A coalition of community organizations in Montreal is asking for deep budget cuts to the city’s police department as well as major changes to the way the force operates.
More than 20 local organizations have come together to demand massive reform to stop what the groups see as over-policing, particularly of marginalized communities in the city.
The coalition has a list of demands that it is asking of the city. Among those demands is slashing the $600-million police budget by half.
The organizations want those funds spent on areas they feel the police department can’t handle, such as mental health.
Jessica Quijano from the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal told Global News on Tuesday she wants that money to go into the city’s social services to work on preventing crime. She also wants qualified workers hired to handle people dealing with mental health crises.
The organizations as well want certain police teams to be disarmed and for the force to stop patrolling public parks, community events and spaces where youth gather. They are also asking that more funding be invested in community programs from youth.
“It’s about empowering communities to develop and manage programs that work for them, with the understanding that communities are not monolithic,” said Marlithan Lopez, vice-president of the Quebec Women’s Federation.
Adviser with the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) Alain Babineau however believes cutting the police force’s budget isn’t what is needed. According to Babineau, most of the budget is spent on salaries and benefits and things like improved de-escalation training and body cameras will cost the force more money.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante told Global News she is open to re-examining how police funds are allocated.
“It’s a conversation I’ve already started to have with the SPVM,” Plante said on Tuesday.
This comes ahead of the Montreal police’s new policy on street checks that will be unveiled on Wednesday, which the coalition of groups say they hope will be a much-needed reform.
The Montreal police department did not respond to Global News’ request for comment.
— with files from Global News’ Phil Carpenter