We are queer and transgender members of the Guelph community who oppose Guelph Police Service’s (GPS) recently launched “Safe Place” program. This initiative is channeling city funds to develop a program that already exists within our community.
HIV/AIDS Resources and Community Health (ARCH) provides a fulsome training for businesses and individuals throughout Guelph who are interested in providing more inclusive and accessible services. This program, known as Voices of Value: LGBTQ+ Cultural Competency Toolkit, was developed in conjunction with our communities and includes in-service training provided by someone with lived/living experience. Here’s a summary of how this program works:
We are confident in ARCH’s ability to consistently offer services that are safer for us and our loved ones, and are appalled that GPS believes they can better meet this need by further policing our over-policed communities. We are fearful and enraged when faced with the impacts this “Safe Place” program would have on the most marginalized people in our community.
Guelph Police Service did not acknowledge Voices of Value, a program which already exists within our city, before deciding to develop their own initiative. GPS did not reach out to ARCH. The GPS program provides a sticker without any qualifying training, without any input from our community, and without followup to maintain the commitment to the community. It is a sticker and a commitment without meaning or teeth.
GPS reached out, once via email to a single LGBTQ2IA+ organisation in this city, Guelph Pride and its parent organisation, Out On The Shelf (OOTS), to initiate a working relationship without any follow-up. The Guelph Police Service LGBTQIA2S+ liaison asked numerous questions of Guelph Pride/OOTS that showed little to no critical thinking of effort on their end with the expectation for our volunteers to do their homework for them. GPS also failed to disclose their intent to create this “Safe Place'' program. Guelph Pride/OOTS let the liaison know that Guelph Police Services would need to meet the demands required by Black Lives Matter (BLM) in order for the organizations to feel safe engaging with GPS.
Community organizations and groups in Guelph have been working to decrease police presence in our communities, as evidenced by the protests this past summer and the ongoing discussion about removing police presence in schools by the Upper Grand District School Board. We too call for the redirection of funds from police services to community organisations and services that can better meet the needs of our people. Especially in these times of COVID-19, our front-line workers in our city, many who are part of queer and trans communities themselves, are doing work while underfunded and under-recognized, evidenced by the City of Guelph’s poor allocation of resources.
Guelph Pride/OOTS clearly articulated what the Police Service needed to do in order to begin decreasing the harm it does to our communities. Guelph Police Service refused to follow through. We reject the “Safe Place” program and Guelph Police Service’s abysmal attempts at showing queer and trans communities that we “can trust the police.”
Concerned LGBTQ+ citizens and their allies
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Board of Directors, Out on the Shelf
Guelph Pride Committee, Guelph Pride
Guelph Queer Equality
Kinnery Chaparrel, Disability Education Empowerment and Pride (DEEP)
Board of Directors, Royal City Roller Derby
Board of Directors, HIV/AIDS Resources and Community Health (ARCH)
Jake Somerville, Bodh Salon & Photography
Jesse Tetrault, Bent Bar Fitness
Scarlett Raczycki, Silence
Emma Howarth - Withers
Britney De Costa
Katrina Stephany, LGBTQ2+ Health Research Coordinator, CBRC
Natasha Pravaz, Wilfrid Laurier University
Tasha Falconer, MSc
Melanie Cassidy, University of Guelph
Amanda Griffin Dunn
Jessica McCuaig, University of Guelph