LGBTQ community members look for more after meeting with Hamilton police

Hamilton police met with members from the LGBTQ Thursday night. Community members say they want action.

'Having meetings just to sit and listen is not really leading toward action,' says attendee

Hamilton police met with members of the LGBTQ community Thursday night. Police wanted to have an "initial conversation," but attendees say they wanted more. (Imgur)

At a meeting with members of the LGBTQ community Thursday, Hamilton police expressed regret about the state of their relationship with the community and acknowledged "there are lessons to be learned."

Police invited organizations and community members for an "initial conversation" and to hear the communities concerns two months after violence at the city's Pride festival.

But while the meeting was billed as a first step in listening and dialogue, some who attended expressed frustration that there wasn't more action from police.

On Friday, Hamilton police posted on twitter a statement that Chief of Police Eric Girt shared at the meeting.

In the statement, he expressed regret for the "strained"relationship.

Girt said that he was unable to comment on the events at Pride on Thursday night because of the investigations into what happened. The statement added that the police understood that "there are lessons to be learned" in how they responded to the violence. 

"There is no doubt the community experienced trauma at Pride," he said. "Our role as peace officers in the community is to ensure Hamiltonians truly feel safe and respected in our city….[and] when any member of our community doesn't feel safe, that's not okay." 

Community members are looking for more

But those at the meeting are saying that talking isn't enough. 

Laura Kooji didn't receive an invite to the meeting, but they wanted to be there and went anyway. Kooji is a two-spirit, Anishinaabe resident of Hamilton who has been active in the LGBTQ community and Indigenous community for years. Kooji uses 'they' as a pro-noun. 

Kooji told CBC that yesterday's meeting was a lot of talk, but there were no real plans for action.  

"If [Hamilton police] aren't ready to get real and discuss some things, then we're at an impasse," they said. "It left us all kind of having to think about how we're going to move this discussion forward." 

"What the community voice was hoping to get is not another session where we sit and re-hash out all of our complaints, because that's not what we're interested in at this point," they said.

"We were more interested in having more conversations beyond that into what's going to be done to shift things." 

While attendees discussed the tense history between the LGBTQ community and the police, Kooji said that it was frustrating that police kept "dancing" around the Pride incident.

On June 15, religious protestors showed up to the festival with homophobic signs. They clashed with pink-masked counter-protesters and attendees, which led to injuries and arrests. 

Cameron Kroetsch, Pride activist, echoed this statement on social media. He said that setting up "dialogues on hate" isn't addressing the lived experiences of the community. 

Looking for examples of action

Community members also raised the fact that the events at Gage Park and the sequence of events following Pride have created a lot of trauma among the community. 

An attendee pointed to the report on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls released earlier this summer. Kooji said that this was an important moment in the meeting because it showed Hamilton police that they "don't need to re-invent the wheel."

Kooji said that the police can look toward these steps on how to move forward in a way that prioritizes the safety, respect and dignity of marginalized people. 

CBC reached out to Hamilton police to find out more about the meeting, but did not receive an immediate response.