The province has pledged to create a committee to potentially update B.C.’s Police Act, amid growing calls to defund policing across the country.
During an unrelated news conference in Sooke on Friday (June 12), Premier John Horgan was asked to respond to a growing chorus of voices urging cities to defund policing and instead focus that money on other social services to better serve Black, Indigenous and people of color. The calls on this side of the 49th parallel come as protests against police brutality and systemic racism continue in cities all over the U.S.
“It’s only during this time of questioning from the public that we take a look at the Police Act that’s 45 years old,” Horgan said, adding that the responsibilities of law enforcement have much changed in that time, specifically with police currently being expected to take on issues around mental health, addiction and homelessness.
Horgan, however, argued that defunding the police is a “simplistic approach to a complex problem,” and one that involves more funding for social issues.
Horgan envisions expanding the capacity for communities to deliver help to those in need instead of asking police for more than they’re capable of delivering.
“That opens up a whole series of debates and discussions about how we provide more resources to community wellness that go out and beyond community safety.”
At least one city have committed to make steps to undergo changes within their forces. On Vancouver Island, the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board has requested a racial and gender analysis of the Victoria police force to compare to that of the general population.
In Vancouver, Mayor Kennedy Stewart – who is the chair of the Vancouver Police Board – said it would best be suited for the province to handle any reviews.
“The province’s Police Act requires us to more or less rubber stamp police budgets outside minimal discretionary spending,” he said during a news conference Thursday.
His comments were met with criticism from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, who accused him of passing the buck.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said this week that he will table a motion to strike the committee when the legislature resumes later this month. Horgan said the hope is to “shape the legislation for the 21st century instead of mid-century 1900s.”
Federally, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier this week that he would push premiers and the RCMP to equip police with body-worn cameras.
– with a file from The Canadian Press
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