Coalition of local groups calling for Montreal police budget to be cut in half

police

by Cindy Sherwin and Amy Luft, CTV Montreal

A new coalition is calling for the Montreal police budget to be cut in half, with the money reinvested into community programs.

Calls to defund police forces have gained increasing support in North America since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May. Supporters say it's a way to improve community safety and address systemic racism within the police force.

The new group, Coalition to Defund the Police, brings together dozens of Montreal community organizations, including Black Lives Matter Montreal, Hoodstock, the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal and Stella Montreal.

The group gathered in Nelson Mandela Park in Cote-des-Neiges Tuesday morning to explain its plan, calling for multiple measures, including:

  •  cutting the city's police budget by half, or $665 million, and redirecting that funding into Black, Indigenous and other “oppressed” communities
  •  disarming Montreal police
  •  decriminalizing sex work and drugs
  •  eliminating certain police operations they say disproportionately target oppressed communities, including random street checks. 

The group said mandating police to wear body cameras and hiring more Black and Indigenous police officers is not enough, and that the repression and oppression needs to stop. There are many situations where police intervention is not required at all, said Stephanie Germain, who works with Hoodstock, a community organization in Montreal North.

"Every time they call the police, the youth don't feel safe because it becomes a confrontation instead of a conversation. So for us, we need to make sure the youth are safe," she said.

A key point is the call for better handling of people with mental health problems, particularly from racialized communities. The coalition said those are situations that don't call for violence or shootings, but de-escalation. 

Montreal city council has not voted on defunding police, but a similar measure in was rejected by Toronto city council last week.

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