Letter to the Vancouver Police Board: Defund the VPD

April 15, 2021

Via Email

Vancouver Police Board
Mayor Kennedy Stewart, Chair
Barj Dhahan, Board Vice-Chair
Patricia Barnes, Member
Allan E. Black, Q.C., Member
Frank Chong, Member
Wendy John, Member
Merrilee Robson, Member
Rachel Roy, Member
Faye Wightman, Member

Re: Calls to Defund the Vancouver Police Department 


To the Members of the Police Board,

Last month, Pivot Legal Society, alongside 20 additional organizations released a joint open letter on decriminalizing poverty, including actions that the City of Vancouver could take. Following the release of this letter, Vancouver Police Board Executive Director Stephanie Johanssen made an announcement, regarding its request for a Police Act Section 27(3) Director’s review of Council’s decision on the Vancouver Police Department’s (“VPD”) 2021 Operating Budget. The Police Board’s decision to appeal the $5.7 million budget freeze is disappointing, and counters the importance of defunding the VPD.

Since the release of the open letter, 47 organizations have signed onto the joint open letter, and endorsed the following calls:

  1. Divest from policing and invest in community-based services, specifically non-police interventions that support people who are impacted by homelessness, toxic drug supply, mental health distress, and those working in informal/grey economies, such as sex work.

  2. Provide and make available to directly-impacted groups and organizations the expenditures associated with this Decriminalizing Poverty Motion, and future related work, supported with transparent reporting, including line item details.

  3. Design permanent funding for programs that prioritize the work of decriminalizing poverty and supporting community-led safety initiatives as part of the path to defunding the police.

These calls are supported by a range of organizations, including civil, legal, community, health, and arts-based organizations, specifically:

• 221A
• Arts Assembly
• Battered Women’s Support Services
• BC Association of People on Methadone
• BC Civil Liberties Association
• BC Centre on Substance Use
• Black Lives Matter - Vancouver
• BC Humanist Association
• Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy – Vancouver
• Car Free VancouverSociety
• Centre for Gender & Sexual Health Equity
• Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War
• Community Action Initiative
• Defund 604 Network
• DTES Women's Centre
• Eastside Community Action Project
• First United Church Social Housing Society
• Gallery Gachet
• Hogan’s Alley Society
• The James Black Gallery Association
• Metro Vancouver Consortium
• Nahanee Creative Inc
• Overdose Prevention Society
• PACE Society
• Pacific AIDS Network Society (PAN)
• Pacific Association of Artist-Run Centres
• Pivot Legal Society
• REACH Community Health Centre
• Restoring Collective
• Sanctuary Health
• Sector Equity for Anti-Racism in the Arts
• Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group
• Single Mothers Alliance for Gender and Economic Justice
• SRO Collective
• SWAN Vancouver
• Tenant Overdose Response Organizers
• UBC Social Justice Centre
• UBC Students Against Bigotry
• Union of BC Indian Chiefs
• UNIT/PITT Society for Art and Critical Awareness
• Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users
• Vines Arts Festival
• VIVO Media Arts Centre
• West Coast LEAF
• WISH Drop-In Centre Society
• WePress
• Work Safe Twerk Safe

In addition to organizational endorsements, 939 individuals have sent emails to Mayor and Council in support of community-led alternatives to policing.

Defunding the police in Vancouver remains a key priority for the communities that Pivot serves, and grassroots organizations such as the Defund 604 Network have also formed in response to the harms of criminalization and policing. Last week, the Defund 604 Network released a template letter, and I understand that over 70 people have used that template in order to contact each of you as Police Board members, to express their disappointment and outrage with the Police Board’s decision to request $5.7 million more from the city. Calls to defund the police have also been brought to the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act, including through submissions made by Pivot as well as the BC Civil Liberties Association and the Human Rights Commissioner.

As the Police Board meets today, I hope you will substantively engage with the individuals, communities, and organizations that are calling for defunding the VPD as a matter of survival. In a blog co-authored by PACE Executive Director Lyra McKee and myself, we note “one year into the dual public health emergencies, of COVID-19 and the contaminated illicit drug supply, we know that diverting funds from policing into peer programming, housing, safe supply, and community-led crisis response will save lives.” We need to defund the VPD and invest in communities.

Sincerely,

Meenakshi Mannoe,
Criminalization & Policing Campaigner
Pivot Legal Society

 

cc: Stephanie Johanssen, Vancouver Police Board, Executive Director


Download the letter