‘Too little, too late’: organizers on WPS decision to get involved with Winnipeg Pride
Posted May 31, 2022 9:51 pm.
Some leaders in Winnipeg’s LGBTQ2S+ community say a last-minute attempt by the Winnipeg Police Service to get involved in this year’s celebrations four hours before the raising of the Rainbow Flag at City Hall – was too little, too late.
“As an organizer, why wait until the week before pride? Why wait until the day of flag-raising for things like that. We’ve had five years for discussions, we’ve had two years of COVID restrictions where we could have done many meetings and worked on different things. But why wait until that time and also, why just approach pride?” That’s a question from Barry Karlenzig, President of Pride Winnipeg.
He says Pride is only one group of many who were involved in a call-to-action five years ago, alongside Two-Spirited People of Manitoba, Sunshine House, Queer People of Colour and QueerView Winnipeg.
“We work with our community partners day-in and day-out, but that original document five years ago was signed by seven signatories from major organizations in Winnipeg,” said Karlenzig. “So why not reach out to them. Why are they only reaching out to us and literally on the day of kick-off.”
At this time, police officers have been asked not to march in the Pride parade in uniform, a decision that was made following extensive consultations with community members in years past. Those consultations led to three specific action items outlined for the WPS.
They include Increasing awareness and training amongst WPS officers relating to LGBTQ2S+ and intersectionality with other oppressed groups. Greater, year-round engagement between the WPS and the LGBTQ2S+ community on an ongoing basis especially with groups that are traditionally socially excluded and taking a more active role in consulting and listening to the views, concerns and suggestions of the LGBTQ2S+ community on an ongoing basis and taking appropriate action in response.
Officers have not participated in Pride events in an official capacity since the 2017 celebrations when some attended out of uniform. Since then, Pride Winnipeg says communication has been rare. And while both sides had plans to re-engage in dialogue, Pride Winnipeg says the last-minute email was not a good start.
“In my personal opinion, it’s too little, too late,” said the organization’s vice-president of community engagement Jenn Rands. Working closely with members of the LGBTQ2S+ community across the city, she feels the WPS has not delivered on any of the action items and says the service needs to do better.
“If you’re really committed as an organization to make real, actual tangible, meaningful change, I would invite them to take their own initiatives, shift your priorities, engage with our community 365-days a year,” said Rands. “Not just in a two-line email on the morning of our flag raising at CityHall.”
CityNews reached out to the Winnipeg Police Service for comment in regards to the outlined action items, and their involvement with this year’s Pride events. An interview was not accommodated, but police say the service’s new Superintendent of Community Engagement: Bonnie Emerson will be at the Winnipeg Police Board Friday to provide an update.