City of Vancouver: Act Now to Address Police Violence

June 6, 2020

To the City of Vancouver elected officials:

We are writing today on behalf of YouthCO HIV & Hep C Society to:

  • express our support for Black Lives Matter – Vancouver, BC’s calls to action of June 5, 2020,
  • share our concern about the role of police within our communities, and
  • ask for your commitment and action to address these urgent concerns.

Black Lives Matter – Vancouver, BC’s full list of calls include actions for the Vancouver Pride Society, and the Ministry of Public Safety, and the Vancouver School Board to reduce the impacts of anti-Black racism and white supremacy in our communities. The full statement, Black Lives Matter Vancouver Calls on the City to Dismantle Systems of Violence and Oppression,  is available online here. We ask that you, as an elected official, review the full statement online here, and take action to support Black lives, and reduce ongoing police violence that takes place within our communities.  

The following calls have been written by Black Lives Matter – Vancouver, BC, and YouthCO expresses our full support for each of these asks. We ask that you take action now to implement these specific asks:

  • The City of Vancouver must redirect financial resources from the Vancouver Police Department towards initiatives that demonstrably support long-term community safety. This includes child care support, education, comprehensive mental health intervention and social support, local restorative justice services, employment programs, access to recreational facilities, community-directed public investment, peer-based programming, culturally-led policies and more.
  • The City of Vancouver must commit to improving social conditions across the city with a commitment to the goal of eventually abolishing police and prisons, as they serve the primary purpose of oppressing marginalized communities and protecting the riches of the wealthy minority of denizens.
  • The City of Vancouver must condemn the actions taken by colonial police forces with respect to silencing and violently suppressing Black voices and demands for systemic change.
  • The City of Vancouver must address the past and current harms that the destruction of the Hogan's Alley neighbourhood has caused to Black and Indigenous people and other marginalised communities of Colour.
  • The City of Vancouver must follow through with its policy to redress the past displacement of Vancouver's only Black neighbourhood by enabling the establishment of a Black-led non-profit community land trust on the former Hogan's Alley block within the Northeast False Creek area.

Given the current and historical experiences of police violence, YouthCO is concerned about size of the Vancouver Police Department 2020 Budget, and the proportion of police spending in the City of Vancouver. At $315,278,281.00 and 21% of the total operational budget for the City of Vancouver.  The 1% budget cut to the Vancouver Police Department budget voted on by Council on May 14th, 2020 is simply not enough to reduce the realities of police violence in our communities today. We call upon our elected officials to start divesting from the inherently violent institution that is the Vancouver Police Department immediately.

YouthCO also supports Black Lives Matter – Vancouver, BC’s calls for the Vancouver Police Department take the following actions:

  • demilitarise, and make a commitment to work towards officers not carrying firearms.
  • undergo an upheaval in the manner in which it collects and reports data from arrests/police interactions with civilians to be more thorough and transparent. We need accurate numbers for our missing and murdered trans sisters and brothers.

We will be following up with your colleagues at the Vancouver Police Board to express the urgent need for these actions. In the face of police violence happening right now, we ask that the City of Vancouver initiate reform that aims towards the eventual abolition of police and prisons - and, in turn, the immense police violence that targets our most marginalized people.

In our experience, police presence does not keep our communities safe. It directly threatens the lives of youth who experience oppression and exclusion, including Black youth, Indigenous youth, youth of colour, transgender, Two-Spirit, non-binary, queer, sex workers, people with disabilities, people who rely on public spaces, and people living with HIV. 

Instead of investing in the police, our city must prioritize alternatives like education, increased mental health services, housing initiatives, income security, harm reduction services, accessible rehabilitation, arts and cultural programs, social workers, conflict resolution services, transformative justice, and other vital community-based support systems. These initiatives must support our most vulnerable communities and center the experiences of Black and Indigenous peoples in Vancouver.

We urge you all to take action today in order to support Black lives. Black Lives Matter has provided us all with an opportunity to implement their requests, having invested time, energy, and labour in preparing a list of ways forward in this time of grief in the wake of recent deaths as a result of police involvement.

We look forward to your response as to how you will be protecting Black lives, supporting Black leadership, and strengthening Black community through City initiatives.

Sincerely,

Jessamyn Hung

Operations Coordinator

 

Sarah Chown

Executive Director

 

*Letter adapted from this template created by @defundvpd that we can use to write our own letter asking for changes to reduce the Vancouver Police Department's budget for 2020: https://docs.google.com/document/u/1/d/1dlqh7d0stNdAd1vICnCBFymT8k4uLhGHsesNsh9pJGw/mobilebasic.


YouthCO's office is located on the unceded traditional territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and Tsleil-Waututh people. Our programs take place on unceded, ancestral, and traditional territories of many Indigenous nations across what is now called BC.

YouthCO believes that all youth have the right to accessible and affirming information about our health. We also know each of us has a unique relationship to our bodies, sex, sexuality, substance use, and harm reduction. For many of us, the words other people use for our bodies and their functions are not the words we use for ourselves. Throughout our website, YouthCO uses words for bodies and sex that we know will not reflect the full diversity of our communities. We have tried to, where possible, be as expansive with our language as we know how to while being as specific as possible. As youth leading the HIV movement, we too are learning about the best words for our experiences and do not do this perfectly. We invite any feedback about the language used on our website to help us move forward in the best ways for all youth in our communities!