A lone sign at Ottawa’s Black Lives Matter protest has a list of names written on it.
At the bottom of the sign there’s a familiar call to action.
“Again we could see this shift from what we have right now, which is police attending crisis calls,” said Meenaskshi Mannoe, policing campaigner with the Pivot Legal Society, an organization that works with communities that experience poverty or social exclusion according to its website. “In the case of Chantel Moore and Regis Korchinski-Paquet, they were attending, doing wellness checks and they were obviously weren’t able to support the wellness, right, these women died.”
Mannoe spoke about defunding the Vancouver police a year ago at a town hall.
That phrase is being bandied about since George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis died while in police custody there.
City councils across the U.S. have been discussing the idea of taking from police budgets and putting into social programs.
Mannoe believes portions of a police budget spent elsewhere would reduce crime.
“If we were to redistribute funds from policing into better welfare rates, basic income rates could we start to see a downstream trend towards low level property crime,” said Mannoe.
But if Mannoe was hoping opposition parties in Ottawa would get on board with the idea, she has some work to do.
“So adding resources to fight racism is something – reducing the resources provided to police force is something else which might make our communities more vulnerable,” said Bloc Quebec leader Yves-Francois Blanchet.
Andrew Scheer, the outgoing leader of the Conservatives, said while something must be done – but taking money from the police isn’t one of them.
“I don’t believe that defunding the RCMP would make Canadians safer,” Scheer told reporters in Ottawa Monday. “I believe we have to look at aspects within our police forces and stamp out systemic racism where it exists and put in measures to ensure nobody is treated differently.”
Mannoe said she doesn’t buy those arguments given that a segment of Canada’s population isn’t safe from police.
“So when we hear political leaders say that this is actually going to contribute to a lack of safety, I’m thinking about how people are dying at the hands of police or shortly after being in police custody,” Mannoe said. “That to me speaks about a lack of police safety.”
In the last week, Canada has been rocked with three separate incidents of police violence against Indigenous people – including the incident of Chantel Moore, the First Nations woman and mother who was killed by an Edmundston police officer who was doing a “wellness check” on her.
As well, on June 2, a video from Nunavut surfaced of an Inuk man being thrown to the ground when an RCMP officer hit him with his open truck door. The man was later left alone in his cell and beaten by other inmates.
And on the weekend, Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan Nation held a news conference to talk about being beaten by the RCMP when he was out with his wife.
Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers have spoken out on all three issues saying they are watching the investigations closely.
On Monday, Trudeau wasn’t asked specifically about defunding police – but he acknowledged that there was an issue with some segments of Canada not feeling safe around police.
“I had a discussion with Cabinet on Friday that we’ll continue later today. I also spoke with Commissioner Lucki of the RCMP this morning. The Commissioner assured me that she will use all available tools to take quick, solid action,” Trudeau said. “On our call, one of the things we discussed was the adoption of body cameras. I’m committing to raising this with the provinces this week so we can move forward as quickly as possible. Minister Blair has also reaffirmed to me his commitment to improving Indigenous policing. And later today, I have a stock take on reconciliation to discuss our work with Indigenous communities.
“I am committing to you that this work will continue to accelerate the pace of change because you deserve real commitments as quickly as possible that addresses the root causes of these problems.”
Trudeau added that he was “deeply alarmed” by the picture Adam shared of his bruised and swollen face.