service released a PDF of a letter it sent to Pride Toronto dated 2016.07.27.

Note that “Report Homophobic Violence Period (RHVP) Program Two Spirits One Voice” is how the RHVP is listed in the original letter, and that has to be an error. Many other copy errors fixed.

Letter

I am writing this letter to you because I want to make sure there is no confusion about the position of the Toronto Police Service. This is too important an issue, and too much has been written and spoken that bears no relation to the truth.

My Service has made enormous strides in recent years to enhance and develop our relationship with the LGBTQ communities in Toronto. We have, internally and externally, demonstrated a willingness to learn, to develop, to work together, to support each other. There is much to be done, but we have come a long way.

At my Pride reception on June 22, I announced that there is now a gender-neutral washroom at police headquarters. Going forward, anytime a new building is designed or reconstructed for the Service, it will have gender-neutral facilities. For our friends in the trans communities, using a public washroom can cause fear and anxiety and, in some cases, harassment and intimidation. That will not happen at Toronto Police Service Headquarters.

I also announced the release of our Guide to Police Services in Toronto, dedicated to the trans communities. We know that crimes against trans persons happen at an alarming rate. We also know that, for many reasons, including negative experiences with the police, trans people have generally not reported these crimes to police. This must stop.
These are just the latest steps in a rapidly evolving and improving relationship.

LGBTQ liaison officer Constable Danielle Bottineau, and her predecessors, deserve the credit for the progress my Service has made over the years. They have been responsible for an enormous amount of hard work, creating and building relationships, reaching out to all sections of the communities, delivering initiatives and programs that have resulted in tangible benefits.

Here are some of the other steps along the way:

Report Homophobic Violence Period (RHVP) Program

RHVP is a reporting, public-awareness, and education program which focuses on youth 13–25. It addresses homophobic and transphobic bullying and violence. It is an initiative of the Toronto Police Service’s LGBTQ Community Consultative Committee (CCC) and was developed by the TPS in partnership with a large number of community partners and community service providers. RHVP is recognized as a best practice across Canada and Internationally.

Together We Can Make it Better”: International Day of Pink Event

Anti-bullying prevention initiative in partnership with TPS LGBTQ Internal Support Network and recognized with a TDSB school [sic]

Coffee with Cops

On a bimonthly basis, the LGBT CCC and neighbourhood police officers from Divisions team up with a business sponsor that has officers serving coffee to members of the LGBTQ community. The concept is basic, but it provides everyone with an opportunity to get to know one another better, on a first-name basis, knock down walls, and build relationships.

“Let’s Talk” Series

LGBTQ CCC invites Toronto trans community members to an open dialogue to address ongoing issues and relationship.

LGBTQ Youth Justice Bursary

The bursary awards are an opportunity for the LGBTQ CCC and Toronto Police Service to recognize achievements made by LGBTQ youth in Toronto and support these youth in overcoming the challenges they often face. Four $1,000 bursaries are awarded annually.

The Toronto Police Service is committed to continuing to reach out to all communities, to working with any person or group who has ideas on better ways to engage marginalized communities, on how to work to make the city safer and more inclusive.

Despite attempts by some to undermine the relationship between my Service and the LGBTQ communities, and the subsequent uncertainty about future Toronto Police Service participation in the parade, my Service and I have been grateful for the overwhelmingly positive response from people all over the city, from those inside and outside the LGBTQ communities. We have received many calls, E‑mails, texts and social-media posts that tell us how much the people of Toronto appreciate and value our continuing efforts working with the LGBTQ communities.

I feel I must tell you that we’ve heard concerns from some of the LGBTQ communities [who] feel marginalized that the current uncertainty might have an impact on our outreach efforts. Nothing could be further from the truth. I want to assure them, and you, that we will continue to build on the progress we have made, while also acknowledging there is much more to be done. We value our relationship with Pride and it is important to us to continue playing an active role in the parade. Chief William Blair marched in the parade in 2005[;] I marched in the parade last year and this year. In between, hundreds of Toronto Police Service officers have marched, danced, biked and ridden on floats in the parade.

We will continue to push forward, continue to reach out to the most vulnerable and marginalized. We will continue to work to make this city a more inclusive city for all people.

Response from Pride Toronto

There’s no notation on Pride’s Web site or Facebook page, but the Globe lists this as Pride’s response: “While we appreciate the efforts of Toronto Police Services to engage and improve relations with marginalized communities, we believe – as they do – that there is more work to be done.”

That article also claimed that the cops had met with Pride Toronto “a few weeks” back.