Peaceful protests were held in cities across Canada on Saturday as protesters urged governments to slash police funding and do more to tackle deep-rooted racism in this country.

Rallies to defund the police were held in Calgary, Halifax, Fredericton, Toronto, Montreal and London, Ont., many of which were organized by the Coalition for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) Liberation group. 

Demonstrators in Montreal toppled a statue of John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, amid marches across the country in support of calls to defund the police.

A flyer showed the movement to remove the statue of John Macdonald was organized separately from the group calling for police defunding.

“Today, inspired by a summer of rebellion and anti-racist protest, a diverse coalition of young activists take it upon themselves to act where the city has failed,” read the flyer.

“We offer this action in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples of Tio’tia:ke, Turtle Island and across the globe, and all those fighting against colonialism and anti-blackness in the struggle for a better world.”

The toppled John A. Macdonald statue

The statue — which has long been at the centre of a debate over how it symbolizes Canada’s colonial past — was unbolted, pulled to the ground and sprayed with graffiti earlier Saturday afternoon, according to images of the incident posted to social media.

The statue was removed at the end of a peaceful protest where an estimated 200 people marched, according to The Canadian Press.

The statue of Sir John A. Macdonald at Place du Canada where it was beheaded as it fell to the ground has been defaced by protestors demanding that it be removed because of Canada’s first prime minister’s treatment of Indigenous people.

Local police said the protest were generally peaceful.

No arrests were made.

The statue of Macdonald, who many Canadians view as the country’s founder, was erected in 1895 but had been vandalized several times in recent months following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police. Critics of Macdonald branded him a racist and a white supremacist, pointing to his treatment of indigenous peoples, CTV News reported. In 1887, Macdonald said of the Indian Act: “The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.”

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney condemned the incident in Quebec. “This vandalism of our history and heroes must stop,” he tweeted. “[Macdonald] was an immigrant who suffered unimaginable personal trauma throughout his life, which he overcame to forge an enormous country out of divided factions. It’s right to debate his legacy and life. But it is wrong to allow roving bands of thugs to vandalize our history with impunity.”

He added that if the City of Montreal would not restore the statue, his government “would be happy to receive it for installation on the grounds of Alberta’s Legislature.”

In a tweet Saturday afternoon, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante condemned the statue’s toppling as an act of vandalism.

“I reiterate that it’s better to put them in context rather than remove them,” read Plante’s tweet. “I am also in favor of adding monuments that are more representative of the society to which we aspire.”

Protests have also taken place in Toronto, London, Ont., and Calgary.

There were plans to organize protest marches in Fredericton and Moncton, according to event organizers.

The demonstrations called for money allocated to police forces to reinvest into community organizations that work to address systemic racism and save the lives of BIPOC Canadians.

“This event, it’s been organized by groups and organizations from all across the country. We all got together and decided we needed to stage something bigger to get more people’s attention and to try and get people to understand that we’re not just going to take this lying down,” said Gal Harper, member, organizer, and lead activist with Black Lives Matter London, Ont.

“Things need to change and it needs to happen now,” Harper said.

In Toronto, demonstrators gathered at Downsview Park for a march, according to the Coalition for BIPOC Liberation.

Dozens of protesters had gathered on Sheppard Avenue.

A second march also began at Christie Pits Park.

Demonstrations in Toronto were organized by several groups including “Not Another Black Life” and “Afro Indigenous Rising,” which both called on police funds to be redirected toward marginalized communities.

The Toronto protestors marched across the city and called for city council to cut the police budget in half.

In a press release issued on Thursday, Black Trans Lives Matter, DefundYYC and Idle No More — who have organized the demonstration in downtown Calgary — asked protesters to gather at Sien Lok Park.

More than 150 demonstrators then marched to Calgary city hall.

Groups including Black Lives Matter YYC and Rights for All Refugees in Canada (RARICA) gathered in Calgary to demand an end to police violence against Black transgender people. More than 150 protestors filled the streets in support of the Black, Indigenous and LGBTQ community.

The Calgary group is pushing for a series of changes including more accessible housing, health care and employment for marginalized people and safer public spaces for the community.

In London, hundreds of protesters gathered at a park where they called on all three levels of government to invest in initiatives to provide mental health services for Black and Indigenous communities.

In Halifax, a celebration of life was organized for Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Black woman who fell to her death from her balcony in Toronto after police were called to her apartment for a wellness check in May.

The event was organized in support of Korchinski-Paquet’s family and included guest speakers and a balloon release in the Black community of Africville.

After a review of photos, security video and 911 recordings, Ontario’s police watchdog determined earlier this week that there were no reasonable grounds to lay charges against officers in connection with Korchinski-Paquet’s death.

Demands

In a Facebook post Saturday morning, the coalition outlined its demands.

The coalition says without the removal of the laws of colonialism, the liberation of Black, Indigenous and People of Color will “cease to exist.”

“Invest in people, not police,” the statement says. “Reallocation Committees will ensure funding divested from police forces will be reallocated back to community-based initiatives.”

According to LJ Joseph, the vice-president of Black Lives Matter Calgary, social support needs are disproportionately greater in neighborhoods that have a higher BIPOC population.

“I do live in the affected area,” said Joseph. “So it hits closer to home. I can see how a lack of resources can lead up to crime.

In the release, organizers said the world is “changing fast,” and that systems in place are “not evolving at the same pace as humanity.”

“We must keep putting pressure on those in power to make swift change that immobilizes racism at every interaction to alleviate ALL oppressions,” the release reads. “We believe ALL Black lives matter and will amplify Trans voices as well as other folx on the LBGTQ2S+ spectrum.”

The group’s list of demands includes cutting police funding, the creation of more accessible housing units, reparations for racialized and Indigenous communities and the removal of the RCMP from Indigenous lands.

The group is also demanding the removal of all monuments of any person who “promoted slavery, anti-Black racism, or anti-Indigenous racism.”

However, opponents of the defund the police movement claim doing so could have dangerous implications for society.

Poll on defund the police

A poll conducted last month by Ipsos on behalf of Global News found that Canadians are split on whether to defund the police.

The survey found 51 per cent of Canadians support the idea of defunding the police and redirecting the funds to other local government services.

Of those respondents, 19 per cent said they “strongly” agree, 32 per cent said they “somewhat” agree.

However, 49 per cent of Canadians said they do not support the idea of defunding the police.

Canada protest follows Blake incident

The Canadian protests were held on the same day as rallies across the U.S. following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man from Wisconsin who was left paralyzed from the waist down after a police officer shot him in the back.

Blake’s family led a peaceful protest on Saturday where hundreds of demonstrators stood alongside them to demand justice.

The protests in Canada come less than a week after Jacob Blake was tasered and shot seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday.

The incident was caught on camera by bystanders and has been shared widely on social media.

UN human rights office calls Jacob Blake shooting “excessive”

Blake was shot as he opened the door to his vehicle. Three of his children were present at the time of the incident.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun Times, Blake’s father — also named Jacob Blake — told the paper that his son, who was rushed to hospital after the shooting, is now paralyzed from the waist down.

Wisconsin’s Department of Justice is investigating the shooting, and all three officers involved have since been put on administrative leave.

The shooting sparked days of protests in Kenosha. On Friday, a candlelight vigil was held for Blake in the city.

A number of pro sports games were postponed after players took a stand against racial inequality following Blake’s shooting.

The NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks were the first franchise to postpone a game.

The decision caused a domino effect within the NBA and across several pro sports leagues with athletes in the WNBA, MLB, NHL, NFL, MLS and ATP choosing to stand with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Blake’s shooting follows months of unrest across the U.S. and around the world over police brutality and racial injustice.

Those protests began after George Floyd — a 46-year-old Black man from Minnesota — died after a police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for more than seven minutes during an arrest.

Fund for police

Media reports said:

The Toronto Police Service operating budget for 2020 is $1.22 billion, about 9 per cent of the city’s $13.53 billion operational budget for 2020. More than $3 billion is distributed for various social support and development programs including employment, social assistance, child-care, long-term care services, helping under-resourced neighborhoods, housing and shelter support.

Analysis by CTVNews.ca of 18 of Canada’s largest cities, regions and provincial capitals found more than half allocated 15 per cent or more of their 2020 operating budget to policing, with cities in Western Canada budgeting 20 per cent or more.

How much Canadian cities spend

Solarina Ho , CTVNews.ca Writer, wrote on July 10, 2020:

An analysis by CTVNews.ca of 18 of Canada’s largest cities, regions and provincial capitals found more than half allocated 15 per cent or more of their 2020 operating budget to policing, with cities in Western Canada budgeting 20 per cent or more.

Coast-to-coast, from Vancouver to Charlottetown, P.E.I., Canadian cities are spending 15 to 20 per cent or more of their budget on law enforcement, the bulk of it coming from municipal taxes. Cities that do not have a municipal force were excluded from the analysis.

Around the world and in Canada, cities are also facing public pressure to reduce their law enforcement budgets to reallocate funds to other areas including mental health and community social support services.

It is a contentious issue, however. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has already dismissed the idea for the Ontario Provincial Police, saying he believes in strengthening policing through better community involvement.

Deaths 

Solarina Ho wrote:

In recent months, several deaths that followed “wellness checks” by Canadian police have sparked further discussion over whether police officers are properly trained or even the appropriate authority to deal with someone having a mental health crisis, in particular those who are Black, Indigenous, or a person of color.

In June, 62-year-old Ejaz Choudry was killed in his home by police in Mississauga, Ont., after the family said it called a non-emergency helpline because he was having a mental health episode. Paramedics who arrived called the police after Choudry was seen with a knife in his hand. Earlier in the month, Chantel Moore, an Indigenous woman, was shot and killed by police in New Brunswick during another wellness check, while Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a Black, Indigenous woman, fell from her apartment balcony in Toronto last month while police officers were in her home.

Biggest police budget

Solarina Ho  wrote:

At the end of June, Toronto city council rejected a 10 per cent cut to the police budget, about $107 million, and instead passed a motion on police reform that includes implementing body cameras and overhauling the way Canada’s largest municipal police force responds to people in crisis.

A 10 per cent reduction would have meant cutting about 1,000 police officers, according to the Canadian Press, a move that could take years to implement due to collective bargaining agreements with the union.

The Toronto Police Service operating budget for 2020 is $1.22 billion, about 9 per cent of the city’s $13.53 billion operational budget for 2020. More than $3 billion is distributed for various social support and development programs including employment, social assistance, child-care, long-term care services, helping under-resourced neighborhoods, housing and shelter support.

In early June, the Vancouver Police Board rejected a motion by city council calling for a 1 per cent cut to the police’s $339 million budget, about 21 per cent of the city’s $1.62 billion operating budget for 2020.

Meanwhile, Edmonton city council approved a motion in early July that included cutting the police service’s budget by $11 million over the next two years amid weeks of debate around police reform.

Biggest line item on the budget

Solarina Ho wrote:

For cities in Western Canada including Victoria, Vancouver, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, policing accounts for at least 20 per cent of their 2020 operating budgets. Among them, all but Vancouver have policing as the city’s biggest expenditure. (Utilities is listed as Vancouver’s biggest operating expenditure in its 2020 budget, though annual financial reports show that police is the city’s biggest expense.)

In Victoria, the police force accounts for roughly 23 per cent of the city’s total operating expenses for 2020. For Vancouver, Saskatoon and Regina, it’s just over 20 per cent. Edmonton and Calgary are the exceptions.

The Winnipeg Police Service is getting $304.1 million this year, or 26.6 per cent of the city’s $1.14 billion tax-supported operating expenditures. It is the largest percentage among the cities examined by CTVNews.ca. By comparison, community services in Winnipeg are getting $115 million, or 10 per cent of the budget.

As in many other cities, a petition has been circulating calling for change and defunding the Winnipeg police. Chief Danny Smyth said in June that it was too early to “just say defund the police and forward that all to social services” but added there was room for conversation on what such a move could look like.

Even places with modest budgets, like Charlottetown, P.E.I., which has a budget of $59.7 million, allocates more than 16 per cent to police. In Fredericton, N.B., more than 14 per cent of its $124.4 million budget (including capital expenditures) goes to policing. That portion is more than 18 per cent if capital expenditures are excluded.

In larger southern Ontario, Toronto-area cities and regions including Hamilton, Waterloo, Peel, and York, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year on policing. Peel and York, which have similar operating budgets of approximately $2.5 billion, spend about $445.8 million and $384.2 million, respectively, or 17 and 16 per cent. The Waterloo Regional Police, which also serves Kitchener, Ont., accounts for just over 17 per cent of the region’s operating budget. Hamilton’s police budget accounts for nearly 19 per cent of the city’s net operating budget. (That portion is halved however, if calculated based on the tax and rate supported gross operating expenditure).

Nearly all cities that spend roughly 10 per cent or less on policing have operating budgets of at least $1 billion. These include Toronto, Calgary, Ottawa, Quebec City, Montreal and Halifax, which has a budget just shy of a billion.

Average salary among municipal police officers

Solarina Ho wrote:

According to Statistics Canada data, the average salary among municipal police officers was $100,962 for 2017/2018, the latest year in which data is available. And while police spending has increased, the number of police officers per 100,000 people has been shrinking, the data showed.

In the United States, data varies depending on the source, but the percentage allocated to police departments for the 10 largest cities in the country ranged from 6 per cent to 17.4 per cent based on an analysis by U.S. News & World Report. Data compiled by the Center for Popular Democracy, a progressive advocacy group, which includes other cities, showed that percentage ranged as high as 20 to 45 per cent, with such cities as Minneapolis accounting for more than 35 per cent and Milwaukee making up nearly 48 per cent.

One important caveat to note is that cities are all structured differently and may report their finances or categorize their spending differently as well, so a true apples-to-apples comparison is extremely difficult. A few cities include utilities as part of its operating expenses, for example, while many do not. The Canadian police data in this analysis was collected and calculated based on figures presented in 2020 budget proposals and reports released by each city and region. As much as possible, comparable figures were used. In general, total operating budget or expenditure budget excluding capital expenditures as presented in the budget reports were used. In some cases, for example, figures provided may be net of recoveries and/or transfers, terms for certain types of financial transactions in accounting.


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