Toronto city council has voted against a motion seeking to cut the 2021 Toronto police budget by 10 per cent.
The motion lost by a vote of 8 (YES) to 16 (NO).
A 10 per cent cut represents around $122 million — funds that would then be redirected to community led initiatives including mental health and addiction services.
The motion was brought forward by councillor Josh Matlow and seconded by Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam.
Shortly after the virtual city council meeting began, Matlow pulled his motion from the agenda and added it as an amendment to Mayor John Tory’s motion calling for changes in the way officers respond to non-violent calls.
Tory’s motion asked that the city manager, in consultation with the Toronto Police Services Board, develop alternative models of community safety.
Reforms proposed by Tory like exploring alternative response methods and body cameras for officers by 2021 were passed by council, which would add another $2.5 million to the police budget.
Tory also called on the province to immediately review and overhaul the Equipment and Use of Force Regulation to emphasize de-escalation, and modify practices that address the use of deadly force.
The motion to ban the use of deadly force and military style weapons like tear gas against civilians also failed by a vote of 8 (YES) to 16 (NO).
But the council did vote in favour of amending the Police Services Act to allow officers to be suspended without pay and for an accountability office to be established for Toronto Police.
As well, his motion asked that the Toronto Police Services Board provide an annual line-by-line breakdown of the existing budget, as well invite the Auditor General to review the budget and identify opportunities for savings and efficiencies.
Thousands of people gathered at Nathan Phillips Square over the weekend to push for police reform in the city.
The “Abolish Police in Canada: A Pride Rally & Teach-in” was organized by the No Pride in Policing Coalition.
Chanting and holding signs that read “Stop Killing Us and “Black Lives Matter,” the demonstrators called on leaders to defund, disarm, demilitarize and abolish police.
There have been calls to defund police budgets in cities across north America, in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in police custody in Minneapolis.
During the council meeting, Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said he does not support arbitrary cuts to the police budget, but does support overhauling how the force deals with those in crisis.
Saunders cautioned that there is currently no alternative system in place for handling mental health-related calls and says there must be a new plan in place before any reforms take effect.