The Police Liaison Committee to the queer community sent a press release promoting the documentary film Reclaiming our Pride by Martin Gladstone on Oct 29. The move was rapidly denounced by queer leaders.
The film covers the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) in Toronto’s 2009 Pride parade. The film was denounced by queer organizations in Toronto and Ottawa after it was used in a failed campaign to oust QuAIA from the Toronto Pride parade this spring.
The liaison’s listserv activity echoes the release of a statement in May in which a gay man was labelled a “sexual predator” for failing to disclose his HIV status before having sex.
Jeremy Dias, executive director of Jer’s Vision, has been outspoken on the latest faux pas of the committee.
“For them to promote a film, especially this film, it’s not just offensive and insulting and embarrassing, but it is really a clear indication that this police service has no idea about the community they are working in,” says Dias.
Dias says that the Ottawa Police Service is a public institution, and if they had done some research before sending the event to the mailing list, they would have understood the controversy surrounding the film.
Tim McCaskell, spokesperson for QuAIA echoes Dias’s sentiments.
“If rightwing people want to organize a film festival, that is their right, but my objection would be that the liaison committee to the Ottawa Police is a public institution and they shouldn’t be promoting that kind of political agenda,” says McCaskell.
Staff Sergeant Mederios, co-chair of the Police Liaison Committee, said that the normal procedure for posting information on their website is that requests are sent to the administrator, Joyce Druin, who then posts the information on the website.
Mederios says the committee has not endorsed the event but admits that administrative procedures should be reviewed.
“I don’t have the background information on it as you [Xtra] do. If it is something that is going to upset the community, then maybe we create some sort of a screening thing that when things involve hate, or are contrary to our philosophy in terms of our organization and in terms of our mandate as a committee, then we cannot be supportive of that, or we can’t be posting these kinds of things,” says Mederios.
Dias is more critical of the committee and their handling of the mailing list. Dias says that the same thing happened in May, where the press release with the words “sexual predator” was forwarded to Druin who immediately posted it to the website.
“They claim to be one of the oldest queer organizations in our community. They claim to have an in-depth knowledge of who we are, and yet the mechanism to promote stuff on the mailing list is — you send it to them and they put it up,” says Dias.
Dias also feels that this is just one more example of the inadequacies of the liaison committee.
“At the end of the day, the goal of the liaison committee is to allow or to encourage a space for critical thinking, critical dialogue and solution-finding. That is not happening and it hasn’t happened for a while,” says Dias.
Both Dias and McCaskell feel that the Police Liaison Committee should issue an apology and a statement saying that the committee has not endorsed the film.