Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

POLICE WEREN’T WELCOME – The Progress Pride Flag Raising Ceremony takes place July 31 outside the Yukon Government Main Administration Building. The RCMP’s presence at the event has stirred controversy.

RCMP presence showed ‘deep disrespect’: group

A local LGBTQ2S+ organization is calling on Yukon RCMP officers to “reflect” on their decision to attend a flag-raising ceremony in uniform.

By Gabrielle Plonka on August 12, 2020

A local LGBTQ2S+ organization is calling on Yukon RCMP officers to “reflect” on their decision to attend a flag-raising ceremony in uniform.

Their presence went against an agreement recently made between the two organizations.

“I know people there felt intimidated, confused and quite anxious about what was going on, because (RCMP) said they weren’t going to come, and then they came in uniform,” Emily Tredger, president of Queer Yukon, told the Star Monday.

RCMP officers attended the Progress Pride Flag Raising Ceremony at the Yukon Legislative Assembly building on July 31.

Queer Yukon had alerted the Yukon RCMP on July 15 that uniformed police officers and symbols associated with the RCMP wouldn’t be welcome at Pride events.

Tredger said the RCMP agreed to respect the decision, though “they made it clear they were disappointed.”

The decision to bar the uniformed RCMP from Pride events has been adopted by several LGBTQ2S+ organizations across Canada in recent years.

Queer Yukon announced that the presence of uniformed police wouldn’t be welcome last month, in solidarity with communities protesting police brutality and systemic racism, as well as with recognition of the police’s fraught relationship with LGBTQ2S+ communities.

“There is a long violent and discriminatory history of the RCMP in dealing with queer and trans people, and that’s still going on today,” Tredger said.

“We know if there are RCMP in uniform, not everybody will feel safe.”

Queer Yukon’s board of directors has received several responses from community members regarding the police’s presence at the flag-raising. Tredger said they are still reviewing that feedback as a board.

“When someone in power says they’re not going to do something and then does it, that’s inherently intimidating,” Tredger said.

Queer Yukon issued a statement last Sunday alerting the community of the unwelcome RCMP presence at the ceremony.

The organization contacted Scott Sheppard, the Yukon RCMP chief superintendent, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, territorial Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee and Bill Blair, the federal Minister of Public Safety.

Queer Yukon initially received two responses from the involved RCMP officers, according to its Sunday statement. 

A response from Sheppard “confirmed he knew that he was not invited to attend in uniform but did so anyway, along with another RCMP officer.

No apology was provided at this time.”

The response from the second officer “apologized at first and then justified his presence at the flag raising ceremony, clearly demonstrating that he did not respect or understand why we have a policy on police participation in Pride,” the statement said.

Tredger said the actions of RCMP showed a “deep disrespect” for their agreement.

“We have a right to have events that feel safe to everyone in our community … it’s clear from their correspondence that they still don’t understand that.”

Sheppard apologized in a second correspondence to Queer Yukon on Aug. 5.

He explained he had been at the Yukon Government Main Administation Building on July 31 to attend a press briefing on opioid overdoses. 

Sheppard said he was invited to the flag-raising by McPhee just prior to the briefing. Upon attending the flag raising, Sheppard said, he realized it was a Queer Yukon event.

“This was quite simply one of those awkward moments and we both attended,” Sheppard said on Aug. 5.

“In hind sight (sic) it would have been better to have taken the time at that moment to better inform the Minister in perhaps stronger language we were not invited for a variety of reasons but I did not. 

“That is my responsibility and I apologize for not having done so.”

Sheppard said McPhee would not have invited uniformed officers to the event had she been aware of Queer Yukon’s position on the matter.

“The above notwithstanding, I can understand your concern and frustration,” Sheppard wrote. 

“(We) are committed to buiding a constructive relationship with Queer Yukon – as is every employee of our division.”

McPhee apologized for inviting RCMP officers to the flagraising in a letter dated Aug. 7.

“I invited them to join me in watching the flag raising ceremony as I felt that it showed the appropriate respect for this historic event,” McPhee wrote.

The minister said she wasn’t aware of Queer Yukon’s agreement with RCMP.

“Had I known of your decision, I would never have invited the RCMP officers to join me,” McPhee said.

“I deeply regret that my effort at inclusion detracted from what I thought was a powerful and important celebration of Yukon’s LGBTQ2S+ community.”

Tredger told the Star the Yukon RCMP need to back their apology with tangible action.

“At this point, it’s easy for them to apologize and easy for them to say they’re not going to do it; they said that once,” Tredger said.

“I think it’s up to the RCMP to figure out how to make change happen; our priority is keeping our community safe.”

Uniformed police presence will continue to not be welcome at Pride events in future years, according to Queer Yukon.

“As an organization, Queer Yukon Society prioritizes marginalized people’s safety over privileged people’s comfort,” the board of directors stated last month.

“We continue to call for police accountability on these issues, as well as comprehensive reforms to end violent and discriminatory police practices and institutionalized racism in Canada and around the world.”

Comments (29)

Up 108 Down 0

Dubscott on Aug 14, 2020 at 7:09 am

Sooooo..... Who are you going to call on when an injustice is occurring your community, event or a dispute.... If the RCMP are intimidating in uniform and they show up to "protect and serve" if called upon and they see this indifference how do you expect them to react?
Disappointing this is even an article in a paper... Regardless of sexual preference or race we should all respect each other equally and help each other out. We should find ways to show all members of all organizations how to treat each other with kindness and gratitude.

Up 96 Down 2

Drama class is in on Aug 13, 2020 at 7:22 pm

When I was a teenager, cops actually DID raid gay bars (like the one you entered from the alley in my hometown). Then, in the late 80's or early 90's they were PROTECTING the Pride Parade in downtown Toronto. People used to hurl eggs and rotten vegetables at the parade, and they'd laugh and think that was so much fun. I remember boys from a private school in St. Catherines who would travel to Toronto to participate in the great sport of throwing food at the gay people who were marching for their dignity. I know this, because I was dating one of those guys!

The police started participating in the parade, in uniform, and all that stopped.

How in the world would this bunch today survive the good old days, and they were good! When it took courage and yet people got up and dusted themselves off and accepted each person who became ashamed of themselves and changed and joined them?

This is nuts. Good thing you weren't around in the 80's, or earlier.

Up 89 Down 3

Ginger Johnson on Aug 13, 2020 at 4:27 pm

The vast majority of Yukoners couldn't care less what people do with or whom they do it with. Whatever group is steering this ship is only doing themselves a dis-service here by wanting inclusion and exclusion in the same breath.

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." - George Orwell, Animal Farm

Up 65 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Aug 13, 2020 at 3:34 pm

If you have found someone to share your life with who makes you feel wonderful – congratulations! I hope you’re both happy as you make a life together.
It is a basic human need; love and companionship, trust and understanding and gender and its many variations is not a critical consideration for everybody while happiness is. If you have found that elusive happiness with another hold on to it tightly, nurture it, protect it, but please don’t feel that you have to celebrate it to the point of annoying others.
Some of the demonstrations seen during the Pride parades and elsewhere are designed to be outrageous and make others uncomfortable due to what some would call lewd performances in bad taste. Why? These celebrations are supposed to be about living in a non-judgmental society where we are supposed to be learning about being less critical and accepting of all people and what they hold near and dear. Some of these political positions and performances are designed to make people judgmental and less supportive, what’s to be gained other than more bad feelings?
Politics taints everything and as I was growing up in Vancouver I remember the way things used to be in the Davie St. area, with fights, abuse and a lack of understanding among many in both the gay and straight community.
Understanding has come a long way and in the main I believe Canadians are far less judgmental about personal relationships - So much has been gained in our society for equality, but now much is at risk because of the over-the-top political activity by a few of the rainbow leadership or those who feel the need to be radical to get media attention. What’s to be gained if more people are pissed off at you and you no longer enjoy their support?

Up 20 Down 8

Anie on Aug 13, 2020 at 3:18 pm

Steven, please consider running for public office. Your perspective and common sense are so badly needed in elected government these days.

Up 79 Down 0

Dave on Aug 13, 2020 at 2:48 pm

As a member of the LGBT community, I'm very tired of my members claiming to be so inclusive, yet trying to exclude other groups. Sure the police haven't treated the LGBT community the greatest in the past, but at what point do we say enough is enough and try the route of forgiveness.

Up 119 Down 4

KC on Aug 13, 2020 at 12:04 pm

It is so encouraging to actually see the public push back on this story.

Lately it feels like whatever envelope the social justice oriented left is pushing at any given time is just pushed with minimal resistance. I've always supported centre-left politics because I'm someone who thinks that we need to do a better job of fighting climate change and providing for people with basic needs. I've tolerated the excesses of the social justice wing for years because a) I'm a live and let live person who believes in equality and b) it is of lesser consequence than the above.

"Defund police" however is a hard line in the ground that I'm drawing here and now. If NDPers and centre-left Liberals start taking this nonsense seriously that balance is going to tip. More community policing and increased accountability for police wrongdoing is one thing. Actually "defunding" police departments like we're seeing on the U.S. west coast is an existential threat based on a caricatured understanding of what law enforcement actually does.

I know this is only tangentially related to the substance of this article but it is good to see people actually stand up for the positive aspects of police and policing for a change.

Up 170 Down 4

Natalie on Aug 13, 2020 at 11:49 am

The gay movement which started out innocently enough decades back to promote people of diverse sexual orientations has allowed itself to be taken over and transformed into some misguided anti police, anti establishment political entity. As Canadians we are not a nation of people who are anti police or law enforcement. The group is demonstrating a complete lack of class and should apologize to the RCMP.

Up 126 Down 1

Yukon Strong on Aug 13, 2020 at 11:42 am

What if the attending RCMP members were members of the LGBTQ2S+ community?

Up 88 Down 4

Groucho d'North on Aug 13, 2020 at 9:29 am

While not scientific or accurate to so many percentage points, the numbers next to each statement tell another story about the current mood of our fair city.

Up 95 Down 6

Josey Wales on Aug 13, 2020 at 9:12 am

Gee...coppers bending a knee taking off the uniform?
More political capitulation is not something I desire in a federal police force.
Seems with the eco/culture warriors and this group of inclusive hypocrites, capitulation is the preferred choice?

If a few in a group are offended with a yellow stripe among "their" many stripes (none are white...by ABSOLUTE design) I can assure you for each hyper offended alphabet warrior...there are at least 100 that are offended by THEIR absolute arrogance and elitist crap.

Lotta power struggles going on in our wee bubble we call home, many just like these ones are omnipresent all over what is left of first worlds.
not about a spore of inclusiveness...ALL ...I repeat ALL about power & control.

Coppers I am with you on this one, certain there is gay members torn internally as to their stance, THEIR pride?
Regardless, never be ashamed of your uniform, it has a far, far bigger (and RELEVANT) role in our society than does this flag...flying high...as a in your face to all not they.

"C' mon man"...this whole "cause" has morphed into a real pain in the ass.

Up 129 Down 3

Peter on Aug 13, 2020 at 7:49 am

Your event was held on public property that Yukon Tax payers own. You have a problem with certain people or groups attending, then do it on your own property!
It is like the colored cross walks, endangering pedestrians by defacing a legal signed crosswalk, do it on your own property. We are all Canadians and Yukoners and to be treated equal and respected. That is what Canada is about!

Up 136 Down 8

iBrian on Aug 13, 2020 at 7:18 am

Queer Yukon has lost my respect. I am sorry. You do not get to direct the Body that Serves and Protects.
As well Crosswalks are for safety purposes not for political statements.
No one seems to respect the traditional family.
I am a white hetrosexual male, who’s life I guess doesn’t matter.

Up 97 Down 4

Yukoner '71 on Aug 13, 2020 at 4:36 am

The very short history of the entire anti police aspect of Canadian gay organizations goes back only several years ago to when the gay pride parade in Toronto was blocked by the BLM police haters there. The Toronto parade organizer immediately caved to the pressure of the BLM crowd to exclude police because he wanted his precious parade to keep going. Up until that point police had been part of gay pride events across Canada but that participation no longer fit in to gay narrative of making it up as you go along oppression so overnight the police were suddenly persona non grata. It has become a classic example of the far left trying to out extreme each other.

Up 129 Down 3

Tater on Aug 13, 2020 at 12:55 am

Well, this was a public event at a public building. Your group does not have the right to dictate who can or cannot be there.
If your group is that distressed by what happened, I suggest you go and take your flag down.

Up 91 Down 6

drum on Aug 12, 2020 at 8:38 pm

Nonsense - We must have the RCMP everywhere,

Up 112 Down 4

drum on Aug 12, 2020 at 6:31 pm

Get over it. The RCMP are respected in this community and Territory. Without them we not be able to walk down Main Street or have a gathering anywhere - that includes the Gays wanting a Pride Parade. The RCMP protect us and our way of life. Respect them now.

Up 114 Down 4

Jeff simples on Aug 12, 2020 at 6:18 pm

Lots of “blue lives matter folks here”. But I’m going to take a different approach. What disappoints me the most about queer Yukon’s reaction, is that it is now a group demanding exclusion. LGBTQ2+ have fought with literal blood sweat and tears for many many years for inclusion. The rainbow flag once meant love and happiness. Now there is exclusion and hate. The RCMP is like any organization, it struggles to reconcile its issues across gender, race and religion. Heck, society is too, but I think it’s getting better, and more importantly, they WANT to get better.
How can a group that was started to end exclusion and spread love, now find itself excluding LGBTQ2+ RCMP members? Look at how you once treated persons of colour and know that you are now doing the same to LGBTQ2+ RCMP that are raging their own internal battles and pushing the bar of inclusion every day. Please be more true to your roots.

Up 108 Down 10

Mike on Aug 12, 2020 at 5:35 pm

What happened to the Yukon Frontier? Now we are the Yukon fronqueer. This is exactly what's wrong with society, we've allowed, promoted and normalized these groups who think they are special. Where's the flag for the fallen natives raped and abused in residential schools? Where's the flag for the working man who built this beautiful territory? Where's the flag for the people and families in the territory who have worked diligently to make the Yukon a better place, safe for our children and friendship amongst everyone? Yet we get parades, rainbows and flag raising and divide the people by trying to be special when in fact everyone is special everyone is equal and everyone should have a flag - it's called CANADIAN.

Up 85 Down 3

Please give one example of on Aug 12, 2020 at 5:13 pm

Queers in Whitehorse being dealt with poorly by the RCMP

I can name many individuals who have had to hold the RCMP to task and walked into courts with them after disservice.
If you can find me one, just one, instance of RCMP harassment based on sexuality --- please do.

Else what your doing is taking the microphone away from voices that actually do have to deal with these serious matters. This is how you silence activism. By filling the airways with red herrings and misinformation. You've lost my support.

Up 129 Down 2

Steven on Aug 12, 2020 at 5:11 pm

Hi, gay man here. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I agree with everyone's comments so far, especially Dave's "The people coming up with this complaint are just a bunch of copycat wannabes trying to emulate their heroes from down south because anti police behaviour happens to be the latest in thing du jour."

Sure, "the police" have treated the gay community terribly, but I feel like that's largely in the past, largely in the USA, and largely based on out-dated laws that the police had to enforce. But this isn't the 70's or 80's anymore, and while I think "the church" is still given far more clout than it should ever have, it's not as involved in the law as it used to be, so things are changing.

Don't get me wrong. There A LOT of Yukoners that are still too old-school conservative for my liking, and they need to wake up and stop treating people like sh*t just because they are different. BUT... I also don't see much value in any marginalized group (LGBT+, BLM, POC, etc etc) clubbing people into submission with cancel-culture; we're not going to win any new supports via that method.

There has to be a middle ground, and I hope we find it... on this and so many other issues.

Up 103 Down 8

Joe on Aug 12, 2020 at 4:46 pm

I object to the “Pride” flag. I believe in equality and freedom. I believe this flag infringes on the national, territorial and civic flags ‘ symbolism which is unity, not special interest groups.

Up 200 Down 17

martin on Aug 12, 2020 at 4:38 pm

The more I read/hear about these groups, the more I see the similarity to the other whining group.

Up 244 Down 15

Dave on Aug 12, 2020 at 4:09 pm

The honourable RCMP members are welcome everywhere in this territory and this country. It’s actually quite sickening to observe how the first thing the people who demand inclusivity do is start excluding others. Especially excluding the RCMP which would be the very first call for help these snowflakes would make if they felt their precious safe space was being infringed upon.
The people coming up with this complaint are just a bunch of copycat wannabes trying to emulate their heroes from down south because anti police behaviour happens to be the latest in thing du jour. I for one am getting sick and tired of this bunch thinking they control the agenda because they don’t, sooner or later the general population who by far makes up the majority of citizens will have enough of their antics.

Up 205 Down 11

TMYK on Aug 12, 2020 at 4:02 pm

The Liberal Minister Of Justice tells the RCMP to show up for an event and the RCMP get whined about? One, this lies squarely on McPhee’s head. Two, what a bunch of babies. This manufactured victim complex needs to end.

Up 202 Down 11

Matthew on Aug 12, 2020 at 3:48 pm

Time for entire LGBT (contradicting) community to grow up and stop whining about everything! Do what you want like you always have done and stop blaming others for your actions.

Up 186 Down 8

BnR on Aug 12, 2020 at 3:30 pm

“We continue to call for police accountability on these issues, as well as comprehensive reforms.......”
Maybe it’s just me, but wouldn’t having RCMP leaders attend these events be the beginning of these “comprehensive reforms”?
Ok. More meaningless rhetoric.

Up 197 Down 13

Bandit on Aug 12, 2020 at 2:55 pm

So I am wondering, if the axe wielding bandit that was arrested a few weeks back (not far from this flag raising event) had attended, axe in hand, would the RCMP have been welcome then or would everyone there have been Blackbelts in Verbal Judo and just talked him out of it? Just asking...

Up 205 Down 13

Politico on Aug 12, 2020 at 2:41 pm

"As an organization, Queer Yukon Society prioritizes marginalized people’s safety over privileged people’s comfort,” In other words, some people are more important than others. Good to know the Yukon LGBTQ2S+ supports treating people differently depending on their social status. Personally I support equality but I guess it's none of my business.