UFCW 1518 stands with Black Lives Matter and other organizations calling for the defunding of the police in Canada. The recent incidents of police-led violence against Black and Indigenous people in Canada and the United States, including the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Chantel Moore, and others, demand action. So does the violent repression of peaceful protest in the United States and Canada.
As a democratic, social-justice union committed to solidarity with workers, UFCW 1518 cannot sit idly by while Black, Indigenous, and other communities of colour are brutalized and rights to peaceful protest are trampled. We are calling for defunding of the police in British Columbia, Canada, and elsewhere and for creating new, enhanced services that will keep all of our communities safe and peaceful. We believe that well-trained, culturally-sensitive, dedicated services can do a better job in many instances where policing has failed.
As a first step, we are calling for an independent audit of policing services to determine which services would be better and more appropriately handled outside of traditional policing. We would like to see this happen broadly in Canada’s policing service (the RCMP) and in local jurisdictions like the Vancouver Police.
“Defunding the police” refers to a new model of law enforcement and servicing communities that would divert some funding from traditional policing to mental health services, social services, community investments, and other forms of intervention.
The goal of defunding the police is not to totally eliminate policing. Instead, defunding aims to use funds that are currently going to police forces for more appropriate services in the cases of mental health crises, homelessness, addiction issues, welfare checks, and other situations rather than policing these issues. A reduced, tactically-focused policing force can be maintained that will handle and investigate violent crime.
The movement also calls on lawmakers to decriminalize drug use, transit fare evasion, and other minor non-violent offences because criminalizing these behaviours is a waste of public resources and does not lead to lower rates of violent crime.
Defunding the police will help to address the brutalizing of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of colour by the police. While systemic racism pervades all levels of Canadian institutions, defunding the police is a practical and effective first step towards reconciliation, justice, and safety for Black, Indigenous, and other communities of colour.
We call on other organizations in the labour movement to speak out in favour of defunding the police. The labour movement has led the way on countless progressive initiatives that have made life better for working people from the 40-hour workweek to the minimum wage to equal pay for equal work. Now is the time to lead in calling for the defunding of the police to stop the brutalization of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of colour, build a more just society, and stand up for the rights of working people.