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Plante pledges $110 million to tackle gun violence as Montreal police report 2 more homicides

Plante's increase in police funding is criticized by activists and her opponent Balarama Holness, who support reallocating funds to vulnerable communities instead.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante attends a news conference in Montreal, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021, where she announced her plan for public security. Montrealers will go to the polls in a municipal election on November 7. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Amid an increase in gun crime in Montreal, incumbent mayoral candidate Valérie Plante has pledged $110 million in funding over the next four years toward public security if she gets re-elected, but the proposed plan has garnered criticism.

This comes after the Quebec government announced Friday that it would spend $90 million to reduce gun violence and gun trafficking by hiring more than 100 police officers and experts.

Montreal police reported two more gun-related homicides over the weekend. A 19-year-old man died in hospital early Saturday from gunshot wounds and a 33-year-old man was found shot dead on the street in Rivière-des-Prairies (RDP) in Montreal North mid-day on Sunday.

Authorities say this brings the number of homicides in the city to 23 so far this year.

Fifty per cent of the city’s latest gun violence incidents are related to criminal gangs, Plante said on Saturday. She added that there have been over 100 crimes involving firearms in the city so far this year, comparing it to Toronto, the country’s longstanding gun violence capital and most populous city, which is at 300.

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She said of the $110 million budget, $15 million will go toward the deployment of mediation and social intervention teams in all boroughs at all hours to help de-escalate crisis situations involving vulnerable communities, and to fund mixed patrols, meaning patrols that include officers and non-police staff.

Plante added that her plan includes encouraging officers to work at the same station for at least three years to strengthen the relationship police have with the communities they serve.

The Projet Montréal leader has continuously said she does not support defunding the police. The incumbent’s opponents in the upcoming municipal election, former mayor Denis Coderre and Balarama Holness, both criticized Plante’s announcement.

READ MORE: ‘We’ve had enough’: Quebec puts forth $90M to tackle gun violence

“After months of inaction and refusal to increase the (police) workforce, Valérie Plante now promises to act in an electoral move,” said Abdelhaq Sari, who is in charge of Coderre’s public security file.

Coderre’s Ensemble Montréal party told Global News it is proposing “sound management”: an increase in police workforce and a promise to not defund nor disarm the police.

Sari added that Coderre will also make officers use body cameras and he will “create a seat at City Hall” for the head of the police department.

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Community organization Defund the SPVM has continuously denounced any increase in funding toward police and the lack of community funding — something that Holness supports.

Holness, leader of Mouvement Montréal, said both Plante and Coderre’s approach to the issue of gang violence is a tough law and order approach, which he says is the wrong strategy.

Read more: Quebec government to create police unit to fight Montreal’s rising gun violence

“The $110 million won’t address the root cause of violence — poverty, lack of community, health and social services, sports and leisure recreation infrastructure, youth career guidance, job training and equal opportunity employment,” Holness said. “We need to invest in communities and be proactive, not reactive.”

Holness said his party recognizes that gang violence and the rise in firearm circulation needs to be addressed head on, but he says it should be done by special gang violence task forces that have intelligence on the issue.

He said if elected, his party would ask for the city to have state-like powers to tackle gun crime rather than defer to the federal government on the issue of gun legislation.

“Plante is always waiting on the provincial or federal governments to act, and we are saying that as a metropolis, we would request the powers to tackle gun legislation directly,” Holness said.

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Plante said she has called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to tighten the borders to better control the movement of illegal firearms into the country.

Concordia University professor and researcher Ted Rutland, whose work focuses on racial politics of urban planning and policing, said Plante’s plan “moves entirely in the wrong direction.”

“People are craving a different approach to public security, secured through investments in community services and programs,” Rutland said. “And this isn’t it.”

Montrealers head to the polls on Nov. 7, 2021.

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Valérie Plante pledges $110 million to tackle gun violence in Montreal – Sep 25, 2021
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