Dear LGBTTQIA Communities in Ottawa,
This letter to you has been a difficult one to write. It has been difficult to find words that not only convey the anger, devastation, fear, and exhaustion many of us feel but also the disheartening confusion that has come from the backlash of others. On Sunday, Black Lives Matters – Toronto, honoured group of Toronto Pride, lead a sit-in during the parade. BLM’s list of demands included a call for accountability and open discussion, autonomy and increased funding and support of black and PoC lead stages and events during pride, equitable representation at leadership and staffing level, and an increase of more black deaf & hearing ASL interpreters throughout the festival. Also included was a removal of all police floats/booths during parades or marches or within community spaces. Many have taken issue with the latter, but the demand wasn’t that officers who are LGBTTQIA cannot be proud and march in the parade as individuals but that the institution of law enforcement should not participate.
Progress and growth are uncomfortable. As organizations and institutions accountable to our communities, while sometimes incredibly difficult, we need to sit down and listen instead of becoming defensive and tone/action policing. While there certainly are some in our communities that may feel safe and protected by the presence of police there are many that do not. Absolutely there are officers who work hard to repair relationships, who are resources and allies, those officers are not the institution. The institution of law enforcement is the issue. Lack of transparency is the issue. Over policing of black and brown bodies is the issue. Harassing sex workers is the issue. Ticketing the homeless and then incarcerating them when they cannot pay is the issue. Responding to a mental health crisis with weapons instead of words is the issue. Missing and murdered Indigenous women are the issue. Criminalizing those with HIV is the issue. Staying silent on the corruption and wrongdoing of fellow officers both internally and in other cities is the issue.
We are more than just our genders and our sexualities, our intersections and experiences are vast and varied and many of those intersections mean many of us are disproportionately at risk of criminalization and violence and the hands of police. BLM – TO urged us to see and understand that pride is not just a celebration of our collective achievements but a reminder that there is still so much more work to be done. If police institutions want to demonstrate solidarity and that they are here to protect and serve all of us and not just a select few then they need to answer for their methods, policies, and to stop remaining silent when injustice is perpetrated by one of their own.
Unequivocally Kind supports those seeking accountability, equity, autonomy, and justice. We exist to provide space to build capacity, find community, and to amplify the voices of those often left unheard. We’re here for you and we’re here for Black Lives Matter.