Community Health and Safety

Policy Discussion Brief

Glen wants to hear your ideas about important policy issues. Our Policy Discussion briefs provide an overview of an issue, like the role of policing in community health and safety, and describes options for responding, including how Glen would implement policy as leader of the Green Party of Canada. To get involved in the conversation, email us at policy@glenmurray.ca or register for a town hall Zoom call at https://www.glenmurray.ca/.

Issue: Community health and public safety

Systemic discrimination and racism, leading to police shooting deaths and the use of excessive force on unarmed citizens has spurred protests and deep reflection around the world about the role of police. Continuing examples of excessive use of force and brutality against racialized and marginalized communities and citizens calls for a new approach.

We are in a moment of social reckoning. Systemic discrimination and racism must end. It is time to reform police services and focus on social supports and community policing through team-based approaches and training improvements.  We need to recast the police mantra of “To serve and protect,” to truly mean that Canadian police protect all citizens. 

Glen Murray says

“Racism and discrimination are experienced by virtually every non-white, non-straight Canadian, but especially by Black and Indigenous people. As a Mayor and a cabinet minister, I have seen systemic and individual racism undermine the credibility of all our institutions: the police, courts and prisons, child and family services, education, health care and others.”

“The government of Canada needs to seriously engage in deep reform of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and coordinate a national process of provincial and municipal reform, including race-based and gender-based data collection and reporting and banning handguns.”

“Over the past 20 years, the portion of Winnipeg’s operating budget devoted to policing has gone from below 20 per cent to 30 per cent.  Crime is down, but calls for police to provide social services are up. This same pattern is seen everywhere across Canada. We need to make a real commitment to shift to a team approach and community policing model rather than a surveillance and crime response model.”

“I am personally committed to:

  • Re-focusing on the important work of community policing and relationship building.
  • Fully investigating and reviewing the use-of-force training police officers receive with a specific focus on de-escalation techniques.
  • Strategies that increase diversity in all ranks of policing so our police represent the communities they serve.
  • Implementing strategies focused on ending systemic discrimination and racism in our social institutions.

What would Glen do?

Glen wants to develop a detailed police-reform implementation plan. He shares Greens support for banning automatic weapons and the need for police reform when it comes to systemic discrimination, racism, profiling, and how to handle sensitive situations like domestic abuse. The Party in its recently released Re-Imagining our Future recommendations on Covid-19 recovery also calls for race-based and gender-based data on all policing action taken during the pandemic. 

Glen would go further and: 

  • Examine community-and-team-based safety and security models focused on trust, relationship building and crime prevention, including Kwalin Dun, Yukon; Tsawwassen First Nation and Delta Police, British Columbia; Nishnawbe Aski Nation Police Service, Ontario; Eugene, Oregon and Camden, New Jersey, for lessons and implementation across Canada and in indigenous communities.
  • Work with provinces and municipalities to support strategies and initiatives that situate policing within a community-based wellness model, and delivered through teams made up of social and mental health services, health and building inspectors, community development and renewal groups.
  • Reinvigorate a national neighbourhood renewal program; and create, restore and build our neighbourhood main streets programs. 
  • Work with provinces and municipalities to advance implementation of handgun bans across Canada.
  • Evaluate current police training standards with a focus on de-escalation techniques and skills, as well as less-than-lethal use of force responses.  
  • Undertake a full review of RCMP recruit training standards.
  • Review annual use of force training standards for all RCMP members. 
  • Implementing a diversity employment strategy setting out that at least 50 per cent of all candidates for federal public service positions, including the RCMP are Indigenous, Black, women and people representing diverse community groups. 

Background

The debate about how best to increase community safety is long overdue. 

We know police budgets have grown rapidly, while diversity and inclusion within the ranks of law enforcement are growing at a far slower pace.   

In Toronto, the police service costs $1 billion, the single-biggest line item in the city's $13.5-billion operating budget. Out of an average property tax bill of $3,020, the largest share — about $700 — is allocated to police. Nearly 90 per cent of the Toronto police budget goes toward salaries.

A CBC analysis of 461 fatal police encounters in Canada from 2000 to the end of 2017 shows that even when adjusted for population growth over the 17-year window, the number of people dying in encounters with police has steadily increased. 

When considering the racial and ethnic composition of the overall population, two distinct groups are significantly overrepresented in these incidents: Black and Indigenous people. For example, Black people in Toronto, on average, 8.3 per cent of the population during the 17-year window, but represent nearly 37 per cent of the victims. In Winnipeg, Indigenous people represent on average 10.6 per cent of the population, but account for nearly two-thirds of victims.

According to Statistics Canada:

  • The representation of women as police officers has been steadily increasing from four per cent in 1986 to 22 per cent in 2018.
  • In 2018, four per cent of police officers and three per cent of recruits identified as Indigenous. Eight per cent of officers and 12 per cent of recruits in Canada self-identified as belonging to a visible minority group.
  • Operating expenditures for policing in Canada reached $15.1 billion in 2017/2018. After accounting for inflation, total operating expenditures rose by two per cent from the previous year and have generally been on the increase since 1996/1997.
  • As in previous years, salaries, wages and benefits were the largest cost to police services, accounting for 82% of operating expenditures in 2017/2018, or $12.5 billion. The average salary for police officers in Canada that year was $99,298.

Green Party Policy

Glen fully supports Green Party policy on policing and gun control, including:

Re-imagining Our Future (2020): 

  • Strong communities reduce the need for policing. During the pandemic we saw the need for continued police reform when it comes to systemic discrimination, racism, profiling, and how to handle sensitive situations like domestic abuse. To reinforce all work done against racial profiling, we call for race-based and gender-based data on all policing action taken during the pandemic.

2019 Platform: 

  • Ensure illegal handguns are intercepted and kept out of our cities.
  • Redirect Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) resources to weapons smuggling and reduce pursuit of people living in Canada without proper residency, but who are otherwise law-abiding. 
  • Launch a confidential buyback program for handguns and assault weapons.

Learn more:

Alexander Pannetta: Video on Camden, NJ:  https://www.cbc.ca/news/world/police-reform-ideas-united-states-george-floyd-1.5601990

Kwalin Dun, Yukon: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-four-officers-no-weapons-no-charges-a-yukon-first-nations-solution/

Tsawwassen First Nation and Delta Police, British Columbia: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/british-columbia/article-can-this-bc-first-nations-partnership-with-police-offer-a-path-for/

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Police Service: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-canadas-largest-indigenous-police-force-has-never-shot-anyone-dead-2/

Eugene, Oregon: https://www.usnews.com/news/cities/articles/2020-07-06/eugene-oregons-30-year-experiment-with-reimagining-public-safety#:~:text=In%20Eugene%2C%20Oregon%2C%20a%20college,police%20department%2C%20dispatching%20social%20workers

Camden, New Jersey: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/new-jersey-city-disbanded-its-police-force-here-s-what-n1231677

Global News explainer: https://globalnews.ca/news/7069920/defund-police-confusion/