Brad Dirks, Const. Heather McLaren, Stacey Wakelin, and Const. Dale Quiring have all been pushing for Langley to join the Safe Place program (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance)

Safe Place campaign for LGBTQ residents expanding to Fraser Valley

A local program will turn stores and civic buildings into safe havens.

Langley residents and police are teaming up to help create local safe spaces for LGBTQ residents.

Local parents Stacey Wakelin and Brad Dirks are pushing for the Safe Place program to be implemented in Langley, and they’re already finding a receptive audience with local RCMP.

If widely adopted, Safe Place would mean local businesses and civic facilities could put up a rainbow decal on their doors or windows.

Any LGBTQ person would know that building is a safe location if they are feeling threatened, harassed, or bullied.

“It tells people the facility… is supportive or inclusive, but it also is a dialogue starter,” said Wakelin.

She hopes it will get people talking about inclusivity in Langley.

Dirks is driven by the fact that he’s the father of a transgender teenage son.

“I would love for them to feel they can walk around their community and feel safe,” said Dirks.

“There’s education behind it,” Wakelin noted. The staff at locations marked with a Safe Place decal are to have some training on what to do if someone needs help. Local police will also be ready to respond if they get a call from a Safe Place location.

“With this program, we need to have the support of the police,” said Wakelin.

Dirks and Wakelin have secured the aid of the Langley RCMP, and help from the originator of the program in Canada, Vancouver Police officer Dale Quiring.

The E Division of the RCMP – which covers all of B.C. – is now on board, and rainbow decals are available.

And the local RCMP is also stepping in, with Const. Heather McLaren as the liaison for the Safe Place program.

But Dirks and Wakelin also credit the help they got from Quiring as key.

“Without this man, we wouldn’t even have the program to even consider bringing it to Langley,” Dirks said.

Quiring said the program, which was inspired by one in Seattle, has been a success since its 2016 implementation in Vancouver. It was the first such program in Canada.

There are 380 businesses signed up as Safe Places in Vancouver.

The decals for Langley Safe Places will be almost identical, but for RCMP logos instead of VPD on the top.

The next step for the campaigners for Safe Places is getting local government and businesses onside.

Wakelin and Dirks will be speaking to Langley Township council the afternoon of March 5, and hope to speak to the City council as well.

They’re also planning to reach out to groups like the Downtown Langley Business Association, the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce, and other groups of store owners.

Then they hope to see the effort spread to Abbotsford and Chilliwack – Quiring has already spoken to Abbotsford Police officials.

Wakelin and Dirks both became vocal about LGBTQ rights last year, when a locally-based group dubbed Culture Guard began criticizing the SOGI curriculum in B.C. schools.

SOGI stands for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. It’s a set of tools teachers can use to answer questions about those topics for students at different grade levels.

Through a group called B.C. Families for Inclusivity, Wakelin and Dirks organized rallies and communicated with local school trustees and politicians.

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