#ArtTransforms June 25, 2020

SKETCH Advocacy Letter to Community & Mayor John Tory in support of Defunding the Police

By SKETCH Team

Dear Community Members and Supporters,

SKETCH is reaching out to ask for your support.  We hope you will join us in writing to City Councillors and Mayor Tory this week in order to express our desire to defund the police and invest in arts, education, increased mental health services, housing initiatives, income security, harm reduction services, accessible rehabilitation, mutual aid, conflict resolution services, transformative justice, and other community-based support systems.  

There is a vote on Monday, June 29th on a motion put forward by Councillor Matlow and Councillor Wong-Tam calling to defund the Toronto Police Service by a minimum of 10 percent and, if approved, it would result in about $122 million in savings to be put toward community resources that could include SKETCH.

For this motion to pass, it is our understanding that the motion requires 17 votes to waive deferral to a committee, and 14 votes to pass. Currently, there are only 6 councillors willing to support this motion.

Please join us by reaching out to your councillors (especially those who do not currently support this motion) and by reaching out to Mayor Tory. We estimate that it takes about 5 minutes to send an email and make a call. Again the vote is on Monday, June 29th, so we all need to make our voices heard loud and clear before then. Our city can lead the way in defining public safety through the community, not the police, where Black, Indigenous, and people of colour are free from police oppression. We are calling on you to create a better future for all residents of Toronto by divesting from harmful policing and investing in life-affirming services.

This website has been a great resource to identify your Councillor and their position on the issue and find their contact. We used it and others’ templates to draft our own (see below)!

Thank you for your support and we look forward to having you join us in being a part of the change in our city!

—-LETTER TEMPLATE—-

Hello Mayor Tory,

SKETCH Working Arts is a community arts organization in the Spadina-Fort York Ward 10 of Toronto. The Toronto Police Service budget of $1.076 billion from the total $13.5 billion 2020 operational budget for the City of Toronto (an increase of 4% since 2019) is outrageous. This astronomical police budget costs the taxpayer more than firefighters, paramedics, libraries, and public housing combined. Following the recent horrific death of D’Andre Campbell, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, and Ejaz Choudry, I call upon all our elected officials to ensure a transparent investigation into these deaths and start divesting from the systematically violent Toronto Police Service immediately.

We support defunding the police. Councillor Matlow and Councillor Wong-Tam’s motion calls for a minimum of 10%, but we want you to know that we support dismantling the entire police system and rebuilding a safer, more competent community care. Defund, dismantle, abolish – please pay attention to these words, and know that we notice when you echo “reform” instead. Reform has been proven again and again to make no progress in preventing inadequately trained police officers from perpetuating violence on Black and Indigenous communities. To support reform over defunding is to ignore the spirit of the demands of this period in history.

This work is important to SKETCH Working Arts as the call to invest in community-led safety and divest funds from the Toronto Police Service budget into different forms of community investment supports SKETCH’s vision of youth-led community transformation through the arts.  

An increased police presence, which includes TTC inspectors and enforcement officers, does not keep us safe, rather it directly threatens the lives of our most vulnerable communities (BIPOC, the LGBTQ2S+ community, unhoused people, street-based sex workers, people with disabilities, people experiencing poverty, etc.).

SKETCH supports the call to action for alternatives to policing put forward by the Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project, the prison abolition movement, and the call to divest the funds from the Toronto Police Service and invest in arts, education, increased mental health services, housing initiatives, income security, harm reduction services, accessible rehabilitation, mutual aid, conflict resolution services, transformative justice, and other community-based support systems. These initiatives must support our most vulnerable communities and centre the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and people of colour in Toronto. We should look to and learn from organizations like Not Another Black Life, Black Lives Matter Toronto, Black Legal Action Centre, Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, PASAN, Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project, Maggie’s, Showing Up for Racial Justice, and so many more.

Our city can lead the way in defining public safety through the community, not police, where Black, Indigenous, and people of colour are free from police oppression. We are calling on you to create a better future for all residents of Toronto by divesting from harmful policing and investing in life-affirming services.

We demand a response from your office on Matlow and Tam’s motion, otherwise, we will be forced to champion and vote for a Mayor that will take a stand on this issue come to the next municipal election.

My number is [PHONE NUMBER] and my email is [EMAIL].

Sincerely,

XXXX