Calvin Campbell helps strengthen ties between police and community

Calvin Campbell wades through mud and shallow creek-water, not focused on his accompanying friends, but on finding one thing: frogs.

Some days he would have a pail to store his catches, but this day he has a T-shirt, which doubles as a makeshift basket.

This is one of the many activities Campbell did growing up on a farm in Pierson Manitoba.

Along with riding in combines and cycling down dirt roads, Campbell spent a lot of time with a friend he is still close with to this day.

“My childhood was great,” Campbell says. “I was close friends my babysitter’s daughter and she had always wanted a younger sister – I became the new younger sister.”

“She would drag me off to play with Barbies, to bake, and to paint my nails. Campbell says he grew up not knowing much about the gay community. Today he is the director for Pride at Work Canada, and is the co-chairman of the Sexuality and Gender Diversity Chiefs of Police Advisory Committee.

Photo by Drew HennI was getting all this attention.”

“We talked recently and she said, ‘I’ve known for years that you’re gay.’ And I said ‘well why didn’t you tell me?’”

Campbell says he always had an idea that he was gay, but he struggled with the identity aspect of it when he was young.

“I didn’t really grow up around gay people,” Campbell says. “I didn’t know what gay people looked like or talked like. When I finally started dating, they were the stereotypical gay people.

“They spoke a certain way and dressed a certain way. I didn’t really identify with that. I was told that was bad.

“At that age, you’re still learning who you are and what it means to be this way – what it means to be gay in modern society.”

Campbell says he faced some of the stereotypical misconceptions of that era when he decided to publicly come out in his late teens.

Campbell says that his father told him that he shouldn’t be allowed around children.

He says others told him he would get AIDS, become a pervert, and essentially turn into a completely different person.

However, he says others noticed a change in the way he handled himself.

Campbell faced some issues when he came out of the closet as a teenager. Others told him he would turn into a completely different person.

Photo by Drew Henn“A few years after college I had bumped into some friends from high school and they said to me ‘I didn’t recognize you. You look different. You act different. You walk and talk different.’

“It’s that self confidence. Coming out has really made me the person that I am.”

The college Campbell refers to is Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Manitoba.

At 19, Campbell enrolled in a two-year design course.

“I knew at 16 that I really wanted to do web design and graphic design,” Campbell says. “I always liked to draw and be creative so it was like an instant outlet.”

Despite having experience in graphics design, Campbell pays the bills by offering financial advice with RBC Dominion Securities Inc.

It’s after work that Campbell practices his volunteer work.

Campbell has become an activist for equal rights with the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transexual) community.

He is a director for Pride at Work Canada, and is the co-chairman of the Sexuality and Gender Diversity Chiefs of Police Advisory Committee, whose goal is improving relationships between the police and minority communities.

“I think it’s fun to be the one leading the way,” says Campbell of being an activist.

“I’d rather be riding the wave at the front instead of being caught in the tide that’s bringing it in.”

Lynn MacDonald, who formerly held Campbell’s position on the police advisory committee, notes that Campbell is a good fit for the position.

“When I first met Calvin five years ago, he was a passionate activist for gay rights, but he didn’t really have the outlets to put his passion to good use,” MacDonald says.

“I’ve seen him grow into a very professional activist since then.”

Campbell’s transition into activism was spurred by a single, dark experience that happened roughly six years ago.

Campbell says he was walking home with two friends after a night out in Calgary when a passing stranger called all of them a homophobic slur.

“Canada was supposed to be this great, safe haven” – Calvin Campbell

Campbell responded with a snarky comment of his own. Nine people then began to surround Campbell and his friends.

“The one who was in my face was saying ‘If you’re gay, let us know and we’ll leave you alone,’” Campbell says.

“I told him I didn’t know what the issue was. Then one of his friends leaned in and punched me in the face, knocking me to the ground.”

Campbell says one of his friends had his hands up and was telling the nine other guys that he didn’t want to fight. He got punched in the face as well.

“They could have left us there and walked away,” Campbell says. “Instead, they decided to kick me in the ribs and the head while I was down.

“I remember just lying on the pavement of Fifth Avenue southwest, watching cars go by and no one else seemed to care,” he said. “I couldn’t believe this was actually happening.”

Following the incident, Campbell says he decided to play a part in changing the culture around the LGBT.

“Canada was supposed to be this great, safe haven,” Campbell says.

“We had same-sex marriage rights. We had protection at work. Policies and laws are a great start but they don’t change the culture.”

Campbell says he was angry following the incident not only with those who were involved, but also with the Calgary Police Service.

He says he felt that his report was not taken seriously, and he received very little communication regarding whether the police even followed up on it.

Const. Andy Buck, the LGBT liason officer for the Calgary Police Diversity Resource Team, says that he wasn’t familiar with Campbell’s story until he began working with him, but he says it’s important for the police to be trusted by all members of the public.

“We were out at the AIDS Walk and the Pride Parade to show our support in working with the LGBT community and building that relationship,” Buck says.

“I’ve had people recently come up to me and get my email so they can ask me questions or voice concerns. I’m happy to offer that support to them.”

Campbell notes that the Calgary Police Service has made significant strides in improving its relationship with the LGBT community.

“Even a few years ago, you wouldn’t have seen a positive response to the police being at an LGBT event,” Campbell says.

“At this year’s pride parade, our tent was packed and we gave out a ton of posters.”

When asked what advice he could give to those who have been victims of discrimination, he says that they should seek an outlet so they can discuss it and come to terms with it.

“Counselling helped me through it,” Campbell says. “I’m now at the point where when that event pops up, it empowers me.

“It’s what drives me forward every day. Through my job I hear about incidents that happen around town, so I just try to advocate for the victims and make sure that they get the appropriate support.”

The Calgary Police Resource Team aims to strengthen minority communities through personal contact and dialogue. Through this dialogue they promote education and awareness on issues that or questions for those in the community. To read more about them, visit their website.

dhenn@cjournal.ca