Vancouver Police Department: Demilitarize Now!

To the Vancouver Police Board, and Chief Constable of the Vancouver Police Department:

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 City of Vancouver, 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 review the full statement online here,  and take steps to reduce police violence 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 Vancouver Police Department must demilitarise, and make a commitment to work towards officers not carrying firearms.
  • The Vancouver Police Department must 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.

Police forces do not keep our communities safe. In particular, the military and armed nature of police forces directly threaten the lives of youth who experience oppression and exclusion. Firearms are unnecessary in so many types of police encounters, and their presence leads to additional loss of life, particularly among 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 and Hep C. 

Without accurate information about a problem, it is a lot harder to find solutions. We need clear data about arrests and police interactions, especially for transgender, non-binary, and Two-Spirit youth. This information is one tool we can use to resolve inequities that result from White supremacy and cissexism.   

We oppose criminalization of HIV non-disclosure, people who use substances, sex work, and people who rely on public spaces. In many cases, it is police who enact criminal law against those of us who are part of these communities. YouthCO’s communities see and experience the violence of criminalization. We recognize police violence is made possible through white supremacy, anti-Black racism, colonization, and the many, intersecting forms of stigma and discrimination that we work against every day. These are just some of the many reasons action is needed from the Vancouver Police Department now.

We urge you to take these actions put forth by Black Lives Matter – Vancouver today. 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, and the lives and wellbeing of those of us who have been targeted by police violence since the beginning of this profession.

Sincerely,

 

Sarah Chown

Executive Director


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!