A pilot program launched by the Kamloops Pride Society and the city’s Community Policing Unit aims to provide members of the 2SLGBTQPIA+ community a way to identify businesses who can help if they are feeling unsafe.
The Safe Spaces pilot program was launched on Sunday, the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Ashton O’Brien, president of Kamloops Pride, said the society and the Kamloops RCMP will partner to vet businesses who want to apply to be part of the program and show they are a safe space.
“If the business is approved, then they sign a pledge, and they will get a rainbow shield sticker that gets put in their window,” O’Brien said.
“If anybody is being harassed or anything, they can go into a location with that sticker and they will be able to get assistance and be able to wait there safely until the police arrive. They [the business] will call the police for them and everything.”
O’Brien said the Kamloops RCMP Community Policing Unit suggested implementing the Safe Spaces pilot program — which has been launched in other communities — and Kamloops Pride looked at ways the program could be implemented collaboratively.
As part of the business review process, Kamloops Pride will vet applicants first, to ensure any incidents that haven’t been reported to police will be considered.
“People have reported issues to us that haven't been reported to the RCMP. That's generally what happens, we'll get the reports, but the RCMP may not. So this way, we can close that gap a bit,” O’Brien said.
“We need to make a full solution, and the community needs to know that it's being run in a way that's still making sure that they're kept safe.”
O’Brien said RCMP will only be called if the individual seeking safety wants police to be called, but noted in a business identified as a safe space, they will have a supportive witness present.
“There's going to be supportive people with them, which changes if it were a situation where they were just calling the police on their own,” O’Brien said.
In a news release announcing the pilot launch, Cpl. Dana Napier, of the Kamloops RCMP Community Policing Unit, noted the 2SLGBTQPIA+ community has not always been supported and has been subjected to hate crimes.
“We want to do a better job in the community of being inclusive and making people feel safe to report these crimes to the police,” Napier said.
Napier noted RCMP recognize the importance of the Transgender Day of Remembrance, “and the systemic and societal pressures faced by the trans and gender-diverse communities.”
“It’s our hope that by working together with the Kamloops Pride Society on implementing various joint and collaborative initiatives, including diversity and inclusivity training for police officers in Kamloops, we can move toward making people feel supported and safe,” Napier said.
Partners of the Safe Spaces Program include the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce, the downtown and North Shore business improvement associations, and the Kamloops-Thompson School District.
O’Brien said some businesses have already signed up with the program.
O’Brien said Kamloops Pride has also been working closely with the local community policing unit to share resources, information and set up diversity and queer competency training for Kamloops officers.
“We're trying to do this in a whole effort,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien said Kamloops Pride Society welcomes feedback, questions and concerns from community members about the Safe Spaces program. People can reach out through the society’s website, which includes an anonymous reporting tool.