FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA - Individuals and organizations from across Ottawa are speaking out in opposition to the police force’s (OPS) ask for yet another budget increase in 2023 and are calling for a freeze.
Despite ongoing community-wide calls for defunding the police and investing in alternatives that better address safety and well-being priorities like homelessness, mental health, and gender-based violence, Chief Eric Stubbs wants to increase his already bloated budget by $15.2 million, bringing the total operating budget to $401.2 million. In addition, OPS tabled a $60 million capital budget, triple from what they received in the 2022 city budget, of which $40 million is slated for the controversial South Facility. These two budget requests put residents of Ottawa at even greater risk of harm, as this money will be used to expand policing and surveillance in our neighbourhoods.
As the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB) deliberates over this budget, we must remember recent attempts to stifle participation at their monthly board meetings. Proposed changes to the Board’s bylaws include: limiting public delegations to one hour per month; holding the public delegation portion of the meeting separate from the full Board meeting at a time that is inconvenient for many; punishing residents who regularly speak at Board meetings by preventing them from attending consecutive meetings; and preventing residents from asking questions during their five- or three-minute delegations.
Mayor Sutcliffe, one of the members of the OPSB committee responsible for drafting these proposed changes, claims that there are other ways to engage with the Board. As a new Board member, Sutcliffe seems completely unaware of the importance of showing up in this space, as it is more accessible to people than private meetings with the mayor. “Public delegations at the OPSB have helped centre much-needed discussion about reallocating police resources towards meaningful social supports,” says Samantha McAleese, adjunct research professor at Carleton and member of the Coalition Against More Surveillance (CAMS). “The City of Ottawa would never have considered a non-police alternative to mental health calls without the hundreds of people who came out to delegate to the OPSB over those last three years,” adds Farnaz Farhang, another member of CAMS.
Deterring residents from showing up and speaking out at police service’s board meetings is just one tactic used by the Board and the force to avoid accountability. Last week, in an effort to erase their own historical and ongoing violence, the police released a statement about the murder of Tyre Nichols by cops in Memphis, Tennessee. “While police forces across Canada attempt to do preemptive damage control through their empty public statements, they ignore their complicity in the same death-making institutions that kill and harm so many beloved members of our communities” states Robin Browne from 613/819 Black Hub. "Statements like this mean nothing if cops continue to ask for more money to target, harass, harm, and criminalize Black, Indigenous, and racialized people."
This statement came one year after Ottawa’s police force used its social media account to welcome convoy organizers into the downtown core with friendly visuals that included transport trucks. “We can't forget that Ottawa police enabled and facilitated the occupation of the downtown core last year and have yet to take accountability for their role in these events," said Sam Hersh, a Board Member of Horizon Ottawa.
Overall, the City of Ottawa’s proposed budget for 2023 is not a budget that will improve community safety and well-being. Megan Linton from the Disability Justice Network of Ontario emphasizes that “this is a budget that will contribute to the ongoing harm, disablement, and deaths of our neighbours, community members, and those isolated from community support.”
We encourage residents across Ottawa to look closely at the budget documents, engage in the consultation processes, and communicate to city councillors that they need to do better as we continue to navigate a housing and cost-of-living crisis. Reading last year’s alternative municipal budget, prepared by the Ottawa Coalition for a People’s Budget, is an excellent place to start. We call on the OPSB to freeze the OPS budget and instead work with the City of Ottawa to invest in creating capacity for non-police alternatives and social services.
This statement is supported by:
613/819 Black Hub
Climate Justice Ottawa
Coalition Against More Surveillance
Disability Justice Network of Ontario
The Criminalization and Education Project
Ottawa Coalition for a People’s Budget
Punch up Collective
Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW)
Solidarity Alliance of People Who Use Drugs
For Media Inquiries:
Coalition Against More Surveillance