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Politicians in several of Canada’s major cities are agreeing to listen to protestors and activists calls for a response to police brutality and racism, but they have not yet agreed to meet the call to cut police budgets, according to the Globe and Mail.
The mayor of Edmonton spoke about freezing next year’s police budget on Wednesday. Officials in Victoria requested a demographics report from the local police department. A councillor in Hamilton has asked the city’s police chief for a report on the impacts of a budget cut so the public can see the consequences it will have.
Police services throughout North America are seeing calls for reform and budget cuts in some cases. As protests enter their third week, activists are demanding that money be taken from police funding and relocated to areas such as affordable housing, schooling, mental health support and transit. They argue that this would result in less pressure for police on the streets. The budgets are already under pressure due to the impact coronavirus has had on the economy.
Minneapolis was hit with violent riots and looting last month following the death of George Floyd, who was killed by an officer who pinned him down by the neck with his knee. Protests have now started to take place in Canada and around the world.
Don Iveson, the mayor of Edmonton suggested cancelling the city’s annual police budget increase for inflation and population growth in 2021. A public hearing will take place to discuss the proposition.
“Perhaps some of those dollars could be reallocated to some of these other prevention programs,” Iveson told reporters.
Edmonton Police Service chief, Dale McFee advised against drastic cuts noting that if the police budget was cut by $75 million—as one petition requests—approximately 500 officers would have to be let go from the force as a result. He said the cut “would take us back many years,” said McFee adding that many women and minorities would be included in the lay-offs.
Hamilton councillor Chad Collins drafted a motion for the city’s police service to provide information about the impacts of a 20 percent cut to the budget. He said he’s not sure that taking money directly from policing for social programs is an effective move. He added that some residents are asking for more officers to be on patrol.
In Victoria, the local police board approved a number of anti-racism measures, though the budget likely will not see any cuts. Police boards in Victoria and Esquimalt—a neighbouring city—passed a motion asking for a report from the Victoria Police Department on the amount of Black and Indigenous officers compared to the population's demographics. They also requested a number of female officers.
“This will give us a baseline and show us where there is room for focus in recruiting,” said a Wednesday statement from the board.
Downtown Vancouver saw many demonstrator protesting against anit-Black racism and many were calling to defund police.
The police chief was against a recent city council motion in Vancouver last month to reduce the $314 million budget by 1 percent. He said any VPD cuts will cause the department to lose frontline workers. The VPD sent a letter on the subject to the mayor on April 27.
“Any discussion of reducing the VPD’s operating budget would translate directly into service cuts, which would have a detrimental effect on public safety, in particular during a time of crisis such as this,” states the letter.
Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart is going to make an announcement on Thursday about a “path forward for policing.”