Coalition calls for Montreal police budget to be slashed in half, mayor says now is not the time
MONTREAL -- A coalition of Montrealers is offering a proposal they say will improve community safety by defunding the city's police (SPVM) and allocating money elsewhere.
"It's not just to take away from police, it's to replace it with something better, more efficient, and not so tragic where it ends in a death," said Jessica Quijano of the Defund the Police Coalition.
The coalition calls it a citizens' budget, a counter-offer to what the City of Montreal proposed in its budget which allocates $660 million to the SPVM in 2021.
The coalition wants that slashed in half with $330 million going to social services instead of policing.
"When people are in crisis, they're more afraid of themselves so there's a way to speak with people and de-escalate situations instead of sending armed police officers that make the situation worse," said Quijano. "I know for a fact we can do all this work without police. I'm confident of it because I'm already doing it."
She works directly with people experiencing homelessness and believes outreach, housing programs, and safe injection sites are among the better options to help people rather than sending in the cops.
Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said now is not the time.
"It would be irresponsible to take, right away, just cut into the budget without having any ideas on how to reallocate that money, for example, in the proper efficient pragmatic way," said Plante.
Plante added that in the current context, with Montreal the COVID-19 pandemic epicentre in Canada, it is not the best time to defund the city's police force.
"We're in the middle of a pandemic," she said. "It's quite unstable, and the number of cases, incidents, accidents, situation of people with guns is also rising."
In a recent survey, 60 per cent of Montrealers support defunding the police, yet Plante's administration increased the SPVM's budget by more than $20 million for 2021.
The coalition says this is the perfect time to re-visit community safety and hopes to have a sit down with the mayor to change her mind before the budget is expected to be adopted on Dec. 7.