Statement on Justice 4 Black Lives Calls to Action and Justice
On June 5, upwards of twenty-thousand Winnipeggers rallied at the Legislature for Justice for Black Lives, and marched to the Human Rights Museum at the Forks. I was proud to march with my family in this record setting demonstration. I want to acknowledge the calls to action I have received to date, over 200 emails asking City Council to restructure Winnipeg Police Services and reallocate their budget to critical health, life-safety and community services. I want to acknowledge that I am aware of over 55,000 signatories on a petition to do the same.
I share your desire to see structural change in terms of prioritizing community-led initiatives over further financial investment into the Winnipeg Police Service. While I wish these discussions and changes had occurred in time to save black and indigenous lives lost to police violence, we cannot wait any longer on police reform. Action from all levels of government is needed reallocating resources to support services in public health, mental health, housing, and community social development.
I particularly, like the motion put forward by Councillors Wong-Tam and Morrow from the City of Toronto. Council has made some important moves to invest in alternative forms of public safety other than police, but much more is needed. I am considering adapting the Toronto motion to a Winnipeg context. For instance:
1. I favor reducing the police budget by 10% and directing the savings towards community, including: supporting agencies and non-governmental organizations in Winnipeg that perform community health, crises intervention and social support services; calling for more jobs within Community Service Community Development unit to address social services, health and crises interventions adding needed capacity in the city public service and; continue to follow-up on the Newcomer Strategy, TRC, and MMIWG national inquiries providing meaningful anti-racist and anti-oppression education.
2. To achieve structural budgetary reform in the police budget I want to support the new Police Board Chair in requiring a line by line budget review and consideration for the city to flow money quarterly based on performance. (For instance, if the Winnipeg police attempt to cut community initiatives, I would propose to replace every dollar cut by the WPS with a community services dollar to replace it paid by for further reductions to the WPS budget.)
3. I am in support of amendments necessary to the Provincial Police Services Act to enhance police oversight and will continue to call on the provincial government to amend the Provincial Police Services Act or work with those interested in new legislation in support of a BIPOC oversight body.
I know that for many allies it seems like our council hasn’t done enough. And I agree. But I am proud of some of what I have been able to accomplish so far with council colleagues including:
- A majority of council voted to reduce police pension with a view to reinvest. Earlier during the pandemic, I wrote to Minister Cullen requesting an Indigenous oversight body following repeated calls of several inquiries. (Note: The Police Services Act Review should be coming out shortly from the Manitoba government).
- City of Winnipeg through the work of the Harvard-Bloomberg initiative has acknowledged many calls that the Winnipeg Police Service receive are non-criminal in nature and that calls involve such things as domestic disputes, mental health crises, and sickness. This initiative seeks to respond and divert calls to more appropriate resources.
- During the pandemic Council initiated with the support of partners 311 service. I will work with others to ensure this endures past the pandemic as an important social service single window, not just for seniors but everyone.
- The Community Safety and Crime Prevention Program established itself within the Department of Community Services (and not within Winnipeg Police Services) to support community-level activities that strengthen local crime prevention and community safety efforts, and to promote the exchange of information between community residents. To see a list of projects for 2019/20; visit: https://winnipeg.ca/cms/community_safety.stm
- The Standing Policy Committee on Protection, Community Services and Parks Community Services produced a higher needs report and mapping child poverty in Winnipeg with the goal to shape priorities in recreation and library investments.
- Council unanimously passed a new 24/7 safe space grant program and will move fast to work with the MMIWG-MB Coalition on Winnipeg’s first low barrier safe space.
- 176 Indigenous Accord partners are working on calls to action.
- I have supported $40,000 in funding to Macdonald Youth Services to connect more youth and families to Indigenous culture, community, knowledge and ceremony through an innovative new riverside teaching garden.
My next steps include continuing to turn towards the BIPOC community for collaborative work, in this city and in others including supporting on-going work of the human rights committee of council.
If you would like an update on those efforts and commitments, or more please let me know.