What are your plans for defunding the police? That’s a question we at The Discourse heard from you after we launched a poll asking what you think should top the B.C. election agenda. Our goal is to put you in the driver’s seat of the election conversation because we believe you should guide it, not the candidates or the parties.
Leading up to the election, we’re publishing answers to questions you sent. Today, the question is: What are your plans for defunding the police and allocating more funds into community support services, especially for marginalized areas?
As of Oct. 15, The Discourse received answers from all four candidates via email. I’ll be rotating the candidates’ order of responses with each story we publish. Here are their responses. I’ve copied them directly from the emails they sent.
Tyson Riel Strandlund, Communist Party of BC
My Party has long called for reductions in police and military spending. We would see these funds transferred to housing, health care, schools, free and expanded public transportation, the restoration and expansion of women’s centres and programs, safe spaces for people escaping domestic violence and misogyny, and additional social programs and services.
Kelly Darwin, BC Liberal Party
People deserve to feel safe and supported in their communities and we need to ensure the resources are in place for that to happen. We also need to ensure proper resources are in place to help those that are struggling. That’s why we’re committed to a significant expansion of integrated mobile crisis response teams, like the ‘Car 40’ program in Kamloops, right across the province.
John Horgan, BC New Democratic Party
The current model for policing in B.C. is significantly challenged. Costs are increasing for all levels of government and public confidence in policing has been eroded particularly considering recent events across North America. The current structure in the province, outlined by the 45-year-old Police Act, is unsustainable and requires significant modernization to ensure a safe, secure, just, and resilient B.C.
On June 12, 2020, our government committed to creating an all-party committee to engage with communities and experts on how the Police Act can be modernized to reflect today’s challenges and opportunities for delivering police services, with a specific focus on systemic racism. Shortly after, on July 8, 2020, the Legislative Assembly agreed that a special committee on reforming the Police Act be appointed.
Everyone deserves to be treated fairly by the police, and our BC NDP government acknowledges that this has not always been the case for many Black, Indigenous and other people of colour. We also recognize that police officers require a modern policing structure that provides greater clarity for their roles. Expectations on front-line police responders have grown and B.C.’s policing and public safety model needs to reflect communities’ current and future needs.
Since the Police Act was introduced in 1974, it has undergone numerous changes in response to emerging needs and issues, however, it has not undergone a full-scale review of this scope and magnitude. If re-elected, our BC NDP government looks forward to receiving the results of the special committee’s work by May 14, 2021, as well as working with communities and stakeholders towards implementation as soon as possible thereafter. Based on recommendations of the special committee on reforming the Police Act, we will modernize the Police Act, with priorities on: tackling systemic racism, creating a dedicated hate crime unit within local police forces and reviewing training and procedures related to wellness checks.
In addition, we will work with B.C.’s new human rights commissioner and other stakeholders to introduce legislation that paves the way for race-based data collection essential to modernizing sectors like policing, health care and education.
Gord Baird, BC Green Party
I support changes to provincial laws that would move some activities out of the criminal portfolio and place them into the health and well-being portfolio.
I understand the sentiment behind the defund movement, but don’t see that as a criticism, but a recognition that much of the work the police are asked to do now is managing mental health and addiction situations. I question whether those resources and skill sets are best suited to police work. I think not.
On the West Shore, and across my riding, the RCMP have had great communication with municipalities, and actively accept local government and public input.
I see the Green Party platform to bring mental health in under the medical health system as a good solution to this issue.
- Under the BC NDP’s equity, inclusion and human rights section of its platform, bringing forward legislation to reduce systemic discrimination is listed as a commitment. Carrying out a modernization of the Police Act is also noted as is supporting police to focus on serious crime and safer neighbourhoods. The full platform can be found online.
- The BC Liberal platform says the party will increase funding for public safety by $58 million “to help fight crime and make sure police and prosecutors have the resources they need to make our communities safer.” It also mentions funding the hiring of 200 more police officers across the province and 100 more psychiatric social workers/nurses. Requiring police services to adopt anti-racism and anti-discriminatory conduct policies is also party of the platform, which can be found online.
- Under the BC Green Party platform’s equity and inclusion section, the party pledges to restart the Police Act review, review procedures for wellness checks in consultation with Indigenous and BIPOC organizations, advocates and health professionals, and invite the B.C. human rights commissioner to do a study on the impact of police violence and racial discrimination on Indigenous peoples in B.C. The platform can be downloaded in full online.
- The Communist Party of BC platform specifically mentions defunding the police and military and transferring those funds to renewable energy, housing, health care and schools.