An Edmonton gym opened to provide a safe space for the Alberta capital’s LGBTQ’s community is being forced to close after online harassment led to costs that compromised its ability to operate.
The Edmonton Police Service has looked into the targeting of Queerflex, which opened in 2016, and was billed as the first Canadian gym dedicated to LGBTQ people, but say there is nothing they can do.
“We recognized the impact on the staff and the community however the matter did not meet the threshold for criminal charges,” Sergeant Gary Willitz of the police service’s hate crimes and violent extremism unit, said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
The service did not respond to a question about why the situation at Queerflex did not meet the criminal-charge threshold.
Representatives of the gym declined a request for an interview, but said in a statement that the four-year-old operation will close on Feb. 29.
They said members of the Queerflex team and the gym were victims of “doxxing,” in which personal information about an individual is published online with malicious intent, on Sept. 10, 2019.
Queerflex alleges they were targeted by an online group called Patriot Pride Canada Wide.
As a result, the gym’s board cancelled all group classes out of safety concerns for members, contractors, volunteers and anyone else affiliated with the gym.
And they tried to find funding to buy equipment for a new approach to security.
“Unfortunately, those funding efforts were unsuccessful; coupled with the revenue loss resulting from the suspension of regular classes, the operational model of Queerflex is no longer sustainable.”
The board said the “devastating” outcome “continues to highlight the need for safe spaces for the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in Edmonton.”
Janis Irwin, the Alberta NDP status-of-women and LGBTQ2S+ issues critic, provided early support to Queerflex by allowing the enterprise to be operated out of the basement of her house when it was launched.
The MLA for Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood said on Wednesday that she was saddened to hear Queerflex is closing down.
“They did great work to spread awareness, to dispel myths around queer and trans fitness and they offered safe, accessible spaces for members of the LGBTQ2S+ community,” she said in a statement issued by the NDP caucus.
“The incident last September highlighted exactly why these spaces are important for our community.”
The communications manager for Edmonton’s mayor also expressed disappointment about the reasons for the closing of the fitness club.
“All Edmontonians deserve to feel safe and behaviour from any group that perpetuates hate and discrimination is not welcome in our city," Cheryl Oxford said, on behalf of Don Iveson, in an e-mail exchange with The Globe and Mail.
"We need to foster inclusiveness and understanding not walls that divide us.”
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