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Results: 1 - 30 of 74651
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
We will open meeting number 11.
We have as our first panel of witnesses Dr. Myrna Lashley, Fabrice Vil, and the Quebec Native Women association with Viviane Michel and Léa Serier.
Let me just open this with Dr. Lashley for seven minutes.
You will have to take yourself off mute. This is the big challenge of us all, muting and unmuting. Once we've solved this, we can launch something to the moon.
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Myrna Lashley
View Myrna Lashley Profile
Myrna Lashley
2020-07-24 14:01
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Good afternoon, Chair, committee members and fellow panellists.
I am very honoured to have been asked to address you and, in this manner, continue to serve my adoptive country.
In 1829, based on nine guiding principles, Sir Robert Peel created the first modern and professional police force. The seventh principle is based on the understanding that, since the police are taken from members of society, the population is, in fact, policing itself. In Peel’s words, “the police are the public and the public are the police”.
It has been recognized, both academically and anecdotally, that systemic racism and discrimination are part of society, with roots embedded in 17th century colonialism. This type of racism and discrimination is based on the premise of white supremacy, which is manifested in practices and policies that award unearned privileges to white people based on their pigmentation, while automatically denying those same privileges to black people, indigenous people and people of colour, commonly referred to as BIPOC.
Since the police are a subset of the population, it follows that any issues found in said population will be found within the police. Given this, it does not make sense that the discussion of whether systemic racism and discrimination are to be found within police is still ongoing: The police are the public, and the public are the police.
Peel’s second, third and fourth principles address the need for the police to remember that not only do they require the support, consent and co-operation of citizens to operate effectively, but that physical force must only be employed when all else fails. The application of this mindset is advantageous to both police and citizens. It forces all police to use methods of mediation, de-escalation and other humanistic approaches before resorting to force, and it sends a message to citizens that interactions with police do not always have to be adversarial but can and should be based on mutual respect and co-operation.
In other words, the police are not soldiers at war with citizens, and citizens are not guerrilla fighters trying to outwit the enemy. The police must not represent a force with which citizens must reckon. They must instead represent a service that is being proffered. However, since power resides in the police, and trust between police and citizens is questionable, the police will have to take the lead in instituting change and demonstrating good will. It will have to start through honest introspection, openness and acceptance, both institutionally and personally.
This will mean coming to terms with what Sara Ahmed refers to as “whiteness” which, it should be pointed out, is not about persons but about an ideology that has entrapped all of us by favouring a hegemony that favours one group absolutely and harms all others by trying to force them into that hegemonic mould and punishing them for something they cannot possibly attain.
Let us work together to dismantle whiteness and hold fast to our humanity, and, in so doing, never forget the Peelian principle that the police are the public and the public are the police.
Thank you very much for hearing me.
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View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Dr. Lashley.
I wish that colleagues would take note of the economy of speech by Dr. Lashley, and then we can get through all of our questioning.
Our next witness is Fabrice Vil.
Welcome, sir. You have seven minutes. The translators have asked that you bring the microphone closer to your mouth only because we have not been able to run a sound test on you.
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Fabrice Vil
View Fabrice Vil Profile
Fabrice Vil
2020-07-24 14:07
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Thank you.
Please note that I'll be making my opening statement in French, but I would be happy to answer any questions in English or French.
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View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
There's no translation, Chair.
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View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Unfortunately, we're not getting translation.
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Fabrice Vil
View Fabrice Vil Profile
Fabrice Vil
2020-07-24 14:07
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As I said, I'd be happy to answer questions in English or French.
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View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
It's fine.
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Fabrice Vil
View Fabrice Vil Profile
Fabrice Vil
2020-07-24 14:07
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I'd like to begin by thanking the committee for inviting me to speak to you today.
My apologies for breaking with decorum. I'm in the great outdoors, in an infirmary, in fact. It's the only place I've been able to get a good enough Internet connection to join you today. That said, I am able to participate in the meeting.
I don't have any speaking notes with me, but I could forward some to the clerk later, to make sure you're able to understand everything I'm saying.
What I'll be covering is fairly limited. I don't claim to know everything there is to know about systemic racism in policing. I realize what a privilege it is to appear before you today on this issue. Through its invitation, the committee has entrusted me with a duty, and I hope to fulfill it.
The first thing I'd like to make clear is this. Although racism can be viewed as a crime, it is much more akin to a multifactorial crisis, similar to climate change, for which, each and every one of us is responsible. The reason I bring it up is that, in common parlance, people are accused of racism. They are put on trial, but racism….
Coming back to my analogy, I think climate change is an issue we can talk about without the usual judgements. Each and every one of us is responsible for addressing climate change, whether it be on an individual level, through composting, driving a car or flying, or on a public policy level. That is how we should consider the phenomenon that is racism, through the most inquisitive and exhaustive lens possible, beyond hate and deliberate acts. They are merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of how deep the issue runs. That is what we mean when we talk about systemic racism.
Systemic racism is no more present in police forces than it is anywhere else. It is, however, much more visible in policing because police officers have authority that other members of society do not, including the power to control people and use physical force. Police forces have a unique impact on people's lives and their physical and mental well-being.
Now I'd like to tell you about an incident that happened on June 24, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day in Quebec.
Five young people whom I know—Nicholas, Melvin, Evans, Max and Sascha—belong to the collective Bout du Monde. Ricardo Lamour has been mentoring them for more than five years. Ricardo exposes them to spaces that shut black youth out, spaces that aren't accessible to them for a variety of reasons. Those spaces range from places in nature and museums to forums like this one. For the past seven years, Ricardo Lamour has mentored these young people. He encourages them to think about societal issues and problems.
The night of June 24, the five young people and Ricardo wanted to rent BIXI bikes—that's what they're called in Montreal, but they have different names in other cities. As is often the case, the codes to unlock the bikes didn't work. They were trying to get the problem fixed, when, in less than 10 minutes, not one, not two, but three police cruisers showed up. Ricardo and the young people were all taken in for questioning. The youth are still traumatized.
The incident is all the more serious given that Ricardo Lamour had already provided the young people with guidance on the matter, explaining how to behave should they ever find themselves in a similar situation. It's something no Canadian should ever have to experience. It does, however, give rise to an important question. How do we redefine the role of police? How do we turn an agency of enforcement and repression into an organization that truly serves our communities?
Unfortunately, that's not currently the case, whether in terms of the perception or the reality. In many respects, a police force is a body of repression. We need only think of the reason the RCMP was formed in the first place and the relationship with indigenous populations. When we recognize that from the outset, we understand that, regardless of goodwill, a police force is inherently a body of control with impacts on certain populations.
A number of factors come into play. For instance, the former Correctional Investigator of Canada, Howard Sapers, determined that, between 2003 and 2013, the indigenous inmate population rose by 46.4% and the black inmate population rose by 90%. In the face of that reality, we have to wonder about the measures that led us there.
Another important finding comes from sociologist Jason Carmichael. He determined that, in 2015, the size of the visible minority population was the leading determinant of the size of the police presence in large cities, regardless of the crime rate. That is yet another example of how these systems place tremendous importance on repression in relation to racization and indigenous identity, regardless of criminal activity.
I just need another 30 seconds to raise a few more points. A police force is a repression-centred body that could be transformed into an organization that serves the community. It's worth noting that Nicholas Gibbs, Alain Magloire and Pierre Coriolan, all black men who died, suffered from mental health issues. This raises crucial questions about how to better allocate funding so that police are not the ones responding in certain circumstances, but rather, community partners or, at the very least, police officers who are adequately trained.
The discussion around reducing police funding goes to the heart of that issue. Disarming the police is another measure worth considering. In the United Kingdom, police carry out routine interventions without weapons.
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View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Vil, I have to cut you off there, unfortunately. You're well over time.
You've obviously studied the techniques of Mr. Harris for extending your period of time.
Voices: Oh, oh!
The Chair: I'm sure your remarks can be worked into the question and answer period. I apologize for cutting you off. Unfortunately, we are stuck with a pretty tight timeline here.
Finally, we have Madame Michel, speaking on behalf of Quebec Native Women Inc.
You have seven minutes, please.
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Viviane Michel
View Viviane Michel Profile
Viviane Michel
2020-07-24 14:16
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[Witness spoke in Innu]
[French]
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, members of the committee, elected officials and members of Parliament.
Thank you for including Quebec Native Women Inc. in this discussion. Keeping my presentation to seven minutes will be challenging, so I'm going to read it very quickly.
Racism is a historical process that relies on social constructs based on prejudices against certain individuals or groups of individuals. Racism becomes systemic when the institutions tied to a social construct or a state reproduce discriminatory behaviour towards certain individuals or groups of individuals in society on the basis of race or, in our case, indigenous identity. By reproducing this behaviour, the institutions normalize and embody discrimination.
Systemic racism against first nations, Inuit and Métis populations is inextricably linked to colonialism, which perpetuated views, a way of thinking and preconceived notions about indigenous people, generally, without distinguishing between different peoples and nations, and about indigenous women, specifically.
Colonialism and its racist and patriarchal ideas gave rise to many types of systemic discrimination against indigenous peoples, and especially, indigenous women. The agents of colonialism imposed patriarchal social constructs, mainly through policies and legislation such as the Indian Act. Along with those social constructs, another concept was imposed: the superiority of the culture and economic system of the colonizers and the inferiority of the culture and economic system of indigenous peoples and, by extension, the inferiority of indigenous peoples, themselves.
Although colonialism impacted both men and women, the effects were not the same. Colonization was a gendered process that produced insidious stereotypes about indigenous women, objectifying them. This has resulted in indigenous women being doubly discriminated against; in addition to racism, they endure sexism. These stereotypes are rooted in the European vision of the indigenous woman as either a wild and shameless person, a prostitute, a bad mother or an ugly person incapable of feeling or morality.
These characteristics, which were deemed deviant, were the justification for numerous policies, the most significant being the Indian Act, a law that discriminates against women by perpetuating pre-Confederation stereotypes of indigenous women. The law upholds the idea that the indigenous identity of women and their descendants is less worthy than that of men and their descendants.
The fact that these policies, which include the Indian Act, reflect Canada's official views has allowed sexism and racism to become internalized, so much so that the stereotypes are virtually immune to social influences that could challenge or weaken them. Precisely because the country's policies uphold these stereotypes, they justify and perpetuate the oppression of indigenous women, who are not viewed as equal in relation to the rest of society.
Colonialism, systemic racism and sexism contribute to the marginalization of indigenous women, within both their communities and colonial society. Consequently, this marginalization has made indigenous women vulnerable to both emotional and physical violence, and put them at risk of being killed. They are subjected to violence in disproportionate numbers on a systemic basis. The prejudices embodied in government policies are present throughout state institutions, particularly the police, as well as colonial society and indigenous communities, and as such, provide the justification for acts of aggression. Racism and sexism against indigenous women are present in police forces and can be seen in the abuse of discretionary authority, discrimination and assault involving indigenous women.
Under international human rights law and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the state has an obligation and a responsibility to ensure that police protect the members of the public, especially indigenous women, and that public protection measures are in place.
What do you do, then, when agents of the state contribute to your lack of safety? When a police officer assaults an indigenous woman, the responsibility is on the state to make sure it does not go unpunished. However, when arresting indigenous women, police not only have too much discretion, which all too often leads to the abuse of power and violence, but also, and more importantly, enjoy total impunity when they assault indigenous women.
The reports of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the Viens commission, as well as the briefs submitted by Quebec Native Women Inc. to an array of committees and commissions, contain numerous personal accounts attesting to police brutality. It ranges from excessive force and sexual abuse to inappropriate behaviour, disproportionate responses and threats.
Situations where men in positions of authority abuse their power to assault Aboriginal women are a tangible demonstration of the effect of systemic racism at its most extreme. As well, these testimonies point to police failures that affect Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women are more vulnerable to police inaction and failure to assist someone in danger than non-Aboriginal women, particularly in cases of sexual violence.
There are also reports of geographical cures and racial profiling leading, for example, to arrests deemed abusive and discriminatory. These abusive acts stem from police discretion and a sense of impunity because the justice system does not treat these women equally. Due to historical trauma and perceptions of state actors, aboriginal women are continually stigmatized and viewed by the justice system as women with substance use or other social problems. As a result, they are not seen as credible or worthy victims.
The security protection system is ineffective and deficient when it comes to aboriginal women. I point to the case of this first nations woman in need of medical assistance and intervention, who found herself in front of 17 police officers with a dog squad after dialling 911, and the murder of Chantel Moore, who was found killed by the police officer who was conducting a welfare check.
The relationship of aboriginal girls and women with police forces is central to the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal girls and women. Inadequate police behaviour and responses must be taken into account in understanding this phenomenon. Families of missing or murdered persons do not trust the police because of their indifference, incompetence or misconduct towards them.
Indeed, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has collected many testimonies exposing the stereotypes that are attached to the disappearance of aboriginal women and girls. Many parents have testified before the National Inquiry about the services they received when they wanted to report their teenage daughter’s—
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View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madame Michel, can you wind up your remarks? I apologize for interrupting you.
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Viviane Michel
View Viviane Michel Profile
Viviane Michel
2020-07-24 14:24
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I’ll conclude my remarks.
Do we have any recommendations? Well, yes, we do, but we do so with a lot of skepticism. There are structural changes that need to be made. There needs to be an action plan and concrete measures to address systemic racism and violence as well as police impunity against aboriginal women, using an intersectional approach that takes into account all of the types of discrimination faced by aboriginal women and the fact that these types of discrimination reinforce each other and that takes into account aboriginal women in particular.
This approach includes training and educating the police and the judicial system to the realities of aboriginal women.
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View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
I apologize again. These are extremely profound issues.
I just note, for the sake of the witnesses, that, when you don't complete what you wanted to say, any written work that you have can be sent to the clerk of the committee, and it forms part of the record of the committee, so it's not lost.
With that, I'm going to start our six-minute round. It's Mr. Paul-Hus for six minutes, Mr. Fergus, Madame Michaud and Mr. Harris.
Mr. Paul-Hus, you have the floor for six minutes.
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View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Chair, Mr. Vidal will speak first.
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View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay, we'll have Mr. Vidal.
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View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Anandasangaree said this morning that a number of the people sitting on this committee today are members of INAN. Over the last several months, we've been doing a study on the government's response to COVID-19, and one of the things we've talked about is the supports for indigenous people who do not live on reserves, those who live in urban centres. We've done a bunch of discussion around the work of the National Association of Friendship Centres and some other groups that serve urban indigenous populations.
In that context, my question is for Madame Michel.
Would you agree that, in the context of that percentage of indigenous people living off reserve in urban centres, declaring first nation policing as an essential service may not represent the needs of that population as well as it would for some of the people who live out in the reserve settings?
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Viviane Michel
View Viviane Michel Profile
Viviane Michel
2020-07-24 14:27
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Are you speaking to me?
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View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Is it for Madame Michel?
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View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
Yes, it is.
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Viviane Michel
View Viviane Michel Profile
Viviane Michel
2020-07-24 14:27
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Look, I totally agree, but we still need to improve the judicial system. Police forces play a key role in racial profiling, in arresting people, in abusing their authority.
The police are doing things that are truly unacceptable. For example, in Montreal, after a long negotiation with a counsellor on site, a woman in psychological distress finally agreed to call an ambulance because she was in the midst of a suicidal crisis. So we called 911. However, 17 police officers and the dog squad were sent. That is crazy! That is really crazy! It was a woman in psychological distress; it was not a woman threatening to kill someone. I think this situation is really a concrete example of racism, discrimination and racial profiling.
There is much to be done to improve the police system, especially in cases like this. The Armony report says that in big cities, aboriginal women are stopped 11 times more often than white women. For no reason, just because they have the profile of aboriginal women. Is that not systemic discrimination and racism? It is blatant.
We can train these people, but I think that if we do not want to be a good police officer and protect citizens, we have to do something else for a living. Our aboriginal women need protection. Our women need to be safe, to be able to walk around in safety, which is not the case, all around, whether inside or outside.
I think Mr. Picard is going to talk to you about the differences between aboriginal police officers and city police officers, because there’s a big gap in funding. So I’m not going to talk about that; rather, I’m going to talk about the impact this has on aboriginal women.
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View Gary Vidal Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you, Madame Michel.
I'm going to follow up with another question for you. I think there's a great difference as well between the needs of indigenous women in very large centres and those in some of the small and medium-sized communities throughout Quebec, and also Canada. Sometimes we forget the realities of some of the smaller urban centres. Again, they don't fall in that on-reserve category, but they're not in the large cities either.
Would you speak to some of the solutions that you maybe would suggest for people who live in those small and medium-sized communities as well?
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Viviane Michel
View Viviane Michel Profile
Viviane Michel
2020-07-24 14:30
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I’d be happy to tell you about it. You may know that at Quebec Native Women, we do a lot of public education. For example, the word "reserve" has not been around for decades; we now talk about the "community,” and I am simply telling you this to give you this wonderful lesson. It is a community.
Within the communities, there is obviously a great deal to be done. In cases of conjugal violence, for example, we are very much being asked to denounce it. One of the problems we can encounter in cases of conjugal violence or family violence is that there are times when the aboriginal police officer is the aggressor’s brother. We all know each other in a community. You can see where that can lead us.
We don’t have a lot of police officers. I know Mr. Picard will tell you all about it. At the same time, the ties of kinship and acquaintance are very strong. Everybody knows each other, and sometimes, the victim doesn’t even want to file a complaint because the police officer is the brother of her attacker, of her husband and so on. These are difficulties that are found within communities. Moreover, in Quebec, we have 54 communities, and not all of them have their own aboriginal police force.
Recently, I saw a report from a Mohawk nation that had a Mohawk police force. According to that report, for years, there were no deaths, no killings committed by them in their community. I think that’s a good example that shows—
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View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
Unfortunately, we are going to have to leave it there again. It seems to fall to me to interrupt you, Madame Michel, which is not a favourite thing of mine to do.
Mr. Vidal's time is up.
We are now on to Madame Damoff for six minutes, please.
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View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you to all of our witnesses for appearing today. I'm not going to have time to ask all of you questions, but I'm going to start with Quebec Native Women.
Indigenous women face unique challenges when it comes to policing. There is a lack of resources. Indigenous women are the fastest-growing prison population in Canada. It's appalling. There is a lack of resources for them. Sometimes police are not necessarily the right ones to be responding to calls. I'm wondering if you could provide the committee, in writing, your recommendations for concrete actions we could take on that.
My specific question is this. Earlier, we had the head of the complaints commission from the RCMP appear. I'm wondering if the indigenous women who you serve file complaints against the RCMP, and if not, why not?
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Viviane Michel
View Viviane Michel Profile
Viviane Michel
2020-07-24 14:33
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That’s a relevant question, thank you.
In terms of the recommendations, we sent you the document I read earlier. In addition, we are going to send you the two briefs we have tabled, that is, the brief we tabled to the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and the brief we tabled to the Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Quebec. Both briefs are accompanied by recommendations. The failing justice system really is Quebec Native Women’s hobby horse.
Ms. Damoff, as far as the RCMP is concerned, given everything we’re going through, we have a great lack of confidence in the justice system.
As an aboriginal organization, our challenge is to find a way to enable our women to regain confidence in the justice system after all we have been through.
We are going to talk about what happened in 2015 and police brutality in Val-d’Or. Indeed, we are going to talk about the missing and murdered aboriginal women.
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View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madame Michel, I'm sorry to interrupt you. I have limited time.
Do they file complaints, though? If they're not filing complaints, why are they not filing complaints?
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Viviane Michel
View Viviane Michel Profile
Viviane Michel
2020-07-24 14:35
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They don’t file complaints because they’re afraid. It’s the battle between David and Goliath. They’re dealing with a big machine and a long process to file a complaint.
As an organization, we have just filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission regarding the woman in square Cabot and the 17 police officers. As an organization that defends women, we have the right to file a complaint against the police officers who acted in this way, which is unacceptable.
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View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Madame Michel.
We heard earlier that there were only 76 complaints that had to do with racism, and I suspect it's because the complaints aren't filed, as opposed to there not being more issues involved.
Mr. Vil, first I want to commend you for your work. Joel Lightbound, the parliamentary secretary for public safety, who couldn't join us today, has spoken very highly of the work you do.
One of the things that concern me is that in Canada it costs $100,000 a year to incarcerate an offender. That doesn't even include the other costs involved in the criminal justice system, policing and the court costs. We've put an awful lot of money into the back end, when someone reaches the criminal justice system, but very little money into the preventative work, like the work that you do in the community.
I'm just wondering if you can speak to the importance of that front-end investment and whether we should be putting more money into proactive programs to divert youth from coming into contact with the criminal justice system, versus spending all of this money once they come into contact with the criminal justice system.
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Fabrice Vil
View Fabrice Vil Profile
Fabrice Vil
2020-07-24 14:36
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Thank you for your question.
I’m going to talk briefly about part of my work. I founded an organization called “Pour 3 Points.” It trains coaches who work with young people, particularly young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who, in Montreal, are largely racialized youth.
First of all, I think it is indeed relevant to go beyond the justice system to look more broadly at how our public policies translate into programs and invest in our communities to prevent, as you mentioned, young people from coming into contact with the justice system. So it seems obvious to me that we need to invest in community health and education, whether at the provincial or federal level.
However, beyond that, we must ask ourselves how to reallocate funds that are invested in police forces to serve other services. We hear a lot of talk about cutting police funding. This is not an aberration. Indeed, every year, at the municipal, provincial and federal levels, our budgets in education, transportation and all other areas are called into question. Yet they never question the funding allocated to the police. In Montreal alone, if I am not mistaken, the SPVM’s budget has increased significantly and represents $665 million annually, or 11% of the City of Montreal’s budget.
That said, aboriginal women in Montreal are questioned 11 times more often than white women. Ms. Michel can correct me if I’m wrong. So we have to ask ourselves why we are giving public funds to allow the police to intervene. That is where we have to ask ourselves whether we can reallocate these funds to community workers so they can intervene when there is a problem.
Right now, there is a debate about body cameras. In fact, the cameras have shown that they have no effect on the level of violence in interventions. We’re still going to invest money in—
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