Chief Mark Saunders and other Service members joined John Paul II Catholic Secondary School students and staff on April 10 to mark International Day of Pink.
Communities around the world unite on this day to celebrate diversity and raise awareness to stop homophobia, transphobia, transmisogyny and all forms of bullying.
“Today we wear pink and it is only as a reminder of what makes Canada so great,” said Saunders. “It is because we understand the importance of inclusiveness, which is what defines us. We are the most diverse city in the world and what we celebrate well is that we have tremendous respect for one another. So whether it is homophobia, transphobia or bullying, these are things that do not symbolize who we are as citizens.
“You are our future leaders. We have made mistakes in the past, but the more we can educate and the more we can make people aware, the better we become as a country. That is what makes us the beacon when it comes to defining us as Canadians.”
Calgary Police Service (CPS) Const. Tad Milmine was the keynote speaker.
“If today is the only day we wear pink and speak about bullying, then this day didn’t work,” said the officer, who attempted suicide when he was 21 who suffered abuse as a child. “We need to make sure we keep this message going every single day.”
Milmine, who spent almost five years with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police before joining the CPS in April 2014, shared his story of growing up in a home in Cambridge, Ontario that was filled with neglect and abuse.
“For 12 years, I was locked in a basement and the only time I was allowed out was when I went to school,” he told a packed gymnasium. “I wasn’t allowed to take part in after-school activities or go out on weekends. The rule was that I was to be in that basement, where the windows were boarded up, at all times.
“In addition with trying to come to grips with that, I was struggling with mental illness and trying to sort myself out and accept myself as being gay. What kept me alive for so many years was having that dream of becoming a police officer because I wanted to help people understand they should never feel as if they are alone the way I felt growing up. At one time, I felt I was the only person that was being abused and neglected.”
Const. Danielle Bottineau, the TPS LBGTQ liaison officer, was instrumental in organizing the event.
“Thank you to those who came to the table, those who invited us into your space and those who really show appreciation to my community, not as a police officer, but as a queer member of the LBGTQ2S community,” she noted. “I couldn’t live authentically as myself until 20 years into my life.”
Bottineau also acknowledged her policing colleagues for their support over the years.
“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be up here today,” she added. “Let us all take a stand to stop bullying.”
International Day of the Pink started after a Nova Scotia teenager was bullied in 2007 for wearing a pink shirt to school. His fellow students rallied behind him by wearing pink to show their solidarity against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Trans Queer (LGBT)-based discrimination.
“This act of kindness went a long way and it’s going even further,” said Toronot Catholic District School Board Trustee Nancy Crawford. “Here you are today in a global fight against bullying… You have the power in your hands to keep making a difference. We at Toronto Catholic really believe that our schools are very important places to be because we support you the students in your achievements, in your safety and your well-being. We have lots of challenges in our society still dealing with bullying, still dealing with harassment, violence and war. It is too much. I hear from parents in tears about how much suffering their children are going through in school. You have the power to make a difference for them. Stand up. It isn’t right and it isn’t good. It hurts.”
Celebrated on the second Wednesday of April, the celebration seeks to support the work of students, educators, communities and businesses in their efforts to stop bullying, discrimination, homophobia and transphobia.
The celebration at the Scarborough Catholic school also featured songs and spoken word performances by students.