A record number of people spoke to City Council last year about the need to #DefundTheVPD. This call to action followed months of intense scrutiny on the way police work and police culture manifest in the area currently known as Vancouver, which we recognize as sovereign, unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
Ultimately, Vancouver City Council approved a 2021 budget that allocated a total of $340 million to the VPD. This followed pushback from the VPD earlier in the year, when they refused a 1% cut to their budget at the outset of the COVID-19 public health emergency. Following that decision, a coalition of groups wrote to Council, stating “the failure to decisively defund the police – by both Council and the Police Board – enables the VPD to continue a longstanding pattern of interference, degradation, and harm in over-policed communities.” A few weeks later, a man named Chester was gunned down by VPD officers at the intersection of Princess & Hastings in the DTES.
The call to defund the police is not about abstraction - it’s a recognition that there are alternatives we should be able to call upon.
The call to defund the police is not about abstraction - it’s a recognition that there are alternatives we should be able to call upon when our loved ones, our neighbours and our community are in distress.
While members of Council and the Police Board seem content to funnel hundreds of millions into an institution that is clearly broken, groups like the Defund 604 Network are charting a new path, informed by the results of the People’s Budget. This project was the first of its kind in Canada: surveying over 700 people to understand what the public would do for their communities with 50% of the police budget.
We support the call to reinvest 50% of the police budget into community-led crisis response and peer-led systems of care.
We have both signed up to speak to Council this week and oppose the police budget. City staff have put forth a $347 million total budget (a 1.9% increase from 2021) and the Police Board has approved a $350 million total budget (a 2.94% increase from 2021). To be clear, both of these budgets are unacceptably bloated. We support the call to reinvest 50% of the police budget into community-led crisis response and peer-led systems of care. We also support the six recommendations put forth by the Defund 604 Network. We ask that you join us, and register to speak with City Council and tell them how you really feel about their budget.
If you’re talking to City Council this week and want to support initiatives that build community safety, consider voicing the importance of these initiatives:
- Support for funding to complete the Kingsway Community Resource Centre and Saa’ust Centre
- Increase meals served at community and service centres to eliminate food insecurity
Parks & Recreation
- Advance the colonial audit of the Vancouver Parks Board
- Reduce barriers to recreation and increase access to recreational programming in community centres
- Build permanent park washrooms in all low-income communities
- Expand support available through community and service centres and Oppenheimer Park Fieldhouse to ensure community members can access programming despite public health capacity thresholds
Vancouver Public Library
- Expand fine-free services, technology lending plans, accessibility, newcomer supports, and Indigenous inclusion at the Vancouver Public Library
End the Criminalization of Poverty
- Eliminate the practice of street sweeps and repurpose the street cleaning budget for peer-led initiatives
- Implement vacancy control in SROs
- Preserve and grow the number of coops across Vancouver and subsidize land-leases
Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness
- Ensure that COVID-19 response and recovery efforts prioritize low-income and criminalized communities
- Ensure emergency preparedness plans meet the needs of unhoused community members, people who rely on public space and workers in the informal economy (including sex workers)
Meenakshi Mannoe is the criminalization & policing campaigner at Pivot Legal Society, an organizer with Defund 604 Network, a writer, and an all around badass. Meenakshi makes the best cookies and believes in true community solidarity and a world without prisons or police.
Kit Rothschild is the violence prevention coordinator at PACE Society, where they've been working in various roles since 2017. They are a Director at Large at Pivot Legal Society. Since 2020, they have been organizing with the Defund 604 Network and are hopeful for a police free future.
Using the law as a catalyst for positive social change, Pivot Legal Society works to improve the lives of marginalized communities.