LGBTQ people in northern Alberta speak out after vandalism incidents
Grande Prairie RCMP investigating reports of damage to Pride mural and flag thefts
LGBTQ people in Grande Prairie said they are feeling vulnerable after repeated reports of mischief which police said demonstrate a hateful attitude toward the community.
The Gay and Lesbian Association of the Peace (GALAP) strives to improve the lives of LGBTQ people living in northwestern Alberta. Yax Posas, association president, said the recurring vandalism of a Pride mural in the city does not represent the attitudes of most residents toward community members.
"My guess is that the more visibility we have, the more we're going to reach people that might not feel comfortable around things they don't understand," Posas said in an interview with CBC News.
Grande Prairie RCMP received the latest vandalism report of the mural on Nov. 7. It was repainted last summer after graffiti of hateful signs and words was found in July.
Until the weather is warm enough to repaint, Posas said the green graffiti will remain on the mural which is located downtown.
An additional camera was installed before the most recent incident but Posas said the footage needs to be reviewed more often.
"We're still working on improving, like having more cameras and having a more standardized way of reviewing all of the recording so that we can hopefully find out who's doing this," Posas said.
Police told CBC they have canvassed the area for surveillance video but there are no suspects at this time.
"It certainly has the markings of a hate crime. However, it'd be hard to speculate on the motivations until those responsible are identified," Const. Lindsay McNab, with the Grande Prairie RCMP, said in an interview.
It's not only the Pride mural that has been targeted.
RCMP said on three separate occasions, in September and October, Pride flags were reportedly stolen from a single property in the city. In one case, a flag was also reported to be found burned in the downtown area.
J de Montarnal, who identifies as queer and non-binary, works in the Community Village where the mural is located.
"Scared, sad, hurt, angry. All of those feelings come up," de Montarnal, who moved to Grande Prairie in 2016, said.
They said the acts make them question if the city is a place where they can live and thrive.
"It shows me that I can't feel safe all of the time here. I need to be careful. I need to protect myself," de Montarnal said.
But they said they would like to have a conversation with the person or group responsible for the acts of mischief.
"I want them to have space to communicate their thoughts and feelings in a way that doesn't make people feel unsafe," de Monternal said.
'Respect each other'
GALAP continues to focus on lifting up the LGBTQ community in northwestern Alberta by connecting people with resources and organizing weekly events.
"We are not experts, we are not counselors, but we can provide that one-on-one peer support," Posas said.
Posas said they're also open to conversations with people who have questions.
"We don't expect that everybody's going to agree with everything we are and everything we do, but it's just coming to that middle ground where we can respect each other."