**NOTE: This is merely a template. It is vital that you personalize this letter and explain why these issues matter to you. Please send this email to regional councillors specified below.**
Subject Line: 2020 Region of Waterloo Police Budget — Call for Defunding.
To the Waterloo Regional Council,
On Wednesday, June 3rd, approximately 20,000 people (with 5000 more watching on a livestream) marched with local Black activists and organizers in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. This was to recognize the deaths, systemic violence, and racial injustices faced by Black and Indigenous people everywhere. Marching creates visibility, and marching makes voices heard, but marching does not solve the underlying issues. Meaningful and purposive action must be taken.
I am demanding that you pledge to support these actions immediately, towards divesting from the Waterloo Regional Police Services:
- We must defund, at the absolute minimum, $29.3 million—an accumulation of the past 3 years’ worth of WRPS budget increases. Last year, even city council noted this is weighing down the Regional budget.
- We must invest these resources in community-led health and safety initiatives instead of future investment into the WRPS.
- End the School Resource Officer program and the Community Outreach Program, and instead invest in education, increased mental health and social services, and a culturally-responsive curriculum.
- Invest in social support equity initiatives such as increased access to affordable housing, harm reduction services, accessible rehabilitation, conflict resolution services, reintegration services, and other vital community-based support systems.
The budget allocated for the Waterloo Regional Police Services this year is $200,143,000—19.9% of the total $1,003,847,000 allocated for Regional Services. This is an increase of $10 million over 2019’s budget. This is more of our money that the Region has dedicated to Public Health ($40,588,000), Seniors Services ($39,981,000), Housing Services ($80,972,000), and the Library ($3,214,000) combined.
More often than not, crime is the result of an inability to meet basic needs such as food, housing, healthcare, and financial security. Through redistributed police funding, we can help fund these services, and help those in need. We can provide more social housing, more employment opportunities, more food banks, more arts programs. We can remove barriers to these basic necessities.
The Waterloo Region is not exempt from police mistreatment and violence towards poor, Black, and racialized people. In this region, people of African, Caribbean, and/or Black descent only make up 2-3% of the population. However, a study from 2016 showed that Black people were disproportionately carded or stopped by the WRPS at four times their share of the regional population. Street checks and carding are not only ineffective, they are also racist. When asked why this happens in Waterloo Region, Police Chief Bryan Larkin said he did not have a “definite answer.” This is willfully ignorant of how anti-Black racism runs deep within Larkin’s own ranks.
The police also target Black and racialized students in our schools and communities. The School Resource Officer (SRO) program operates in all elementary and secondary schools across the Region. We stand with students who report that they do not feel safe with police in their hallways and classrooms.
Not only are students policed at school, they are policed in their homes and neighbourhoods. Youth as young as 11 years old in the Centreville Chicopee, Kingsdale, and Mill-Courtland neighbourhoods – all areas with a high percentage of Black, brown, and poor residents – are subjected to surveillance and social control through “community policing” initiatives, such as the City of Kitchener’s Community Outreach Program (COP), which puts WRPS officers in direct contact with youth.
There is a common goal to each of these actions: rather than an armed stranger, there are people better suited to respond to the various crises in our community, people with the appropriate training, skills, expertise, and attitudes. These people should be better funded and supported institutionally to address those specific crises.
In light of the recent deaths of Regis Korchinski-Paquet and D’Andre Cambpell at the hands of the police, as well as the deaths of Abdirahman Abdi, Duane Christian, Alexander Wettlaufer, Daniel Clause, and so many others in Canada, and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade in the United States, it is painfully clear that Black and Indigenous peoples in Canada face disproportionate police violence. A study on police brutality in Canada found that between 2000 to 2017, there had been at least 460 deaths attributed to police violence, though only three murder charges were laid against police officers. Black people, who make up only 3.4 per cent of the population, consisted of 9% of these fatalities.
Municipalities and school boards across North America are suspending and severing ties with police departments; this is the beginning of a groundswell movement. Our Region can lead the way in Ontario, defining community-led public safety, where Black, Indigenous and people of colour are free from police violence and surveillance. I am asking you to create a better future for all residents of the Region by divesting from harmful policing and investing in life-affirming services.
[Your postal code]
SEND THIS TO:
“Karen Redman Regional Chair” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
“Les Armstrong, Councillor” <email@example.com>
“Elizabeth Clarke, Councillor” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
“Jim Erb, Councillor” <email@example.com>
“Sue Foxton, Councillor” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
“Tom Galloway, Councillor” <email@example.com>
“Michael Harris, Councillor” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
“Dave Jaworsky, Councillor” <email@example.com>
“Helen Jowett, Councillor” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
“Karl Kiefer, Councillor” <email@example.com>
“Geoff Lorentz, Councillor” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
“Kathryn McGarry, Councillor” <email@example.com>
“Joe Nowak, Councillor” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
“Sandy Shantz, Councillor” <email@example.com>
“Sean Strickland, Councillor” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
“Berry Vrbanovic, Councillor” <email@example.com>