Edmonton locals are demanding change. On Monday, June 22, about 30 Edmontonians called into a council meeting and asked for the defunding of the Edmonton Police Service (EPS). The City of Edmonton has been hosting public hearings on the notion of freezing the EPS budget after a petition was shared by Black Lives Matter Edmonton. 

The petition urges the city government to cap the police budget at its current level of $372.5 million. 

The idea of "defunding the police" has been all over the place for the last couple of weeks following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

The general idea, one that's been further elaborated in the petition, is that the money that normally goes towards the police budget would instead be redirected to community organizations such as mental health initiatives, housing, education, support for marginalized groups, and more. 

Dozens of Edmontonians were not shy about making their thoughts heard at the public hearing on Monday.

BLM member and student, Amina Mohammed, said to the city council, "Rather than acknowledging the needs and experiences of the community who you serve, you call us to work within a failing system fraught with systemic racism."

She said that the city plans to increase the EPS budget by approximately $57 million.

Mohammed told the government that this proposed increase should instead go towards making public transit free, making public libraries more accessible, creating safe injection sites, amongst others. 

"I cannot take off my skin colour. As Black people, we are racialized 24-7 and cannot go off duty," she said. 

Dr. Alexa DeGagne also spoke about policing in the city. "Indigenous, Black, POC, LGBTQ2S+ people remain disproportionately harassed and criminalized by police organizations in Canada," she said. 

The researcher condemned the police's participation in Pride parades, which she described as "PR moves." 

"We need to rethink community safety and justice. One way to do so is to look at the solutions of people who have been under-protected," she said. 

According to Global News, EPS Cheif, Dale McFee, acknowledged systemic racism in communities but doesn't believe it to be a "rampant" problem. 

On calls to defund this branch of law enforcement, he said that this would affect programs in which officers deal with community safety and well-being. He also believes that it would affect diversity programs within the EPS. 

Narcity has reached out to EPS and the city of Edmonton for comment and we will update this article when we receive a response. 

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