Police violence, murder, racism. We encourage you to prioritize your mental and emotional well-being as you choose how to engage with this statement. If you’d like to engage with resources, click here.
Nothing has changed.
The Police still systemically fail as an institution of public safety. On this International Day Against Police Brutality, it is abundantly clear that police violence is still rampant, if not worse, in 2023. While words hardly capture the impacts of this deadly institution, we wanted to take this day as an opportunity to bring awareness to police brutality happening in Tio’tia:ke (Montreal) and beyond.
There has been a steep rise in lethal force used by Canadian police officers, with 2022 being the deadliest on record, according to Law Enforcement Data and Transparency Project Tracking (In)justice. These records also show persistent racial disparities, with Black and Indigenous people being primarily overrepresented in the 69 individuals who died during forceful interactions with Canadian police officers last year.
Despite this, Police Departments have received massive budget increases. For instance, the SPVM (Service de police de la ville de Montréal) budget grew by 63 million dollars this year alone. Police interventions do not address the root causes of social marginalization and insecurity but tend, rather, to exacerbate systemic oppression and stigmatization. Public safety for everyone requires a withdrawal of policing and criminalization and a move towards life-affirming and harm-reduction services.
Oppressive, white supremacist, racist and colonial practices permeate policing and no amount of representation of marginalised peoples in the police or greater sensitivity training will resolve problems of systemic discrimination and violence in policing. Even when the courts recognize that police should not be able to question people without reasonable grounds, that decision is appealed by the Quebec Government, which, you shall recall, does not recognize systemic racism.
While the conversation around Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls usually focuses on police inaction (like in the case of Prairie Green, Winnipeg), it is essential to also note the continued reports of police as perpetrators of violence.
Indigenous land defenders across Canada have been targets of police brutality. Since the 2019 injunction Wet’suwet’en land defenders have dealt with constant surveillance, harassment, and forceful removal and jailing. These raids were highly militarized with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) using helicopters, dog units and assault weapons not to mention involvement by Coastal GasLink’s private security company.
No matter how you look at it, police, prisons and borders kill. We haven’t forgotten that, just last December, 21-year-old Black youth Nicous D’Andre Spring was murdered by prison guards in the Bordeaux Detention Centre while being illegally detained past his scheduled date of release. We haven’t forgotten that around the same time, two migrants were found dead, one while being detained by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), and one near Roxham Road, an irregular crossing of migrants between the USA and Canada.
We haven’t forgotten that expansion of Carceral facilities keeps happening right under our noses, that last October, the new Migrant Detention Centre in Laval opened its door, or that a new Women’s prison is currently being built in Montreal. Expansion of policing and criminalization, and the perpetuation of police violence is happening all over Turtle island and beyond.
In Atlanta, activists have been arrested and charged with domestic terrorism while protesting Cop City, a vast police training facility under construction atop forestland. Many organizations, including the Human Rights Watch, have called for the domestic terrorism charges against “Defend the Atlanta Forest” activists to be dropped, saying they are a “clear attempt to silence dissent.” Let us not forget that these charges come after the assassination of activist Tortuguita who was shot 14 times by Georgia State Patrol while sitting on the ground with their hands up.
In Peru, amidst widespread protests over recent months, the Army and National Police of Peru have fired lethal weapons and used other less lethal weapons indiscriminately against the population, especially against Indigenous people and campesinos(rural farmworkers) during the repression of protests.
In Iran, security forces have killed and brutalized protestors; gender-based and sexual violence, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, and enforced disappearances are among actions untaken by police following the death of Jina Mahsa Amini.
Police violence is everywhere. Where is the outrage that is only granted on rare occasions when the public realises what marganalised communities go through everyday? Police violence is normalized. So much so, that the grief, sadness and anger of the communities that lose people at the hands of police exists in a vacuum. Every day, the status quo not only leaves people behind, it kills them. To amplify the words of the Black Students’ Network: “Until all systems of oppression are dismantled, until Black, Indigenous and racialized bodies can navigate this world freely, until the world sees us, we will not stop demanding change.”
The SSMU Executives
There are a lot of ways to learn more or get involved in the fight against police brutality. Below is a short list of options:
- March 15: COPB is hosting a protest tonight at 6pm (learn about your protest rights)
- March 16: Meet the authors behind Relations: La police : un pouvoir disproportionné
- March 19th Join Wet’suwet’en Land Defenders to learn directly from them about their home and culture, and what we’re all fighting to defend
Petitions to sign and letter templates
- Defend the Atlanta Forest
- Letter Template for Gidimt’en Checkpoint
- Letter to the attention of the Canadian Government
Places to donate
Websites to check out
- https://www.stopcopcitysolidarity.org/ or https://defendtheatlantaforest.org/
- https://collectifsolidaritequebecperou.ca/ (in French and Spanish only)
Resources for your well-being
- Keep.meSAFE, a free mental health service providing 24/7 access to licensed counsellors
- Tel-Aide: 514-935-1101
- Crisis Text Line: Text ‘CONNECT’ to 686-868
- Suicide Action Montreal: 1-866-277-3553
- Centre for Gender Advocacy Peer Support Line: 514-848-2424 x7880
- Trans Lifeline: 877-330-6366
- Interligne: 514-866-0103 (Toll-free/text messaging: 1-888-505-1010)
- Project 10: 514-989-4585