Montreal officially apologizes to LGBTQ community
Published Friday, August 18, 2017 1:27PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, August 18, 2017 6:33PM EDT
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has officially apologized to the LGBTQ community for how they were treated by authorities in the past.
“It was for me, a stain in our history, about the way that we’ve been treating the LGBTQ community. And I said that when the time has come, we will act accordingly,” said Coderre. “It’s not an apology just to apologize, but clearly to turn the page and have a new chapter.”
Coderre made the announcement Friday afternoon while flanked by police chief Philippe Pichet and Montreal Pride president Eric Pineault.
Throughout the 1960s and well into the 1990s Montreal police frequently attacked, abused, and harassed gays and lesbians, culminating in the infamous raid on the Sex Garage gay club, and assaults on protesters the next day.
Gay activist John Banks said some of the police raids were appalling.
“(Police had) Tommy (machine) guns, you know? ‘Put down your drinks and against the wall!’ Kept them like that for an hour and a half. That is why they apologized,” he said, adding that the apology was “appreciated. Very much so.”
Montreal police also took the opportunity to apologize on Friday.
“These acts have undermined the dignity of the people concerned,” said Pichet. “We would like to sincerly apologize to the people that were targeted and marginalized and hope that with our words today this helps them to turn the page.”
Last week Projet Montreal councillor Richard Ryan said the history of harassment deserved an official apology, and Montreal police said last week they were examining the request.
Puelo Deir, founder of the Divers/Cité festival was at the Sex Garage club the night of the raid, and told CTV Montreal that an apology would go a long way toward repairing the relationship between the LGBTQ community and police.
"The people who suffered during those times, the people who are still alive it will be such a great weight off their shoulders and it will buoy our community," said Deir, adding that people were “being beaten up on the streets of Montreal in broad daylight, watching cops raid bars with machine guns and cameras.”
Coderre admitted there is still work to be done, noting that a working group will bring back a policy on sexual diversity and gender plurality. He said it would be a code of conduct and ethics for public servants and would also create a clear line of communications to address members of the LGBTQ community.
He spoke about examples including changing public toilets to be sensitive to trans people, and also mentioned changing language he uses, for example from saying “ladies and gentlemen” to “citizens”
A liaison person may also be named as a go-between for the community and the city.
“There is still homophobia and transphobia and we need to continue working together to enhance the partnership,” he said. “We’ve done a lot. We need to do more all the time and we have to make sure we all learn from each other.”
Montreal will hold its Pride parade on Sunday.