The 10th annual Justice for Victims of Police Killings vigil was held on Saturday afternoon and the event was connected with the movement to defund the police and reinvest in communities.
“One of the mandates of Defund the Police is to disarm the police, reinvest in communities and cut the SPVM (Montreal police) budget by 50 per cent,” said Jessica Quijano, a rally co-organizer and spokesperson for Defund the Police Coalition Montreal.
The event started with speeches in Sir Wilfrid Laurier Park in Montreal’s Plateau-Mont-Royal before about 200 Montrealers marched to Place des Festivals chanting, “defund the police.”
The coalition released a list of 10 demands for the police force, among them reforms labelled defunding, disarming, decolonizing, reinvesting and decriminalizing.
When it comes to defunding, the coalition wants to see half of the SPVM’s $665-million budget reallocated to community groups that they say are better suited to dealing with social crisis issues to prevent harm.
“It’s to move away from this way or criminalizing people, to caring for people … so that we no longer have police killings,” Quijano said.
Reinventing community safety is an issue that participant Aron Rosenberg said is especially important for Indigenous people and Black people.
“I don’t think of it as the idea of getting rid of community safety,” Rosenberg said. “I think it’s still important to promote community safety but in a way that works for everybody in a community.”
Fannie Lafontaine, an independent civilian observer who did a report on the SPVM’s investigation into criminal complaints made by Indigenous persons against police officers, says the defund the police movement and the discussions it generates are necessary.
But she said another core part of the movement “is proper training, cultural sensitivity of police officers and proper mechanisms for accountability when it comes to misconduct of any kind.”
According to the coalition, high citizen participation in the city of Montreal’s pre-budget consultation in August shows the movement is making progress.
For member Sandra Wellsey, “it should be a no brainer” for the city of Montreal.
“We’re hoping that they will take this seriously, and that they’re not just saying things to brush us off and to look good,” she said.
Advocates will have to wait longer to see if the city takes any action in the 2021 budget.
Global News asked the City of Montreal when that might be, and spokesperson Linda Boutin said in an email that the budget will be unveiled shortly.