Alberta Justice Minister Urges Calgary Not to Go Ahead With Plan to Defund City Police

Alberta Justice Minister Urges Calgary Not to Go Ahead With Plan to Defund City Police
The Calgary Police Service headquarters in Calgary, Alta., on April 9, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Justina Wheale

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu is urging Calgary city council not to go forward with a move to defund their police service, by reallocating $20 million from the police budget to community programs.

“In my discussions with community groups I have yet to hear someone ask for less funding to police. In fact the opposite is true. Instead, Alberta’s government is working to reform and modernize policing in this province. This is the best way to address concerns of the community,” Madu said in a post on Twitter Nov. 5.

He added, “I urge city council to not get caught up in political fads and instead work to improve how police services are delivered to the public.”

Calgary took the first step toward defunding its police this week when council voted in favour of a motion to reallocate up to $20 million from the police budget over two years, to be put towards a “community safety investment framework” that would include “community programs, partnerships, and projects that support the safety and wellness” of residents.

The framework also aims to “address gaps” in crisis services, outreach services, and the city’s emergency response system, “including any gaps in racially and culturally appropriate services,” according to the motion.

Councillor Evan Woolley, who put forward the motion, said in a statement the move is a response to “calls for reforms to policing in Calgary” in light of “systemic racism faced by Black, Indigenous and Persons of Colour in our community and the shifts required to build a community that is safe, inclusive and equitable for all of our citizens.”

Councillor Jeromy Farkas, who is running for mayor in the city’s 2021 election, voted against the motion, questioning why the money for the effort needed to be taken from the police budget at a time when social issues stemming from economic hardship are on the rise.

“Calgary has seen population growth, a resurgence in organized crime, and social disorder and violence driven by economic hardship. Despite this, Council would rather cut emergency services than revisit its recent decisions to massively boost the public art, bike lane, and communications budgets, to name a few examples,” Farkas said in a Nov. 2 release.

“It is possible to support our honourable police officers while also urge for swift and severe consequences for those who violate the public’s trust.”

In a newspaper op-ed, Farkas also noted that reforms to policing that advocates of defunding are calling for could be undermined by reducing resources.

“The great irony is that continued cuts set back the very reforms that community advocates are demanding. A drastically defunded service is not only unable to keep Calgarians safe, but also less able to reform,” he said.