(Black Press)                                Stickers in store windows would indicate victims of harassment or other anti-LGTBQ crimes can seek safe haven there.

(Black Press) Stickers in store windows would indicate victims of harassment or other anti-LGTBQ crimes can seek safe haven there.

Safe haven program for LGBTQ could be coming to Maple Ridge

RCMP will work with business owners

Rainbow stickers could start appearing in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows store windows as part of a program aimed at providing a safe haven for LGBTQ victims of harassment or bullying.

Ridge Meadows RCMP is looking at bringing the Safe Places Program to both cities.

The Safe Place program allows for businesses to self-identify as a Safe Place for members of the LGBTQ community and will offer them shelter if they are feeling either unsafe or if they are a victim of an anti-LGBTQ crime.

In the Safe Place program, people who feel that they are the victim of anti-LGBTQ crimes or harassment enter the business and stay there until police are able to attend.

Participating locations sign a pledge promising that they will instruct their employees to assist victims and witnesses of anti-LGBTQ crimes.

Ridge Meadows RCMP are discussing having an officer lead the program on behalf of the the local detachment.

It originated in Seattle, was taken up by police in Vancouver, where 380 businesses have now signed up, and is now spreading across B.C. – first arriving in Prince Rupert in January.

A program began in Langley in March.

Brad Dirks, of the group B.C. Families for Inclusivity, worked with the Langley RCMP to have the program bought to that city.

Now an increasing number of store windows show the police badge with a rainbow. As the parent of a teenage son who identifies with the LGTBQ community, he said it is gratifying to see.

“They know if they are feeling harassed they can duck in there and be safe.”

Dirks said these youth can sometimes be targets. With parent groups who are opposed to the new SOGI curriculum being more vocal publicly, he helped to found B.C. Families for Inclusivity to push back, to have their voices heard.

“Kids like mine, and families like mine, are under attack,” he added.

“This is a terrific initiative that can only help to promote acceptance and inclusion in our communities while protecting people who may feel they are at risk,” said Jane Hanson, volunteer engagement and crime prevention programs director for the B.C. RCMP, after the force’s first launch in Prince Rupert.