Without pushing aggressively for change, change will never come. When it comes to social change, the words, “Look how far we’ve come,” in reference to a period of 60 to 70 years means a person may not see meaningful change in their lifetime. To me, those are empty words uttered by complacent people who are satisfied by passive, slow change – especially those of power or privilege who barely experience a disruption to their status quo.
Imagine your whole life you’ve been told or made to feel that you’re not welcome, you’re followed around stores you visit, you’re stopped by the police because of how you look, and, when you look at government and corporate leaders, your face is never represented. Now imagine you’re told, “Just wait a bit longer, we’ve come so far.” How would that make you feel?
Recently, a Task Force charged with improving community safety and well-being in Edmonton delivered its report (please take the time to read it) which included recommended reforms to the Edmonton Police Service. In response, EPS called the report, “insulting and demeaning.” This leaves me less than encouraged that the EPS are truly for the people of Edmonton when it appears to have such a fragile ego that it can’t listen to calls from citizens from all walks of life – including representation from police – that we’d like to change how we support and serve our communities. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are good women and men who are part of the Edmonton Police. However, I believe that a “divest and invest” approach – reducing funding by 32% (the percentage of non-criminal calls attended by EPS) and increasing funding to social programs – is a better way to achieve the desired outcome of safe and supported communities.
Shortly after the report was released, the Task Force was labeled by the Minister of Justice, Kaycee Madu, as a group of “radical activists” and any move to “defund the police” was grossly irresponsible and a “dangerous social experiment.” Unsurprisingly, Mr. Madu is a member of the UCP, the right-wing conservative party currently holding a majority in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly. The arguments that the left’s “extreme” positions are going to bring ruin and (this one I just heard) will further grow the far-right are preposterous – hatred motivated by fear and the desire to blame someone else for the current state of things is growing the far right. Conservative parties of Canada have resorted to preying on these fears, stirring the pot, and tacitly supporting white supremacists, racists, misogynists, bigots, and predatory capitalists in order to gain power and win elections. They do not represent change in any way other than a regression of society.
In the end, change comes to all things. Now happens to be the time when change is visiting institutions, like the EPS, that no longer align with the progress that people desire. If recent polling in Alberta is any indicator, the next institution that can expect change is the UCP. In both cases, change can’t come quickly enough.