Gun violence, youth crime part of discussion at summit between SPVM, racialized communities

"Hopefully this is a beginning of a conversation," says Fo Niemi, the executive director of CRARR about the crime prevention summit being held on Friday and Saturday. Brittany Henriques reports.

Montreal community organizations and experts gathered Friday and Saturday for a summit on safety and crime-prevention initiatives.

The events featured conversations about barriers and challenges within crime and violence prevention programs for English-speaking and racialized communities.

“It’s a great opportunity not only to connect with police and other organizations but it’s also a way to advocate on behalf of communities,” said Penny Rankin, former president of the Montreal Council of Women.

The summit was organized by the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR). It was held at Concordia University on Saturday.

“Hopefully this is a beginning of a conversation and an exchange that we hope to maintain to better serve and protect the community, and in this case the Black community,” said Fo Niemi, CRARR’s co-founder and executive director.

On Friday CRARR brought together victims of crime from Montreal’s Black and racialized communities, city officials and community groups as a part of its new crime prevention initiative.

“Everyone in the room, including (SPVM) Chief (Fady) Dagher, has the opportunity to see and hear firsthand from parents and families who have lost their children and loved ones to violence,” said Niemi. “And in many cases there haven’t been any answers or solutions. So that’s why people are coming here not only to show crime affected them but wanting answers.

Community organizations at a summit with Montreal police on March 11, 2023. (Credit: CityNews/Kwunkeyi Isichei)

Dagher acknowledged such events are important.

“The way that we will be able to have our legitimacy is to get closer and closer,” he said. “Police cannot work without the community, so the credibility and legitimacy comes from the community. Without the community there’s no policing. That’s why it’s important for me to be close with the community. But not only one community, all the communities.”

“Build that trust between the communities and we’re working on our relationships with the different groups within the community to make sure that youth have that strength of voice and make sure they have right to their judicial process,” added Jean-Marc Schanzenbach with the SPVM’s prevention and urban security team.

The SPVM’s Jean-Marc Schanzenbach at a summit with community organizations on March 11, 2023. (Credit: CityNews/Kwunkeyi Isichei)

On Saturday community groups discussed their concerns and needs and how police services and the government can help them help their communities.

“We want to be a part of the conversation and the solution as far as funding is concerned,” said Joan Lee, the president of the West Island Black Community Association. “We’re speaking to the city that the West Island English-speaking community don’t have access to the funds. And it’s very important to help gun violence and we’re especially concerned with preventing youth violence.”

“Domestic violence is on the rise and it has reached the Muslim community,” added Farida Mohamed, the president of the Canadian Council for Muslim Women.

“In terms of human trafficking that’s going on in the city, we know that our youth today, whatever their gender, whatever their ethnicity, all of them are at risk of cyber abuse and this is something that we collectively have to start working on,” said Rankin.

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