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City of Montreal to ‘reflect’ on reallocating police budget as activists call for action

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The city of Montreal says it is taking a serious look at the notion of defunding the police. As Global’s Brittany Henriques reports, that’s encouraging news for a coalition of community groups calling for the immediate reallocation of public money away from the police force and into the hands of community organizations. – Sep 18, 2020

Montreal’s Commission on Finances and Administration will explore the reallocation of money in the Montreal police’s budget to other services for city residents, as a result of the commission’s pre-budget consultations.

Over 23,000 Montrealers responded to an online survey and 39 briefs were submitted.

“I think having a reflection is a good thing,” says Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante. “Our society is evolving and I think it’s important to consider what is happening in the world but also in our province and our country and our city.”

Activists are welcoming the positive news but aren’t satisfied just yet.

“We are very happy that we are considering redistributing funds but this is a long time coming. We do not need $600 million a year in order to ensure public security,” says Balarama Holness, founder of Montreal in Action.

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The coalition to defund the police says there’s no time to wait and reflect.

Read more: What does ‘defund the police’ really mean? Experts say confusion harming progress

“We would like that the budget be reduced immediately because the needs are so great in the communities that we’re working for,” says Jessica Quijano, co-ordinator at the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal.

Police should not be responsible for de-escalating crisis situations, according to the organization.

The Montreal police force receives over 30,000 mental health-related calls every year.

“I intervene all the time in mental health or in addiction in the work that I do but I’ve never harmed anybody,” says Quijano.

They say social workers and other trained professionals should be tasked with handling these situations instead.

The commission has asked the city administration to reflect on the best way to distribute its social and community services budget.

Read more: Protesters in Montreal topple John A. Macdonald statue, demand police defunding

“What I’m interested in is reflecting on the type of police we’re looking for and what are the best tools to make sure we can address those different needs in the best way possible,” says Plante.

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But while defunding the police has become a common theme since the death of George Floyd in police custody, local activists want to change the narrative.

“It’s a democratic initiative. We should not even think of this as defunding the police but rather Montrealers who are paying taxes and deciding where those tax dollars are going,” says Holness.

The Plante administration is scheduled to present its budget later this fall. The commission made a total of 17 recommendations to the city on Sept. 11.