Properly Invest In Alternative Community Safety Measures

Jasmine Ramze Rezaee's deputation to the City of Toronto's Executive Committee 
January 27, 2021 


Dear Mayor and other members of the Executive Committee members,

I am addressing you on behalf of YWCA Toronto, a well-established community agency that supports the resilience and safety of thousands of women, girls and gender-diverse people.

YWCA Toronto’s provides many services that span the city. We also convene a group of mothers who have lost loved ones to gun violence. Many of our community members live in neighborhoods with heightened levels of poverty, violence and race-based inequities – and so deal more frequently with Toronto Police Services (TPS).

We commend the leadership of the City and the stewardship by various City divisions in responding to community concerns and proposing the Community Crisis Response Pilot. We are deputing today to encourage you to move this community safety measure in an accelerated pace and in a more robust manner.

Police-centric models of community safety are inherently flawed. Of course, there is absolutely a valid role for police officers to play in society but ultimately the best tool to reduce crime is the same tool that reduces poverty. We’re referring to good social policies including ensuring everyone has access to safe, adequate housing, income security supports and viable, decent job opportunities, and an ability to improve one’s life circumstance regardless of the family you are born into or the colour of your skin.

We fear $1.7 million isn’t substantial enough to ensure the success of the proposed pilot this year. The pilot is fairly limited in geographic scope and involves a slow implementation process. We need to roll this out faster, with better funding and integrate the system with 9-1-1 from the get-go.

We also need a clear, long-term plan to shift the focus from police to alternative community safety models and to ensure the City has the proper funding in place to support this transition. We need to begin the process of transferring responsibility and resources from TPS to other relevant divisions and agencies such as 9-1-1 emergency services.

As a women’s focused organization, we are very concerned about the way gender-based violence is treated by TPS and the criminal justice system more broadly. Services have been set up in a way that often fail to support survivors of gender-based violence and fail to keep women safe. This situation is particularly complicated when the parties involved have precarious immigration status. There are many women who do not feel comfortable reaching out to police for fear of deportation. Who will protect them from an abusive partner?

The other question is around police accountability, which goes beyond mere budget numbers. There is no evidence that certain practices such as carding and other forms of racial profiling by the police have ceased. What seems to be missing from the conversation are certain considerations such as whether police officers should be carrying lethal weapons or whether the civilian oversight of police services is adequate enough. Ultimately, police reform should be part of the discussion of re-imagining what public safety can look like -- and such reform needs to apply a gender lens and implement a clear action plan to dismantle anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.

So we urge you to 1) expand the investment and the geographic area of the pilot project, 2) invest in youth hubs, street outreach workers and drop-in centres that in particular support the wellbeing of Black and racialized youth by, for example, doubling property taxes, and 3) seriously consider re-allocating funds from the police budget into wrap-around services as suggested in a report we submitted to the Committee by Toronto Neighbour Centres and partners, and other evidenced-based recommendations brought to your attention by scholars, community leaders, grassroots organizations and other stakeholders.

In short, we hope you can go further and deeper in resourcing alternative public safety measures. Thank you for your time.

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Jasmine Ramze Rezaee is the Director of Advocacy and Communications at YWCA Toronto.

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