New Brunswick

Fredericton Police Force to have bigger role in Pride Week

The force has set up a Pride liaison committee to improve relations with LGBT community. Their first issue was to accommodate more police at Pride Week.

City police set up Pride liaison committee and plan for greater presence during Pride Week

Reid Lodge, a local transgender activist, sits on the liason committee with the Fredericton Police Force.

Fredericton police have set up a Pride liaison committee to help the force become more aware of the LGBT community just in time for next week's Pride festival.

Reid Lodge, a local transgender activist who sits on the committee, said many officers, both within the LGBT community and outside of it, wanted to participate in the Pride parade.

"The police have never really had a presence in the parade. This year they're thinking they might want to have a presence," said Lodge.

Earlier this month, the Pride parade in Toronto made headlines after Black Lives Matter activists delayed the parade because of the involvement of Toronto police.

Lodge said this, and the fact that many in the LGBT community feel threatened by law enforcement, will require some accommodations.

For trans people, I'd say it's still a fairly dangerous place.- Reid Lodge, transgender activist

"We discussed options like [police] come in more of a dressed down uniform, like a polo shirt and shorts," said Lodge.

When the liaison committee met on Wednesday it focused on next week's Pride festival, but future meetings will discuss other issues, including etiquette in dealing with transgender suspects.

"If you have a transgender person come in, for example, how are you going to search that person while still not violating their rights, because it's a very kind of touchy area," said Lodge.

"We're also going to be talking about things like names on documentation, talking to people about domestic violence. So all kinds of issues really."

Erin Fredericks, a sociology professor at St. Thomas University who also sits on the committee, said that like many organizations, the police are behind the times when it comes to the transgender community.

"I think all organizations at this point in Canada really are organized around the idea that there are two fixed genders," said Fredericks. 

"So, when we have people in our community, trans people in particular,  whose gender may not match their legal documents or people who do not identify as one of these two genders that we've sort of institutionalized then they're immediately marginalized."

Need for education

Lodge said the police force's biggest issue is a lack of education about LGBT issues.

"The police force as a whole is at a very low baseline of knowledge [about LGBT issues}. So we kind of want to bring everyone up to speed as much as possible," Lodge said.

The idea for the committee initially came in response to the shooting in Orlando at a gay nightclub.

"After the pulse shooting in Florida, chief Fitch gave an exceptional speech to the attendees at the vigil at city hall and she spoke about the many changes that the Fredericton Police Force has already made to protect and serve the LGBTQ community in Fredericton, and she committed to doing more for the community," said Fredericks.

Lodge said that when it comes to how safe Fredericton is for members of the LGBT community, it depends on identity.

"For lesbian and gay people, for example, it's a lot safer here now. I wouldn't say it's totally safe. There's still homophobia, there still some hostility," said Lodge.

"For trans people, I'd say it's still a fairly dangerous place."