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Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition hopeful residents, mayor eventually grasp 'defund' movement

"We understand and expect folks to be consistently in opposition to us, coming from the perspectives that they do and often the privilege that they do," said a group spokesperson.
2021-11-23 ottawa police budget protest3
A group of demonstrators gather outside of Ottawa police headquarters, Tuesday, November 23, 2021, to protest the 2022 Ottawa Police Service budget. Alex Goudge/ CityNews

A local anti-racism group is hopeful that Ottawa residents can see what it's fighting for without feeling the need to putting it down, or telling it how to act.

Mayor Jim Watson tweeted at the Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition on Wednesday, November 23, "Just as I don’t support citizens illegally blocking hospitals to fight vaccines, I also don’t support illegally blocking public highways and roads. I welcome protests that are peaceful and not those that break the law."

Somerset Ward City Councillor Catherine McKenney, demanded an apology from the mayor regarding other comments made toward coalition demonstrators during Wednesday's city council meeting.

Leila, a spokesperson for the advocacy group, thinks the mayor's reaction says a lot about the way he treats people that disagree with him.

"The mayor has to understand that the city is where the power comes from," she explained to CityNews Ottawa, Thursday. "His positions... trying to dictate what Black folks should be able to do and how our activism should look really speaks to his privilege."

"I really hope that at some point in the near future, Ottawa citizens as a whole understand that the 'defund [the police]' movement is not meant to leave folks unsafe and vulnerable in our communities," said Leila. "It is a very concerted and consistent effort to create community services and community structures that are able to be guided by the community and speak to the specific realities of different communities across the city."

Members of Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition spend days outside the Ottawa Police Service's headquarters on Elgin Street this week, to demand a budget freeze for the OPS in 2022.

The Ottawa Police Services Board ended up approving a draft budget increase of two per cent, instead of 2.86 per cent, which equals to $11-million instead of $14-million.

Leila says many Ottawa politicians applauded the reduction, but she doesn't see it as anything to celebrate. Her coalition will continue its fight to see a police budget freeze in the city so that more funding can be funnelled toward mental health and other services needed in racialized communities.

"We understand and expect folks to be consistently in opposition to us, coming from the perspectives that they do and often the privilege that they do," added Leila. "We believe we're fighting for something that is better for all of Ottawa."


Mike Vlasveld

About the Author: Mike Vlasveld

Mike Vlasveld, Digital Editor, CityNews Ottawa & the Valley
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