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$20M earmarked for gaps in BIPOC services in Calgary

Coun. Evan Woolley said this process started in July with the city acknowledging that racism exists in our institutions and the city government.

Councillors approved a plan by a vote of 9-5 to have administration develop a Community Safety Investment Framework. That includes a potential $10 million in both 2021 and 2022 city budgets ($20 million total) to help address gaps in services for Calgary’s BIPOC communities.

It will be developed in conjunction with the Calgary Police Service (CPS). The funding would come from a reallocation of the police budget and other sources. That decision would still need to come from council during budget adjustments.

“It is important that we not only make statements but take meaningful steps to respond,” said Woolley.

“This will not deeply impact the police budget, but it will allow some transformative work to support the big demographic of Calgarians who have asked for this.”

It’s not certain all the money will come from the $400 million Calgary police budget. The implication, however, is that will be the primary source.

Earlier this year, Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld said he was open to diverting money from the CPS budget. He said some community services may be better equipped to handle certain calls.

“Even if this very small request is supported at the end of the month at budget (adjustments), the police budget will remain by far our largest (budget) line item,” said Coun. Woolley.

Upcoming police budget submissions

Though Coun. Jyoti Gondek is no longer a member of the Calgary Police Commission, she said they did a heap of work after the July statement on systemic racism. It’s reflected in the upcoming budget submission from the Calgary police, she said.

They know they can’t always be the ones that respond to every call, Gondek said.

“People are not asking for abolition of the police. That is not the goal,” she said.

“The goal is to create a system whereby the Calgary Police Service can develop strong partnerships with organizations and agencies that it needs to work with in order to take care of Calgarians.”

Coun. Farkas maintained his stance that diverting the funding isn’t the way to address these issues.

“The great irony is the continued cuts setback the very reforms that many of you are demanding,” he said.

“A drastically defunded service is not only able to unable to keep Calgarians safe, but it’s also less able to reform.”

Coun. Farkas said cuts could impact diversity hiring, including Indigenous liaison officers. He also said those cuts could come in education and training of officers.

“But again, reductions in these areas would run very counter to public safety objectives and would further set up our community and our police to fail,” he said.

Coun. Woolley said that he wants Coun. Farkas to tell the truth to Calgarians about the police funding.

“These words are like weapons Councillor Farkas. And for someone who is seeking to lead this city and all its citizens, I would expect you to be honest and to cease this fear mongering,” he said.

More details on the matter would be discussed during budget deliberations later this month.