My Statement on anti-Black and anti-Indigenous Racism and the Toronto Police Services Budget

We are at a pivotal moment for examining anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, and the ways it continues to manifest in our cities and communities. It is important that we seize this opportunity to examine how we can best deliver services, including responses for people in crisis or distress, in ways that protect everyone in our communities.

Anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism is real and pervasive in Toronto. I believe that we need to take a real, hard look at how our institutions operate, including our police forces and our justice systems. Evidence has shown that Black Torontonians are 20 times more likely to be in fatal encounters with the police than white residents, while Black and Indigenous Torontonians are over-represented in our correctional facilities and in the child welfare system. This has to stop.

As a city and a society, we continue to spend too much money on emergency responses, and not enough on prevention and programs to address the root causes of issues, including poverty and inequality. This is clear in our pattern of funding shelters but not investing in pathways out of homelessness, or spending money on emergency room services but not adequately funding public health programs. Increasing police budgets while failing to invest in programs that address poverty, housing, community development, employment opportunities, and mental health programs, is yet another example of this imbalance.

I support the draft motion that Councillor Josh Matlow has developed, and Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam has seconded, on proposed changes to the Toronto Police Services budget. If approved, this motion would request that the Province amend the Ontario Police Services Act to give the City direct control over the Toronto Police Services Budget, and that the Toronto Police Services Board submit a budget that is reduced by 10%, so that the City may relocate funding to social and community programs. While this motion would still require cooperation from the Province and Toronto Police Services Board, it is a welcome starting point for examining how we can re-prioritize city funding and investment in a forward-thinking way. I also plan to support additional amendments at Council that consider a broader review of police services, including the use of force.

In 2016 I successfully introduced a motion to re-allocate funding from the Toronto Police Services’ budget and redirect it to community crime prevention programs, and have supported motions that call for limits on police spending and transfers of funding to student nutrition programs, affordable child care, and investments in public transit. I do not believe that any budgetary demands of the Toronto Police Service should stand in the way of funding for vital social and community services.

Anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism also manifests in our city in poverty, housing discrimination, cuts to social and community programs, and health outcomes, including COVID-19. Earlier this month, the Toronto Board of Health approved my motion to recognize anti-Black racism as a public health crisis in our city, and to prioritize investment in programs that directly target the social determinants of health. I have also advocated for both the City and the Province to collect disaggregated race-based data on COVID-19, in order to better understand the impact of this virus on racialized communities, and the protections and supports that are required to keep people healthy and safe.

Right now, we are at an important moment for determining how we tackle systemic issues going forward. I believe that we need to step up our investments in affordable housing, community services, jobs and employment training, public health, and mental health supports, rather than continuing to focus on emergency responses and enforcement. I want to thank all the Ward 10 residents who have reached out over the past few weeks to share ideas and concerns, and encourage you to continue to connect and share your suggestions with your representatives.

-Joe