Hamilton

Hamilton police chief apologizes for comments about public sex and the LGBTQ community

In an interview with CHML's Bill Kelly, the Hamilton police chief spoke about public sex when he was asked about the next steps for repairing relations with the LGBTQ community. He's now apologized.

The apology is 'not enough' and 'not even a beginning,' says activist

Chief Eric Girt has apologized for making comments about sex in public washrooms when asked about next steps for re-building relations with the LGBTQ community. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Hamilton police chief Eric Girt has apologized for hurting the LGBTQ community with remarks about public sex made in a radio interview. 

Chief Girt was speaking to CHML radio host Bill Kelly about tensions with the LGBTQ community on Tuesday. While Kelly asked about an organized meeting between the police and LGBTQ community members back in August, Girt's response took a different direction.

Instead of talking about the next steps to repair relations, the chief spoke about dealing with complaints from families years ago about gay men having sex in the washrooms of the former Centre Mall, and how police had to approach the situation "collectively" and "collaboratively." 

"This may not be the best place to do it, and I understand that you've got consenting adults who do that, but it's in a public place," he said. "So [you] kind of got to strike the balance there."

In his apology, sent as a statement to CBC News, Girt acknowledged that his words in the interview were "offensive to the 2SLGBTQ+ community," and said he was attempting to "illustrate a point about legislative change." 

"I appreciate the impact of the words I chose and for this, I apologize," he said. "I recognize the relationship with our 2SLGBTQ+ community is strained but I am committed to repairing this relationship and moving forward."

LGBTQ community members were stunned by his interview.

Activist Cameron Kroetsch, who attended the meeting with police two weeks ago, said that the "out-of-touch" comments showed that the police "didn't listen" to the community. 

 "Apologies mean nothing without changed behaviour," he said. "He's apologized two or three times this year for the things he's said..this has become, unfortunately, a clear pattern." 

"It further erodes trust." 

Activist Graham Crawford said that the comments were "jaw-dropping" and communicate to him that the chief "doesn't get it."

"I think it's really inappropriate and unfortunate...[that the chief] focused on the act of gay sex to define the community," he said. 

"The apology from the chief is not only not enough, it's not even a beginning," he said.

He was equally astonished when later on in the interview, Girt talked about how "anal intercourse" was removed from the Criminal Code only recently. 

"When you have consenting adults who engaged, it was fine," said Girt in the radio interview. "If you have conditions where you've got a youth involved...that's a whole other ball of wax."

Crawford said that digging up these tropes is damaging to the community. 

Relations have been tense between the LGBTQ community and police and other civic leaders following the violence at Pride and clashes between yellow vesters and anti-hate protestors. 

The Hamilton police chief recently apologized for misspeaking in a July interview with Kelly. In a statement posted online, the chief spoke about regret for the "strained" relationship between police and the LGTQ community. 

In the interview with Kelly, Girt said that there would be another meeting geared toward restoring the relationship.

 

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