Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday June 10, 2020
Outrage and calls to ‘defund police’ in Canada
Citing decades of failed reform, Canadian protesters against anti-Black racism have rallied around another mantra for change: “defund the police.”
Instead of tweaking the current system of law enforcement, activists say that a more powerful approach could be a new kind of law enforcement altogether. The start of that change is removing and reallocating massive sums of money provided to police forces in the country, they say, which could help prevent more police-involved deaths like the ones that have spurred ongoing outrage, including Minnesota man George Floyd and Toronto woman Regis Korchinski-Paquet.
More than $15 billion was spent in Canada on policing in 2017-18, according to Statistics Canada, an increase to the year prior.
The push to defund is gaining momentum in some parts of Canada. In Toronto, where almost a quarter of each person’s property taxes go just to funding the police, two city councillors on Monday put forward a motion to cut the city’s police budget by 10 per cent and shift it to “much-needed community supports.”
Thousands have signed petitions in other parts of the country, from Vancouver and Regina to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and Montreal for similar reallocations of police funding.
When asked recently if he would consider defunding the RCMP, which receives a large sum of the national policing budget, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t reject the notion.
“I think there are many different paths toward making a better country. We need to explore the range of them,” he said.
Mental health is an essential piece of the call for defunding since many police-involved deaths in Canada have involved mental health and substance abuse issues, including Korchinski-Paquet’s death, which occurred afterpolice responded to a mental wellness check on May 27. The money, activists say, could go to boosting community support for mental health and creating what Black Lives Matter Toronto co-founder Sandy Hudson called “a new emergency service.” (ctv)