Council’s vote on defunding the police

ByBrad Bradford

Black lives matter, racism exists in our city, and we need to overhaul the structures that perpetuate racial injustice in our communities. Here’s why I’ll be supporting both sets of motions to address anti-Black racism at Council today.

Over the past few weeks I’ve heard many perspectives on what defunding might look like in practice. I support a version of defunding focused on investing more of our City budget in social services delivering the equity and justice-based outcomes we want from the dollars we spend.

I am not interested in the politics of alienating police, or undermining the extremely difficult work they do in our communities every day. I’m equally uninterested in maintaining the status quo of policies and funding models perpetuating racism and leaving communities under-resourced.

For too long, the size and scope of policing has grown. On the average day, we expect police to be mental health crisis professionals, conflict negotiators, social workers, sexual assault specialists and marriage, addiction or grief counsellors. This is not what policing is for and it’s not leading to the outcomes we want. The lives of Black and racialized communities in our city will only improve with more investment in social services. These motions move us towards that and a new model of policing.

To be clear, the City of Toronto can’t make specific, line-by-line changes to the police budget. The City doesn’t have the power to do so and would need it from the Province. Together, these motions apply the pressure we need to give Toronto real oversight of the budget and advance the policy changes that will restructure the budget to better address mental health, poverty, and inequities in our city.

You can only put so many layers of paint on a wall before you have to strip it down. We are at that point with the way we deliver the services that affect the lives of our Black and racialized residents. If pursued together, reallocating funds and pushing for reforms can lead to the change we need.

This moment is about seeing and hearing the experience of Black, Indigenous, and racialized members of our city, acknowledging the systemic barriers behind their experiences, and taking steps toward a better, safer, more inclusive future. This is also about ensuring that this is more than just a moment but a sustained effort to confront anti-Black racism.

This is a challenging issue and I’m grateful to the many individuals and communities who’ve shared their lived experience and perspective. No change is possible without your voices and they will be even more important in the work ahead.

I will never stand for “us versus them” politics. My view of these motions isn’t about pushing division. It’s about an honest acknowledgment that systemic racism exists in our communities, things need to change, and we need to reallocate resources and redefine roles and responsibilities in an effort to move forward.