VPD Working to Better Serve Trans* People.

Debbie Love

Trans* issues are the hot LGBTQ+ topic right now, as many activist groups and individuals are making a serious push for equal rights and safe spaces for trans* people. And, in stark contrast to the bathroom insanity in America, Canada is working to increase its protections for our trans* citizens.

On April 27th, BC MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert put forward Bill M-222 2016, asking that gender identity and gender expression be protected under the BC Human Rights Code. On May 17th, International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, & Biphobia, the Liberal government put forward a bill to include gender identity and gender expression as protected rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And on Thursday, June 19th, the Vancouver Police Board publicly launched Walk With Me: an internal Vancouver Police Department training video, aimed at increasing officers’ awareness and understanding of trans people’s issues… on the streets, in their lives, and with the VPD itself.

(L-R) VPD Chief Adam Palmer, Velvet Steele, Mayor Gregor Robertson, & Inspector Marcie Flamand.

The VPD’s Diversity & Aboriginal Policing Section‘s creation of this video — for the purpose of creating mindfulness and greater sensitivity to the needs of the trans* community — is a step toward preventing future issues between trans* individuals and officers, and (hopefully) help heal some of the wounds of the past. The video itself does not focus on pre-existing issues, (although, cast member Velvet Steele does share a painful story about mistreatment by officers who were supposed to be there to help her). Instead, the video focuses on trans* people’s overall struggles — and particularly focuses on the youngest cast member, Tru — as a means to help remove negative bias toward all trans* people.

After the presentation of the video, the Vancouver Police Board also passed a new policy regarding the treatment of trans* people, that now has officers use the preferred name and pronoun for all citizens — and use only that name and pronoun — in all interviews, notes, and reports. (Legal names will still be on individuals’ files, for cross-checking and database purposes. Also, the preferred name will not be listed as an alias, in order to protect people’s identities as needed, and to also not imply any negative legal connotations around each trans* person’s chosen name.) This policy is an important step toward treating trans* people as equals, with some basic dignity and respect. And while it can be easily argued that such treatment is long overdue, it is a step in the right direction.

The issue of housing trans* citizens — in holding cells and prisons — has yet to be solved, but it is steps like these that facilitate such solutions. I look forward to what the VPD has in store on this front, and hope that all police departments in Canada (and the world) make use of this video and make more like it. The trans* community is a very vulnerable one, and having police officers first do no harm — while serving and protecting them — is precisely what is needed, and due to each and every person… whether they be trans* or not.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  trans* denotes inclusion of people who are transgender, transsexual, gender variant / gender non-conforming, gender fluid, gender queer, agender, bigender, pangender, etc.

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