CPEP has been involved in the Defund the Police movement since the uprising in response to the Minneapolis police murdering George Floyd in May of 2020 during the COVID-19 crisis. 

At the time when we decided to start organizing around Defund, we were already seeing alarming rates of racist policing of marginalized people during, and before the pandemic. So when George Floyd was murdered, or “publicly lynched” on and offline, we felt the need to take up the cause immediately. We also knew that the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) has been embroiled in scandals for years, including the deaths of Adbirdahman Abdi – a young Black man – and Greg Richie – a young Indigenous man – at the hands of its police officers as well as many incidents of hate, discrimination, sexism, trans/homophobia and brutality. 

We mobilized with members of CPEP and the community in solidarity with victims of policing by taking to the streets and city hall to bring attention to the harms caused by the OPS every day. We also called attention to the amount of public money that the OPS received every year (50% of the city budget) and delegated at Ottawa Police Services Board meetings on every occasion that they were held to call for defunding and accountability. Throughout the last number of years we created a campaign with an email zap tool to the mayor and city councilors, held a community forum to organize alternatives to policing on Algonquin Territory, came together for a caravan and bike ride to defund the police, held vigils, canvassed to defund OPS, created a photo campaign, and organized rallies.

Today the work continues.

  • CPEP is currently engaged in a lawsuit against the Ottawa Police Services Board with a coalition of community groups for violating our right to freedom of expression with the new restrictive public delegation bylaws passed in February of 2024 (https://cp-ep.org/video-of-in-the-face-of-violence-odsp-law-suit-panel-discussion/).
  • Multiple community groups in Ottawa are involved in public agitation and consciousness raising about the harms that the police have caused to their families, including the Aust family, whose son Anthony died during a police raid on their home.
  • Activists continue to put pressure on the Ottawa Police Services Board and city hall to defund (reallocate resources to community) and de-task the police.
  • We also engage in mutual-aid campaigns to support criminalized, unhoused, and other marginalized people in the community.
  • And many activists in Ottawa are demanding that the Ottawa By-law Service drop all of the fines that they have handed out to Palestinian, Muslim, and anti-imperialist protestors.

As abolitionists we believe that the long term strategy of defunding, demilitarizing, disarming, dismantling, and finally abolishing the police is a viable option that would have lasting effects on society and the world for centuries. Because of the strength of groups like Black Lives Matter and the Movement for Black and Indigenous Lives, “defunding the police” and the harms caused by policing have become mainstreamed, and as such they do not have to compete for attention in the newspapers with other social problems. This allows abolitionists and members of the public to talk openly about the strategies that they would like to employ to stop the harms of policing, and build transformative justice and collective care. By collective care, we are referring to building community capacity so we can work together to keep each other safe and help our communities thrive. This includes building networks of solidarity across differences, mutual-aid, and promoting transformative and healing approaches to justice as we move away from the ineffective, retributive system we currently employ.

But we still have more work to do. As the Canadian economy continues to take a nosedive, the police and the carceral system will gain funding since they are the only thing that stands between the ever-growing numbers of marginalized people, the shrinking middle class, and the upper class. In fact, the RCMP is already on top of this “threat”. In a recently leaked report (https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/rcmp-police-future-trends-1.7138046), the RCMP said that law enforcement agencies should be “on top” of factors that could create mass civil unrest.

We don’t need to invest in these agencies any longer. The people are ready for a change in the way that our communities normally operate. We have the ability to appeal to wide layers of people who just want to be free from the burden of the carceral system, bigotry and violence in all its forms, and the threat of job loss. Defunding the police is how we should talk about collective care, and community transformation. We keep us safe. We can win.