On August 3 to 6 several officers from the Toronto Police Service attended the first World LGBT Conference for Criminal Justice Professionals “Proud to Be Your Friend” that took place in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Thanks to the generosity of the European Union Commission, most officers travelling long distances had their expenses covered.
The conference, which was attended by police officers from over 26 countries in the world, had the theme “To Connect and Inspire.”
Numerous best practices were shared around LGBT recruitment, workplace support, harassment, training, internal networks, social media and a number of justice issues. TPS’ own Constable Danielle Bottineau and Staff Sergeant Kim O’Toole were among the presenters.
The conference was opened by statements from the Amsterdam Chief of Police (in person) and the Secretary-General of the United Nations (by video).
Keynote speakers included the Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth, Episcopal Priest and daughter of Desmond Tutu; Boris Dittrich, currently of Human Rights Watch and the former Dutch MP who introduced the country’s same-sex marriage legislation, and Randy Berry, the U.S. State Department’s first special envoy for the Human Rights of LGBT persons.
Reverend Canon Tutu encouraged participants who may have the door slammed in their face due to prejudice or discrimination to “not let the door close quietly” but rather “rattle the hinges until every door of discrimination is shattered.”
Randy Barry reminded us in his speech that worldwide, LGBT people are not seeking “special rights, but the exact same rights as anyone else.”
The conference benefitted from the vast experience of the group as a whole. One attendee was the only “out” LGBT police officer in his whole country. The laws and practices of police in the 26 countries represented varied greatly.
The conference delegates issued two unanimous declarations including one in response to the events of this year’s Ugandan Pride that requested their Ugandan police colleagues to “Respect the freedom of association and assembly of the Ugandan LGBT community” and “to act on the existing non-discrimination protections within its constitution and its obligations in international law.” This was an historic first.
On Saturday August 6th, 70 conference participants joined their hosts Roze in Blauw (Pink in Blue) of the Amsterdam Politie in uniform on a World Police float for “Canal Pride” in this year’s EuroPride festivities. The response from the hundreds of thousands of festival goers was simply overwhelming.
The conference closed with the passing of some Canadian tulip bulbs from the conference organizers to the Toronto Police Service after a video clip from Chief Mark Saunders was played announcing that the second World Conference for LGBT Criminal Justice Professionals will take place in Toronto in 2019.