Vancouver School Board hosts consultation on contested police program in schools

A headshot of Markiel Simpson outside during a sunny fall day with blurred trees in the background
Markiel Simpson of the B.C. Community Alliance discusses efforts to end anti-Black racism in Vancouver schools, policing and other systems, including the VPD school liaison program. Handout photo.
Laurence Gatinel - CFRO - VancouverBC | 08-03-2021

By David P. Ball

The ongoing controversy over whether police should have officers in Vancouver schools continues, with the municipality continuing the debate the issue and activists continuing to fight to end the longstanding school liaison officer program.

On Monday evening, the Vancouver School Board held a public consultation and heard from dozens of residents about their views on the police program, many, though not all, opposed. According to Markiel Simpson, with the BC Community Alliance, the presence of officers can create a climate of fear among students of colour in particular, who tend to be more targeted by police or treated with suspicion. But when incidents of hate occur in schools, Simpson said it's often that police are the last to respond, if at all.

He told The Pulse on CFRO that the issue isn't sensitivity training or changing the mandate of such programs that's going to fix the problem, because racism is "baked in" to Canada's policing system. But he urged Vancouver School Board to reconsider its support for the School Liaison Officer (SLO) program, and follow cities like Toronto's lead where the practice has been seen to be problematic.

And he said the police need to reflect on why it is they get few hate crimes reports from people of colour who are targeted, even though police said recently they hoped more people would be willing to come forward and report incidents.

According to Simpson, there are systemic reasons that is simply not seen as an appropriate option in today's policing climate.