Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and Police Chief Philippe Pichet have apologized to the LGBT community for institutional discrimination and police raids from the 1970s to the 1990s in which more than 800 people were arrested
"It's important for us to put forward this public apology today because we want to turn the page," said Coderre.
While Montreal Pride celebrations are underway, the announcement comes after the city's official opposition and community groups recently called on police to apologize for past crackdowns — some of which turned violent — on gay bars and clubs.
"It criminalized people, it stigmatized people," said Puelo Deir, who co-founded the former Divers/Cité Festival and is a grand marshal at this year's Pride Parade.
"It broke families, it broke relationships, it broke people."
Projet Montréal city councillor Richard Ryan said last week that an official apology from police and the city would be "the right thing to do" and would help improve relations between the city's police force and the LGBT community.
Raids on gay bars, including Truxx in 1977, Buds in 1984, Sex Garage in 1990 and Katacombes in 1994, were representative of the police force's longstanding "systemic harassment" of the LGBT community, Ryan said.
Caught on film, the raid at Sex Garage loft party in 1990 would later be considered a watershed moment for the LGBT community in Montreal. Attendees were forced out into the streets, and outside the venue, officers were accused of removing their name tags and assaulting partygoers with their truncheons.
Pichet apologized on behalf of the SPVM to members of the LGBT community who were targeted during the raids, saying that officers' "actions attacked the dignity of the people concerned."
"The SPVM wishes to express its regrets for the events that took place during different police operations in gay bars and clubs during the '60s to the '90s," he said.
For Deir, the announcement comes as a surprise and a sign that all the hard work from the LGBT community that goes into fighting for equal rights for all is "paying off."
"To finally get this apology is a long time coming," he said. "And I think will do a lot especially for the people that suffered from being arrested and being criminalized in a gay bar."
New diversity policy
Coderre also revealed the creation of a new policy of sexual diversity and gender plurality, which includes developing a committee and hiring someone to work as a liaison between Montreal and the LGBT community.
"In order to guarantee dignity, we must take concrete action," said Coderre.
The new measures also include establishing a code of conduct and the addition of gender-neutral washrooms.
Éric Pineault, the president of Pride Montreal, said the announcement of the new measures is "a step in the right direction" for the city's relationship with LGBT Montrealers.
The city's police service is committed to evolving and has made progress over the years with the support of the LGBT community, said Pichet.
"We have to move forward," said Pichet, adding that the SPVM "wants to be part of the solution."
"If we need some specific training, some specific procedures then we'll move forward."