May 21, 2001
Joint Statement on the LGBT Community – Police Liason Committee
The June 13 Committee, Maggie’s Toronto Prostitutes’ Community Service Project, and the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario join together to state our deep concern about the undemocratic process by which the community has been summoned to a meeting on May 30 to choose members of a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered/ Transsexual Community — Police Liaison Committee. There is no consensus in our community that such a committee can be a useful way to communicate with the police. We urge community members to be wary of participating in this deeply flawed process.
Our community has a long history of harassment by the police. This harassment continues now. Last September the police raided the Pussy Palace Women’s Bathhouse. Prostitutes are constantly subjected to police harassment. Gay bars are constantly harassed by police anxious to limit and control what happens there.
In such an atmosphere, it is crucial that any new mechanism for communication between our community and the police be completely under our control and accountable to us. It is crucial that any liaison committee be developed through a democratic, open community process, unimpeded by police pressure. It is crucial that all members of our community, particularly those who face harassment, be brought into any communication process.
Unfortunately, the current process of creating an LGBT Community – Police Liaison Committee has none of these crucial characteristics. Here is why:
It is undemocratic. The May 30 meeting has been organized by a group of people who promised last September that they would develop a detailed proposal for a Community – Police Liaison Committee. They would then present this proposal to the community for discussion and possible change at a public meeting. No such proposal was ever developed or presented to the community.
Instead, the liaison group decided to ask the community to elect new members who would continue to work on a proposal, including negotiating the details with the police. It is this committee, NOT a properly constituted liaison committee, which is to be chosen on May 30.
The new committee’s structure, which was developed in private discussions, is a travesty of democracy. Only individuals who are sponsored by a community organization may seek election on May 30. No one may be nominated at the meeting. Six people will be elected. They will then choose a further four members by themselves.
It is exclusionary. The police have insisted that they will not permit anyone who has not passed a police background check to sit on the new committee. Sex trade workers, the women charged in connection with the Women’s Bathhouse, people charged with offenses related to the medical use of marijuana, bathhouse found-ins, and political activists could all face exclusion. While the liaison group claims to oppose this restriction, and to have encouraged prostitutes to seek election, it has NOT resolved this issue BEFORE having an election, exposing community members to public embarrassment if they are blocked from joining the committee.
The community’s right to choose its representatives on a liaison committee is not negotiable. Without representatives from groups that are subject to police harassment, a liaison committee can have no legitimacy.
It is police-driven. The police have threatened to set up their own handpicked liaison committee. This threat has been combined with an insistence that the process move forward quickly, regardless of community concerns. The liaison group has yielded to these threats and called an election without any assurance that the community’s choices will actually be allowed to sit on the committee.
The community liaison process has been deeply flawed since the September 2000 meeting. The May 30 meeting will only add to those flaws. We urge the community not to give unwarranted legitimacy to this public relations exercise by the police. Instead we urge community members to work together to develop an effective response to continuing police harassment.
Letter to LGBT Police Liaison Large Group
This is to inform you that the Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Rights in Ontario (CLGRO) has withdrawn from any further involvement with the LGBT Police Liaison Large Group, of which we have been part. We cannot support the formation of a liaison committee, as is proposed by the working group at the May 30 meeting, on what are essentially terms dictated by the police. Our reasons are as follows:
1. Developing formal relations with the police cannot proceed so long as conditions are imposed by the police that will require members of a liaison committee to undergo criminal background checks or will exclude from membership on a liaison committee persons having criminal charges and/or convictions, or who are sex trade workers. A liaison committee should not be established so long as this issue is left unresolved.
The Toronto Police Service is on record stating that police checks will be conducted on all community members on such a committee, and those with charges, convictions and or of ‘questionable character’ (i.e. sex trade workers) will be excluded. This is an unacceptable demand.
2. The LGBT Police Liaison Committee Working Group’s failure to hold a large group and/or public meeting to resolve the issue of criminal background checks and to have input to and approve the terms of reference for a liaison committee and the means by which the members of such a committee should be elected. Instead, the community is being presented with a structure that it is simply being asked to implement.
It was our understanding that proposals developed following the September 2000 public meeting were to have been presented to the Large Group and community for debate and, if found to be acceptable, approved. No Large Group meetings have been held since September despite repeated inquiries (save for May 16th, post the announcement of an election.) In addition, some groups have been excluded from the process leading up to the May 30 meeting simply because they were unable to attend the September meeting. As a member of the Large Group since its inception earlier in 2000, CLGRO was inexplicably dropped from the e-mail distribution list – the primary source of information about what was happening – after the September 2000 meeting, despite having participated in preceding meetings and having expressed an interest in continuing in the process when sending our regrets.
3. Any credible police liaison process must be focussed on the agenda of the community, not the agenda of the police.
The liaison process must not be driven by the agenda and timetable set by the police. The police must be accountable to us, the community, as citizens and taxpayers.
Unfortunately, this is not the way in which the process leading up to the May 30 meeting has unfolded. By leaving unresolved the unacceptable police demand that they dictate who will be permitted to be members of a liaison committee, and disregarding the importance of further Large Group and/or community consultation, the Working Group is acquiescing to the police agenda and timetable. There is no need to establish a flawed committee simply because the police have threatened to establish their own committee of members they will appoint. This, along with the other police demands, is an ultimatum that does not foster trust or confidence. By acquiescing, the community liaison committee will be signalling that it is accountable to the police, and that the police are calling the shots.
For the reasons set out above, CLGRO will not be nominating a representative for the committee nor will we vote during the planned election to be held on May 30th. We nevertheless intend to be present at this meeting to inform the community of our position.