Virtual public hearing about systemic racism in Edmonton, policing policies to begin Monday

Click to play video: 'Public hearing on racism in Edmonton next week at city hall'
Public hearing on racism in Edmonton next week at city hall
WATCH: Mayor Don Iveson said a public hearing will take place next week to hear from visible minority members of the community in order to have a discussion about systemic racism and public safety in Edmonton. – Jun 11, 2020

A public hearing — held online due to physical distancing rules — will take place next week, during which Edmontonians can share their experiences with racism in the city, particularly when it comes to any interactions with police.

“I heard loud and clear that people wish to be heard from many perspectives, but that particularly earlier this week that the Black Lives Matter organizers wish to be included in discussions about systemic racism at the city and particularly around policing policies,” Mayor Don Iveson said Thursday.

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“We weren’t able to do that at yesterday’s meeting, so part of my commitment was that decision-making going forward would include a non-statutory public hearing.”

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said the virtual public hearing will take place Monday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. to noon and Wednesday 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., if required.

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“I signed the meeting notice a couple of hours ago confirming that we will be holding — it has to be virtual still… because there still isn’t a straightforward way to have large numbers of people attend City Hall for in-person meetings,” Iveson said, referencing pandemic precautions.

“We will, however, on Monday, commence a public hearing.

“We’ve held several days’ worth of time and we will do our best to accommodate a number of different time blocks for the convenience of speakers to have some sense of when they might be able to present based on how many people register.”

The mayor’s office said an official public notice would be sent out later Thursday with details about how people can register to speak and sign on to the remote public hearing.

“We wanted to get the meeting notice out today so people could register tomorrow and be on deck Monday morning to share input on the draft motion on the table,” Iveson said.

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Black Albertans call anti-racism rally ‘a powerful moment’

Monday’s council agenda also includes a referred motion from June 8 related to the Edmonton Police Commission.

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It encompasses several issues, including:

  • To look at how many calls for service are driven by mental health, addictions, homelessness or other social and public health factors, and analysis for how many calls could be better responded to by partners;
  • Engage external subject matter experts to bring a report summarizing trends and change models generally described under “divest” and “defund” including the recently approved Minneapolis decisions, any Canadian contextual examples, and the various demonstrated and proposed change models;
  • Edmonton Police Service budget;
  • Options to better hold Transit Peace Officers accountable for excessive use of force, including an arm’s length oversight mechanism;
  • Advice on further submissions to the Alberta’s Solicitor General on the Police Act review

The motion also asks the mayor to write to the Solicitor General for clarity of provincial law and policy with respect to “carding and Street Check policy” and “any findings and implementation plans arising from the province’s recent review that can be shared.”

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The motion asks city council to write to the Edmonton Police Commission asking for:

  • Its perspective on opportunities to strengthen the public complaints about police conduct, particularly around excessive force complaints, as part of the Police Act review
  • Its participation in council’s work around proposed changes to policy, funding, programs and partnerships
  • Information on dash and body camera implementation, given federal announcements, including costs and timelines

“The only decision that was made yesterday was to hold the public hearing and to leave the motion that Councillor Knack put forward yesterday on the table for public feedback, and that’s very much one of the premises of the public hearing is to hear from Edmontonians on their broader set of related issues and then specifically their feedback on what’s proposed in the motion,” the mayor said Thursday.

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Click to play video: 'Edmonton police body camera debate returns'
Edmonton police body camera debate returns

“That then allows council, potentially, to make adjustments to the motion based on public feedback before making decisions on these serious issues.”

Iveson said council will take whatever time it takes to hear from members of the public on this topic.

“And hopefully have some empathy for all of the heartfelt and pained expressions, particularly around Black, Indigenous and people of colour’s experience with public safety in our community, which I think council wishes to respond to thoughtfully and meaningfully, but we need to hear more to be able to do that.”

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