Montreal Police Protest
More Than 2,500 Officers March Against Budget Cuts
More than half of Montreal’s police force marched to city hall on Oct. 20 to protest a $35 million cut from their budget.
Led by Montreal Police Brotherhood chairperson Yves Francoeur, about 2,500 off-duty Montreal police officers left their uniforms at home, choosing to sport their bright red Brotherhood hats and sweaters as they paraded down St. Denis Street and into Old Montreal.
“Today, we stand tall,” said Francoeur to thundering applause. “Today, city hall will hear us.”
Standing outside of city hall, Francoeur painted a bleak picture of the state of law enforcement in Montreal.
“We’re getting all kinds of horror stories,” he said. “We’re tired of telling rape victims we’ll get to their case when we have time… We show up on crime scenes and it’s too late, the damage is done and all the witnesses are gone.”
Darren Becker, a spokesperson for Mayor Tremblay, took exception with the tone of Francoeur’s criticism.
“If there’s one thing about the protest we really hate to see it’s that [Francoeur] is playing with Montrealers’ sense of security,” said Becker. “Montreal is one of the safest cities in North America, and we have the statistics to prove it.”
After announcing potential budget shortfalls upwards of $400 million in May, the city of Montreal has had to cut back across the board to avoid running a deficit.
In September, 140 temporary police officers saw their contracts with the Service de Police de Montreal expire. The officers were set to replace the 160 police retiring from the force in January, but for now it looks as though they will have to find work elsewhere.
Police Brotherhood members are currently in contract negotiations with the city, but Francoeur denied the protest was related to negotiations.
“It’s about a police force that is badly underfunded,” said Francoeur. “We solve 25 per cent fewer crimes than in Toronto […] We’re tired of the bad service we are offering Montrealers.”
A detective who spoke to The Link on the condition of anonymity echoed Francoeur’s statement, saying that he is working on cases that are four and sometimes five months old.
“It’s nearly impossible to solve something when you’re that far behind,” said the detective.
Factoring in the current cut, Montreal’s police force remains the second highest funded in Canada, with an annual budget of over $550 million—nearly three times higher than Vancouver’s police department.
“We haven’t really seen any of the crime statistics change since the cuts,” said Becker. “But we’re willing to negotiate whatever we can. We just won’t negotiate with the police out in the open. We’re against that.”
This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 11, published October 26, 2010.