Kelowna Pride concerned with lack of consultation on RCMP's new LGBTQ+ program | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna Pride concerned with lack of consultation on RCMP's new LGBTQ+ program

Kelowna RCMP have launched a Safe Place program and already face criticism from the LBGTQ+ community.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / RCMP

Kelowna RCMP have launched a new program to offer safe spaces for members of the LGBTQ+ community, but the Kelowna Pride Society is concerned it wasn't consulted before yesterday's launch.

Pride Society general manager Dustyn Baulkham said while the concept of the program is a good idea, but it was done without proper consultation from those in the LGBTQ+ community.

“The problem is we don’t know enough about it, and sometimes when programs are launched without proper consultation, and understanding the needs of the marginalized community, it can do more harm than good," Baulkham said. "If we don’t know what the vetting process is like, or training, someone that’s in duress, there can be a lot of harm that happens if they go into a place that they think is safe."

He said LGBTQ+ businesses weren't consulted either, adding it seems the only person police spoke with was Kelowna city councillor Loyal Woolridge.

Coun. Wooldridge, who has been a vocal part of Kelowna’s LGBTQ+ community, said during a council meeting, Feb. 22, he and his business endorsed the program.

“Often we hear about the bad things that are going on in our community but there are lots of caring officers that are carrying out these great initiatives,” Coun. Wooldridge said.

The Pride Society's board president spoke with the RCMP last night, Feb. 23, and Baulkham said program organizer Const. Robyn Boffy's intentions are positive, but they wish RCMP had reached out beforehand so they had the support of his organization.

“One of the biggest issues of it is a lot of LGBTQ+ people just don’t feel like the RCMP (provides help) so having their name all over this doesn’t make it necessarily feel safe,” Baulkham said.

Kelowna RCMP have started working with local businesses and community groups to bring the program, which originated in Seattle, to Kelowna, according to an RCMP media release.

The Safe Place program offers members of the LGBTQ+ community places to shelter if they are feeling unsafe, and shows that a business is a welcoming place where they can seek help and safely wait for police to arrive and assist them, RCMP said.

It requires participating businesses, organizations, schools and other institutions who wish to participate in the program to complete a participation request form. Once this form is completed, RCMP will provide a Safe Place decal or poster that can be displayed on the front window of the premises.

The program allows participating premises to be recognized and identified as a safe haven for LGBTQ2S+ members if they are a victim of crime, are feeling unsafe, or are in distress, RCMP said. That individual will be welcomed in and assisted. Assistance in calling the police will be provided if required and they will be permitted to remain until officers arrive to assist them.

Kelowna Pride will hold a town hall-style meeting via Facebook at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 25, to discuss the topic.

Kelowna RCMP could not be immediately reached for comment.

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