British Columbia

Kelowna RCMP pause Safe Place program after LGBT community complains it wasn't consulted

Kelowna RCMP has put its Safe Place program on hold just one day after launch, following complaints from local LGBTQ communities they weren't properly consulted.

'We deeply regret a misstep and a failure in that process': RCMP

The Kelowna RCMP launched the Safe Place program on Monday but had to pause it Tuesday following backlash from local LGBT communities. (Kelowna RCMP)

Kelowna RCMP has put its Safe Place program on hold just one day after launch, following complaints from local LGBT communities they weren't properly consulted.

In a news conference Tuesday, Supt. Kara Triance apologized for what she says was the "poor rollout" of an initiative where businesses, schools and other organizations in the central Okanagan city could sign up to be designated safe havens for LGBT people. 

"We deeply regret a misstep and a failure in that process," said Triance. "We moved ahead too quickly with the release of this program within Kelowna."

In a news release Monday, the Mounties said it would provide decals and posters for institutions to display on the front of their premises, showing they can provide shelters for LGBTQ people who need to call the police for help.

Supt. Kara Triance of Kelowna RCMP says she has apologized to the Kelowna Pride Society and will have a meeting with the organization on Thursday. (Dana Kelly/CBC)

Participating venues were to fill out a request form for the decals and posters.

Dustyn Baulkham, the general manager of the Kelowna Pride Society, says he was shocked by what he called the Mounties' "shotgun approach" in launching the program overnight without engaging his organization.

And he questioned whether the RCMP had a vetting process in place for businesses applying to be safe havens.

"Someone can apply for a sticker, get [it] put on the window, and then the next day they're on social media being extremely transphobic in the way that they're talking," Baulkham said. 

"You need to see a proper application and vetting process, as well as the ongoing accountability side of it, to make sure businesses are actually upholding what they've committed to," he said.

Kelowna's Safe Place program is part of a B.C. RCMP campaign that is based on a similar initiative first developed by the Seattle Police Department in 2015.

Three years ago, Prince Rupert became the first community in the province to kickstart the RCMP-led program. 

The Vancouver Police Department established a similar initiative in July 2016. 

Triance says the Kelowna Pride Society has accepted her apology and will meet Thursday to discuss how the Safe Place program should move forward.

"I need to re-engage in discussions, and we need to have a new way forward, because where we're at right now is not where I want to be," she said.

Tap the link below to hear Dustyn Baulkham's interview on Radio West:

Dustyn Baulkham, the general manager of Kelowna Pride Society, tells Sarah Penton that local LGBT communities were not consulted before Mounties launched the Safe Place program. 8:45

With files from Dana Kelly and Andrew Kurjata

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