Why are we paying $171 million this year to fund a police service that has an established and ongoing history of violence against the most vulnerable in this city, instead of directing those funds towards the organizations that are engaging in survivor-ce
By HWDSB Kids Need Help
Published June 30, 2020
Through tireless community advocacy and efforts, we have successfully pushed for the complete termination of the Police Liaison Program in the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB). We want to thank the Trustees for listening to our voices. We would also like to highlight the fact that although the motion was passed, it was not unanimous; Trustees Carole Paikin Miller (Ward 5), Kathy Archer (Ward 6), and Becky Buck (Wards 8, 14) did not vote in favoor of the termination of the police liaison program.
We want to be clear: this termination should have happened sooner. Black and Indigenous students should not have suffered this long for this vote to have happened.
The HWDSB took less than a day to suspend the Black Youth Mentorship Program when a report was released detailing instances of harassment and violence against Black students in schools by police officers. But when Black students are put in the back of police cruisers and handcuffed on school premises, the Board turns a blind eye and in an act of cowardice and refuses to do right by the most vulnerable students.
It should not have taken the death of Black and Indigenous people for the Board to have finally realized that police do not create a safe environment for these people in our schools and communities, but rather do the opposite. This decision is long overdue, but we thank everyone in the community who helped make it happen.
One thing needs to be made clear: the motion to terminate the police liaison program was not put forward by any of the trustees. The motion to terminate the police liaison program was put forward by the human rights and equity advisory committee, a committee of students, parents, and community members who unanimously voted to put this motion forward.
Past and present students have been fighting for the removal of this program for years - this win was by community and for community.
Although the trustees voted to terminate the program, it is important to highlight and recognize some of the harmful narratives that were spewed during the process. Comments such as "who will play basketball with the youth" or the insinuation that Black youth need to build relationships with police is a deeply insidious way of again, ignoring the violence that police inflict on our communities.
The biggest irony was the trustee board repeatedly saying that they did not pay for this program, therefore had no power over its existence and termination. The fact that elected officials, who are responsible for the safety of students, claimed to not have power over a program in their school highlights the way in which the experiences of Black and Indigenous youth can be so easily ignored.
The carelessness with which the trustees deflected responsibility is a testament to the negligence towards Black, Indigenous and racialized youth. When we say that we don't feel safe, we are to be believed and trusted.
Despite the results of the vote at this Board meeting, the fight for abolition does not end. There is still much work to be done. Policing has never been about safe communities. Foundationally and in all regards, policing as a system exists to criminalize Black, Indigenous, racialized, poor, disabled, queer and trans folks. It creates the problems that it then claims to be the solution to.
When Black youth are continually being carded in the streets, when Black trans women are being killed by police officers, when people with disabilities are constantly subject to 'wellness checks' that surveil and criminalize them - how does policing as a system actually contribute to safety and freedom?
This work will take time. We have to recognize the abundance of care and support that exists in our community and expand upon it. Organizations such as SACHA, the SPACE Youth Centre, HCCI, Speqtrum, IWC, OASIS, the YWC, Hamilton CareMongering and many, many more all serve the community in ways that contribute to the broader safety and well being of every person that lives here.
So why are we paying $171 million this year to fund a police service that has an established and ongoing history of violence against the most vulnerable in this city, instead of directing those funds towards the organizations that are engaging in survivor-centric, restorative justice-based practices?
Police-free schools are just one step towards a safer community. The ultimate goal of this work is abolition. It is a world without prisons, which serve to separate people from their communities and create generational trauma. It is a world without policing, which acts as a tool of the state to surveil and criminalize Black and Indigenous peoples. It is a world without capitalism, a system that pits us against one another and forces us to leave each other behind. It is reimagining from its roots a system that will care for every single person in our society.
To the community that braved the rain and sat with us for over six hours, thank you for trusting us, for believing in us and for sharing space with us.
Today, we rest. We care for one another. We hold space for one another. Tomorrow, our fight continues.
Until we are free,
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