More than 1,000 protesters gathered at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto on Sunday afternoon to call for the defunding and abolition of all police forces in Canada and Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit.
The No Pride in Policing Coalition, comprised of Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC), queer and transgender groups, organized the event. It was called “Abolish Police in Canada: A Pride Rally and Teach-in.”
Organizer Beverly Bain said the event was an attempt to take Pride back to its political roots and to call for the abolition of police services across the country. She said defunding is the first step.
Bain said the killings of Black, Indigenous and brown people while in police custody, or in the midst of police wellness checks, are a pressing issue for two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities in Toronto.
“In the context of the pandemic, we are seeing the killings, the ongoing police killings, in plain sight, of Blacks, of Indigenous people, including Black women and Indigenous women, by the police, particularly in the context where they are actually doing mental health checks,” Bain said.
Bain said the coalition supports the demand by Black Lives Matter Toronto for a 50 per cent cut in the Toronto Police Service budget and a redistribution of the funds to community agencies to find ways to ensure community safety.
The coalition also wants to see the abolition of the RCMP because it says officers have committed violence against Indigenous peoples, as well as changes to the Criminal Code because it says the legislation gives powers to police to use lethal force against Canadians.
Gary Kinsman, another coalition spokesperson, said the organization wants the SIU to be abolished because it believes it fails in its role as a police oversight body.
The SIU, a civilian agency, investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault.
“It is a completely ineffective, pro-police body. It should be abolished. No money should be spent on it,” Kinsman said.
The organizers said a motion by Toronto City Councillors John Matlow and Kristyn Wong-Tam, which calls for a 10 per cent cut to the Toronto Police Service budget, does not go far enough.
“It means nothing to us. We want to see the police and policing abolished,” Bain said.
Organizers said a proposal by Toronto Mayor John Tory for a “detasking” of the police, in which the city would create a new non-police response team for calls that do not involve weapons or violence, is also not sufficient. Tory said the proposal would help “to stamp out systemic racism within our police service.”
Bain said the idea is a temporary remedy. Tory’s recommendations do not call for a defunding of the service.
“The fundamental problem that we have is the way in which policing operates,” Bain said.
“Right now, Black, Indigenous, racialized people, queers and trans, and Black, queer and trans people in particular, are not safe. We have not been safe. We have tried commissions. We have tried all kinds of reforms. Our money has been thrown at us. None of that has resolved the situation,” she said.