Motion to create a special police unit to address growing hate crimes to be reintroduced.
A growing number of Montrealers are asking the municipal government to put in place a hate crimes unit to address a growing number of attacks on people from racial minorities.
The project would see the creation of a dedicated unit within the SPVM to address and investigate hate crimes that occur among various Montreal ethnic communities.
The non-partisan motion is backed by a large coalition of actors, including local community organizations, municipal politicians and anti-racism groups.
This comes amid a growing call for action by Montreal’s cultural communities to address the growth in racist attacks and assaults.
City councillor for Snowdon Marvin Rotrand along with city councillor for Darlington and official opposition leader Lionel Perez are spearheading the initiative at city hall.
The special police task force would not only work to investigate hate crimes but also work proactively to prevent them.
Backers also said the program would implement diverse hiring practices to ensure it is representative of all Montreal cultural communities and that officers are fluent in many languages.
Rotrand hopes to see the squad take shape in a similar way to one in New York City, where the police recently put together a task force of 25 Asian American officers to fight anti-Asian racism in that city.
Need for action
At a press conference on Tuesday, councillors Rotrand and Perez re-launched the motion to create the special unit after it was presented and blocked last month.
“We are demanding concrete actions with more effective measures in the field to fight hate crimes,” said Fo Niemi, executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR).
“Within the last 10 days, we have seen hateful incidents, even a very violent and dangerous act committed against an Islamic community center in the east of Montreal,” he added.
“All these acts and incidents demonstrate we need to do much more to fight and prevent hate crimes,” said Niemi, adding that the new squad would ensure “peace, security and harmony for all Montrealers.”
“There are nearly 50 civil society groups who support the motion to increase the resources for the SPVM to fight hate,” said City Councillor Marvin Rotrand, who first introduced the motion last month.
“It represents the Black, Chinese, Filipino, Asian, Jewish and Muslim communities among others,” he said, adding that “Montreal is not sheltered from hate.”
This comes amid a substantial rise in reports of hate crimes and heinous acts, especially but not exclusively towards the Asian community, according to the SPVM.
Official opposition leader Lionel Perez also stated that Ensemble Montreal would support the motion. “One of those effective tools is to ensure that our hate crime and hate incident unit at the SPVM has all the resources that it needs,” said Perez.
Blocked in the past
“When I introduced the motion last month at council it was blocked, sent to the commission of council without a date for a return with an action plan,” said Rotrand, adding he was frustrated the Plante administration had not implemented it.
“We’re demanding more officers, more resources and the implementation of the best practices that have been shown to work very well in Toronto, Vancouver and New York,” said Rotrand.
Perez seconded this and said the move could make a big difference in Montreal’s various cultural communities. “We cannot simply wait another year while the commission studies the matter, we need to act now,” he said.
“We are going to ask the administration to reconsider,” added Perez, adding that the support of “dozens of community associations demonstrates how there is a consensus.”
Important to report
“How many hate crimes are not reported?” asked Kemba Mitchell, chairperson of the West-Island Black Community Association. “It’s important to report them because if you do not report them it’s like they do not exist,” she added.
She reiterated her frustration at the current administration for not taking hate crimes seriously enough, saying that she found it ridiculous to still be discussing the matter again, a month after the motion had been tabled.
“Why are you not communicating with the victims of hate crimes,” asked Mitchell about the current municipal government, “How are you supposed to move towards doing better if you don’t include the people who are the victims, this doesn’t make any sense,” she concluded.
When Plante was asked about the motion before it was presented last month, she said she wanted to wait for the debate before making a decision, adding that “our political will actually is definitely in this direction.” Her party nonetheless moved to shelve the motion. Rotrand is set to present it again on Apr. 19, 2021.