Skip to main content

The chief of police in one of Alberta’s major cities has apologized for the force’s past discrimination against the LGBTQ community and promises to keep working to build trust and foster understanding.

“By denying you the compassion and respect you deserve, we contributed to the systemic discrimination and marginalization that has marked your history,” Roger Chaffin of the Calgary Police Service said Friday.

“We are sorry for the role we played for this painful part of your past.”

Chaffin said that after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized last November for the Canadian government’s mistreatment of LGBTQ people, it was time to acknowledge how Calgary police contributed to that systemic oppression.

He described how the force spoke out against the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969 and struggled to embrace the new law when it passed.

He also apologized for police denying permits to Pride parades in the 1980s and failing to consider the impacts of the 2002 Goliath Saunatel bathhouse raid.

The search resulted in two employees and 13 patrons being charged with bawdy-house related offences. Community advocates at the time decried the raid as anti-gay harassment.

Uniformed officers were excluded from Calgary’s Pride parade last year and it’s not clear whether they will be welcome to march in this year’s event on Sept. 2.

Calgary Pride did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Chaffin said police participation in the event factored little into the decision to apologize.

“Our issues are really, more broadly speaking, about how are we going to relate every day to our (gender and sexually diverse) communities,” he said.

“How are we going to create that sense of trust and accomplishment and social justice and fairness in a community that has not had that so much in the past from us?”

Chaffin said the timing of the apology also had nothing to do with his impending retirement early next year. He said he hopes whoever succeeds him as chief will continue to bolster training and outreach to better serve LGBTQ citizens.

“This is something I strongly believe in. It was important to me, for sure, but it was also important to our executive and our leadership here to make sure we’re able to keep moving forward.”

Mark Randall, a member of the chief’s gender and sexual diversity advisory board, said it was high time for the apology.

“There’s a lot of people in the community who have been waiting a long time for this to come and there were a lot of lives that have been harmed over the years waiting for this to come,” Randall said.

“I accept the apology, but that’s me. I’m certainly not accepting it on behalf of our community. I leave that to the community to decide whether they want to accept that apology.

“I’m hoping they will … It’s a first step on a very long journey to go.”

VOICES – a group that describes itself as “Calgary’s coalition of two-spirit & racialized LGBTQIA+” – said it recognizes the apology as a first step toward an equitable relationship.

Two-spirit is an umbrella term used by some Indigenous people to describe their gender identity or sexual orientation. LGBTQIA+ refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and other gender and sexually diverse groups.

“We also recognize that a true apology is the understanding of harms done, and the follow through to never harm that community again,” VOICES said in a statement.

“This requires a change in the culture of CPS … to dismantle these mechanisms that have historically and currently harm marginalized peoples.”

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe