Toronto

Pride flag over Toronto police HQ sign of 'changing times,' officer says

A Pride flag now flapping in the breeze overtop the headquarters of the Toronto Police Service means LGBT officers can now "bring our true selves to work," says a police superintendent.

Flag-raising called 'historic' and 'no small feat' and visible sign of support for LGBT community

Here is the Pride flag before it was hoisted into place over top Toronto Police Service headquarters on Thursday. The flag-raising represents changing times, says a police superintendent. (CBC)

A Pride flag now flapping in the breeze overtop the headquarters of the Toronto Police Service means LGBT officers can now "bring our true selves to work," says a police superintendent.

Supt. Barbara McLean, who spoke just before the rainbow flag was hoisted into place on the roof of 40 College St. on Thursday, said the flag-raising is significant because it is a visible sign of support and an example of "changing times" in policing.

"As a proud member of the Toronto Police Service and as a gay woman, I am privileged to speak to you today at what is a historic moment," she told reporters.

"When I joined police service 28 years ago, I could not have imagined this day. Today is no small feat."

The flag-raising comes in the midst of controversy over police involvement in Toronto's annual Pride parade. 
Toronto Police Supt. Barbara McLean said at the ceremony: 'When I joined police service 28 years ago, I could not have imagined this day. Today is no small feat.' (CBC)

Pride Toronto is barring uniformed police from marching in the parade after demands made by members of Black Lives Matter Toronto. The flag-raising also comes at the start of a month of Pride activities in Toronto.

McLean said the flag-raising shows police have come a long way. In the 1980s, she noted, police officers and gay rights activists were "on opposite sides of the barricades."

The flag-raising represents work by LGBT members in the service, their allies, as well as LGBT police liaison officers and community members, she said.

"Looking at today as a member of the service, it shows me that my employer is proud of me, of my LGBTQ colleagues, of our allies, proud of who we are and is telling us that we are welcome to bring our true selves to work."

Deputy Chief Jim Ramer, speaking on behalf of Chief Mark Saunders, said the flag is flying for the benefit not only of LGBT members in the service, but also for the city itself. 
The Pride flag after it is raised over top Toronto Police Service headquarters. (CBC)

"We have made much progress over the years, but there's a lot of work to be done and it's with your support that we will get better, and we will get better," he said.

Ramer said the bright colours of the flag, since it was first unfurled, represents different aspects of the LGBT community.

"In 1978, when San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker designed the first modern day version of the rainbow flag, we saw a collective bringing together of colours that represent points meaningful to everyone, such as life, healing, harmony and spirit," Ramer said.

"Sadly, the world lost Gilbert Baker earlier this year, but he certainly lives on, even in places like TPS headquarters."

Const. Danielle Bottineau, the Toronto police's LGBT liaison officer, told the gathering:  "It's an exciting day for a lot of our LGBTQ members and our allies with the service. It's one of those first moments for us."

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