Members of the public shared stories of fear and conflict with the Calgary Police Service in front of council Tuesday, some calling for the city to divert police funding to other front-line organizations.
More than 130 people were submitted to speak at the City Hall meeting this week, aimed at hearing from the public and forming an anti-racism action committee. Taking turns at the microphone or speaking over the phone to council. Many held back tears as they spoke.
CONFLICT & FEAR
One woman, said her son, of African ancestry, was "abused, choke-held, kicked in the legs, rope tied and unlawfully charged for defending an Indigenous male against unlawful arrest."
Another speaker, Chantal Chagnon, shared the fear she experienced with CPS as an Indigenous woman.
"This fear, this horrifying thought that I am not safe with these people who are supposed to protect me. I am not safe in my own skin and my own being," she said.
Nyall Dabreo, a criminal defence lawyer and guest panellist, agreed that systemic racism exists in the Calgary Police Service. He said that the police's job is to enforce the law, not to punish.
"I want police to trust black people."
"That's why excessive force, especially when it's disproportionately taking place against indigenous and people of colour, It's just not good enough, because excessive force is not part of the job," said Dabreo.
Adora Nwofor, a speaker and advocate for defund.ca, a website that helps community members access anti-racism resources, and connect with their local representatives to defund the police, spoke about her concerns as a black woman and mother, living through systemic racism.
"I want police to trust black people," said Nwofor.
Adora Nwofor, a speaker at the City Council meeting, and advocate for defund.ca says she wants the police to trust black people. [Screen capture]
As others shared stories, Dorsa Zamanpour, from Advocates Alberta, proposed a fiscal plan to defund the police in Calgary. She emphasizes that defunding is not synonymous abolishing police, but rather a reallocation of funding.
"We cannot put anti-racist policies and diversity [in place],
year after year after year into racist structures,
it will not work, the structure itself must change."
Zamanpour said she would like to see a small portion of CPS funding move to more upstream programs that address the root causes of crime, such as: education, mental health, substance abuse, crime prevention programs, youth programs and employment opportunities.
Another speaker at the council meeting, said that lack of training of CPS protective employees poses a detrimental risk to the success of anti-racism reform. She said she would like to see more essential community services utilized, rather than relying on the police.
"We cannot put anti-racist policies and diversity [in place], year after year after year into racist structures, it will not work, the structure itself must change," said one of the speakers.
In an earlier interview responding to policing during the Black lives matter movement, Calgary Police Service Chief Constable Mark Neufeld said CPS is in a pretty good place around the issues of racial profiling.
He said CPS strives for "fair and impartial policing" and to enhance cultural competence, through diversity and inclusion training. However, most training isn't community-specific except for the Indigenous community, said Neufeld.
"So that's where we would teach people about bias, both implicit and explicit, and how they might recognize prejudices in themselves," he said.
"Then, they develop strategies to make sure that the decisions that they make and the actions that they take aren't motivated by bias or prejudice."
However, Chagnon has a different take on how racialized populations are policed in Calgary.
"No matter where you are, no matter what you've done, no matter your class, as soon as racialized identity is brought into it, you become dehumanized. You do not exist as a person," she said.
- By Angela Lackey