For the first time, the Pride Flag is flying at Toronto Police Service headquarters.
To kick off Pride Month, senior officers joined Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LBGTQ) Service members and their allies for the historic occasion on June 1.
“This is a historic day in our Service’s history,” said Superintendent Barb McLean, who sits on the LBGTQ Community Consultative Committee. “I have been to many Pride flag raisings, at City Hall for example, but to see the Pride flag here at police headquarters with my friends and my colleagues is incredibly special. When I joined the Service 28 years ago, I could not have imagined this day. Today is no small feat when you consider that the 1980s saw police officers and gay rights activists on opposite sides of the barricades.
“While we have moved from being adversaries to allies, today would not have been possible without the courage and the passion of LBGTQ members who came before me, of our International Support Network, of our colleagues who are our allies, of our LGBTQ liaison officers both past and certainly present and, of course, our community members who come to the table and work alongside us.”
McLean said Chief Mark Saunders deserves a lot of credit for bringing the symbolic flag to police headquarters.
“Looking at today as a member of the Service, it shows me that my employer is proud of me, of my LGBTQ colleagues and of our allies,” she said. “They are proud of who we are and are telling us that we are welcome to bring our true selves to work. Today is as much about family as it is about policing. Family plays a huge role for LGBTQ persons, some of whom have been rejected by their own families. Today, the Pride Flag shows that our extended Police Service family has and continues to embrace us. Looking externally, I hope that people see Chief Saunders’ decision to allow us to raise the Pride Flag here as an example of changing times in policing as well as within our Service and I hope that they see that today is another example of how he, and by extension our Service, has supported LGBTQ members and our communities.”
Deputy Chief James Ramer said the Service is honoured to stand with the LBGTQ community.
“Every year, through the month of June, we celebrate a number of Pride activities,” he said. “It is about service to the community. This really is not just a time about celebrating. It is about thanking and appreciating the service of some of our community members, particularly our consultative community members. We have made much progress over the years, but there is still a lot of work to be done and it is with your support that we will get better. The raising of this flag, here, is not just for LBGTQ members and their allies, it is for you as well.”
Constable Danielle Bottineau, LBGTQ liaison for the Service, joined Christine Newman, co-chair of the LGBTQ Community Consultative Committee, in raising the flag on the seventh floor of police headquarters.
“This speaks volumes to where we are as a Service,” said Bottineau. “We still have a lot of work to do, but the fact that we are supporting our LGBTQ members and that we can come to work every day and live authentically as ourselves is a huge step forward. This, however, is not the case for everyone. This is just another one of those steppingstones that highlight and show the diversity within our Service, but also the acceptance amongst our peers.”
Andre Goh, the Service’s Diversity & Inclusion Manager, said the hoisting of the Pride Flag at police headquarters is affirmation that the Service embraces every uniformed and civilian member, regardless of sexual orientation.
“Historically, LBGTQ members were accepted, but not acknowledged,” said Goh. “What is happening today is proof that we have come a long way and it speaks volumes about Chief Saunders who actually believes another way of including people is putting up a symbol, in this case the rainbow flag, and saying to people ‘it’s OK, you are welcomed here’. Also, considering what has happened this year in the LGBTQ community, this is another powerful message to our members that our Service stands behind all of our officers, including LGBTQ members and officers.”
Constable Patty Retsinas, who co-chairs the LGBTQ Internal Support Network with Detective Henry Dyck, said the raising of the Pride flag at police headquarters is extremely important.
“After being with the Service for 27 years, this shows how my employer is very supportive when it comes to equality and inclusion,” said the Divisional Policing Support Unit officer.
Dyck also said the event is very meaningful.
“In the past, officers have gone to the Pride flag raising for the city,” he said. “This speaks to the Service’s commitment to its LGBTQ members and diversity. When we see a Pride flag, it tells us that that place is committed to us and to equality.”
The Pride flag was popularized as a symbol of LGBTQ pride and diversity by San Francisco artist Gilbert Baker in 1978.