Community groups held a protest on Tuesday condemning a nearly $50-million increase in funding for the Toronto police proposed in the city’s 2023 budget.
Hundreds of protesters gathered at Nathan Phillips Square to rally against the proposed funding, while municipal budget deliberations were happening at City Hall.
The proposed budget includes an additional $48.3 million for police, bringing the total police budget to $1.1 billion.
Many of the protesters say more money should be allocated to mental health programs and other initiatives instead of funding the police.
Several speakers participated in the rally, including the mother of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Claudette Beals-Clayton, as well as family members of Taresh Bobby Ramroop.
Both Korchinski-Paquet and Ramroop died after interactions with Toronto police.
Korchinski-Paquet was a 29-year-old Indigenous and Black Canadian woman.
She died in May 2020 after family members called 9-1-1 during a domestic disturbance in their High Park apartment.
Following the arrival of officers, Korchinski-Paquet was on the balcony and fell 24 stories. She was pronounced deceased at the scene.
Her family has accused Toronto police in playing a role in her death.
Taresh Bobby Ramroop was experiencing what his family called a mental health crisis at their home in Oct. 2022, and said they pleaded with officers to speak to him.
Ramroop’s family said police confronted him, and they believe Ramroop tried to escape from a window before falling to his death from the 16th floor of a west-end Toronto highrise.
Ramroop’s mother spoke at the rally about the profound loss of her son.
She said he loved turkey, and now, she can’t bring herself to cook his favourite dishes.
“Why didn’t they let us help my son when he was in crisis?” she asked. “Toronto police is responsible for my son’s death. The police budget is too big.”
She is urging the city to put funds into mental health programs and community services, not the police.
“Defund the police,” she said. “I lost my son so suddenly at the hands of Toronto police.”
“I want Mr. Tory to know I want no other family to feel the pain we feel,” Ramroop’s aunt said. “My nephew needed mental health support, not more police.”
Ramroop’s father added “Our son had a future.”
He addressed the Toronto police, asking, “Why did you kill my son? That’s all I want to know.”
Claudette Beals-Clayton also spoke against giving more funding to police.
“They want to give the police $50 million more to kill our kids, but teachers educating our kids don’t get funds,” she said.
She described the moments before her daughter’s death, saying, “I heard her scream three times but I really thought they were taking her to CAMH (The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health).
“These are the same people that are supposed to serve and protect us, not take our children from us,” Beals-Clayton added.
Also part of the protest were members of TTC Riders, Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, SMASH, ESN Parkdale, Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction, and No Pride in Policing.
Member of Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, Suzanne Narain, said if the Toronto police budget increase is approved it will mean more violence.
“Our communities have too long been advocating for funds to go to community services,” she said. “More police is never the answer. Public health, social employment services are essential.”