“The Pride weekend has shown that an overwhelming majority of the community appreciate and support [the] police,” says Thomas Decker, the Toronto Police Service’s lesbian, gay, bi and trans [LGBT] liaison officer.
Decker’s comments come after a June 30 Pride week reception, held by police chief Bill Blair at the 519 Church Street Community Centre, turned ugly. Police kept gay and trans people out of The 519 for more than an hour as a growing crowd on the sidewalk demanded answers about police conduct during the G20 summit.
Pride Toronto (PT) executive director Tracey Sandilands told the crowd through a megaphone that the event was organized by Toronto Police — not her organization — and that event organizers were dealing with capacity issues. In fact, the event was organized by the Toronto Police Services Board as a PT affiliate event. The PT logo appeared on the invitations and photos taken inside show the reception room well below capacity.
Blair arrived in a dark SUV to chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!” Surrounded by police, he pushed through the crowd, entering through the front door. He paused to tip his hat, a flippant move that seemed only to anger the crowd.
Lisa Walter was among the crowd at The 519. As a journalist covering the G20 for Our Times, an independent Canadian labour magazine, she was arrested on June 26 after shooting photos and video of the arrests of two colleagues.
“We had shown our press passes; officers said mine was fake. I was called ‘a fucking dyke,’ a ‘douchebag’ and other slurs by officers,” she says. “The most aggressive sergeant loudly questioned my gender and started calling me ‘sir’ and ‘mister.’ He mocked my need for medication and later claimed I was the ‘girl in high school who never got laid.’”
Decker says anyone who feels they were mistreated should file a formal complaint to have their case investigated.
“All interactions with members of the public at the Prisoner Processing Centre were recorded using CCTV recording equipment,” he says. “As allegations proceed to formal complaints, they will be fully investigated. Persons who feel they have been treated inappropriately can file a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD).”
“Like the overwhelming majority of people, I was not informed why I was arrested, given access to a lawyer or phone, nor informed of my rights,” says Walter, who has since retained a lawyer and filed a complaint with the OIPRD.
“I was handcuffed with plastic ties the entire 13 hours of my detention, and my medication was withheld for about nine hours. When an officer finally arrived to give it to me, I was told I had to be in a separate cell. I was released at about 1:30 am… without having been charged with any violation. Later I discovered that my video camera’s hard drive had been erased and the memory card from my other camera taken.”
“We do know that some in the LGBT community were unfairly and illegally arrested as part of the mass arrests that occurred,” says Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA).
“And, as such, they also share much of the same treatment that was given to many other people who were peacefully demonstrating as well as some journalists, human-rights monitors and passersby.”
Des Rosiers says she has heard several reports of officers acting with courtesy and respect when dealing with the public during the summit but admits the relationship between the community and police force has been affected.
She says law reforms are needed if both sides are to move forward.
“Unfortunately, there has been some loss of confidence and trust, and it is my hope that it will be regained by the way in which they confront the mistakes that were made and make the changes that are appropriate so that it does not happen again,” says Des Rosiers.
To file a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), go to oiprd.on.ca.
Watch our video report from the June 30 protest at the police Pride reception: