Any expression of regret towards oppression and past injustices has symbolic value, however this value can be diminished when the expression serves to omit or erase the experiences of the most marginalized members within Queer and Trans communities. So while this historic apology and community mural are positive steps in the direction towards accountability, they need to be situated as part of a process towards building trust between Queer and Trans folk – specifically racialized members of these communities.
Mayor John Tory of Toronto called it a “good and appropriate” time to acknowledge something that was wrong and he commended Saunders for issuing the apology, calling it timely, right and necessary.“We can’t leave these sad chapters in our history to just be forgotten about, or in some way to just be unaddressed,” Tory said. “We have to remember, we have to acknowledge and we have to apologize.”
Here at the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, we try to uplift voices within our community and defer to the opinions of activists who were directly affected by Toronto Police-raids, chiefly in either Operation Soap or the 2000 Pussy Palace raids. They have spoken that this apology leaves out pressing issues such as the criminalization and violent targeting of racialized, indigenous and marginalized groups within and outside of LGBTQ communities (Globe and Mail). “As a gay man looking on as Chief Saunders “expresses regret” for the raids against male bathhouses of 1981 (but not the lesbian bathhouse raid of 2001), I wonder how long it will take for police to apologize for racial profiling and carding, kettling, and killing people with mental health crises as a first resort. It’s important to remember that some LGBTQ people are also black, social justice activists and have mental health issues.” Richard Fung
Acknowledging and apologizing for the past can be steps towards community reconciliation, but does little to dismantle the homophobia and transphobia that motivates violence towards gender and sexual minorities.
Queer and Trans Canadians often have multiple identities that intersect and we echo the cries of intersectional social justice movements and organizations in regards to improving policing relations with people of color and sex worker communities. Here at CCGSD, we bear witness to the apology made by Chief Saunders of the Toronto Police and hope that this is not the end of their accountability process. Building community trust requires fostering conversations focused on dismantling systems of oppression to occur on a frequent basis and we look forward to contributing towards this process.