City, police criticized for not improving relations with Montreal's homeless
72% of homeless Montrealers felt ‘little to no change’ in the way police officers interact with them
The city of Montreal and the SPVM need to do more to prevent social profiling of homeless people, according to a new report released by the Réseau d'aide aux personnes seules et itinérantes de Montreal (RAPSIM).
According to the report, 72 per cent of homeless Montrealers interviewed said they felt little to no change in the way SPVM officers interact with them on a daily basis. That's despite promises made by the municipal government in 2012 to improve relations between the police and homeless people.
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RAPSIM co-ordinator Pierre Gaudreau said that despite the good will demonstrated by the city and police, officers take an approach that is "too often negative, too often aggressive, too often a lack of respect, too often going to tickets that are given to the homeless people."
Displacement of the city's homeless is also a major issue in the report. With the development of parks such as Cabot Square and Place Émilie-Gamelin, homeless people who used to be in these areas are left with nowhere to go.
In 2014, the city released a plan to address social profiling, but Projet Montréal city councillor Sterling Downey wants to see more transparency regarding the results of the 2012-2014 action plan.
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"We don't know what the results were. We don't know what the impacts were. I don't know as a councillor what the impacts were, or the impacts weren't. What worked, what didn't work? And now we are planning a new strategic plan," he said.
Sterling said the city's priorities are not in the right place in the lead up to Montreal's 375th anniversary.
He said the city too focused on "the bells and whistles of holding a great party" while neglecting the homeless people who will be expelled from sites all over the city because "it's going to be an inconvenience for people or might make people feel awkward and uncomfortable."
Montreal Police Chief Philippe Pichet said that some of the observations in the report are "very linked" to his vision of the organization.
He said that the SPVM is constantly looking to improve their methods but that dealing with this issue is going to be a collaborative effort between the public, homeless organizations, the municipal government and the police force.
"We are always changing our approach to the way we work," said Pichet. "The thing is here we have to work to make sure to find some solution that will be standing over the years."
The SPVM will hold public consultations on the matter this summer, and the police department's new three-year action plan is expected to be released at the end of the year.