UPDATED: Montreal apologizes to LGBTQ citizens for decades of police abuse and municipal neglect
In an historic move, Mayor Denis Coderre and his Chief of police have offered sincere apologies to the gay men of Montreal and to the broader LGBTQ community.
Their apologies are for what Coderre called the city’s “tainted past;” decades of abuse, harassment, violence, arrests and neglect suffered by LGBTQ Montrealers at the hands of municipal authorities between the 1960s to 1990s.
“The best way to reconciliate (sic) is to make sure that we recognize what happened,” said Coderre. “I would like on behalf of the municipal administration of the City of Montreal...offer my public apologies.”
Like his Toronto counterpart in 2016, Montreal Police Chief Philippe Pichet expressed his Force’s “regrets” for events that took place “during different police operations in gay bars and clubs” over several decades.
“We have learned a lot within our organization...and have chosen to be part of the solution,” said Pichet. “We would like to sincerely apologize to the people that were targeted and marginalized and hope that with our words today this helps them to turn the page.”
Before Pride Montreal and this year’s Canada Pride, Montreal celebrated LGBT Pride with Divers-Cité. Co-founder Puelo Dier also attended the Mayor’s event.
“It feels awesome...it feels as though I’ve come full-circle,” said Dier. “This feels like closure in one aspect of the work I’ve done in this community.”
Dier did a solo show recently in which he spoke about Montreal’s LGBTQ history and what that was like for gay men of the day.
“Cops raiding bars, brandishing machine guns and cameras and those arrested would have their names and pictures printed in the daily newspaper and shown on camera on television,” explained Dier. “That destroyed lives.”
These apologies are long-overdue for many gay Montrealers and Coderre admits there is still work to be done. That includes a new working group to develop policy options on sexual diversity and gender parity that will form part of a code of conduct and ethics for municipal public servants.
When asked about the global reality facing LGBTQ citizens, Coderre didn’t mention any names, but stressed the importance of safeguarding all of the LGBTQ community’s human rights victories. “We need to protect that in that world we’re living now. It’s very fragile,” he said.
“There is some evil out there. So we need not only to protect, but we have a duty to speak. We have a duty to make sure that everyone sticks together.”