Community groups demand immediate removal of Ottawa Police Service from group deciding which groups gets mental health funding

March 7, 2022 – Ottawa – Ottawa community groups are demanding that the Ottawa Police Service immediately be removed from the group that will help decide which groups will share $2.1 million in City mental health funding. The money is from the $3 million held back from the OPS’ 2022 budget increase that saw the OPS budget increased to almost $400 million dollars.

The Ottawa Police Service is a member of the Guiding Council that will work with the City to choose which community groups will receive funding from the City’s Community Safety and Well-Being Fund. The OPS created the Guiding Council but wasn’t originally a member of it. The OPS first announced the existence of the Guiding Council when it unveiled its alternative mental health crisis response system at the January 2021 Ottawa Police Services Board meeting. However, after many community groups objected to the police leading such an initiative, it was moved under the control of the City, and the OPS then joined the Guiding Council.

The OPS issued a statement today “affirming its commitment” to divert calls involving mental health from the OPS to other service providers. As members of the Guiding Council, the OPS will help decide how that’s done.

“Do we really want the same people who let thousands of truckers besiege the city and ​​jeopardize the physical and mental well-being of community members deciding who gets mental health funding?”asked Robin Browne, co-lead of the 613-819 Black Hub. “The police on the Guiding Council will do exactly what police always do: push for systems that still have police involved and that don’t require one cent being taken from their budget. Allowing community and grassroots service providers to take the lead on making the decisions on the issues that impact their safety and well-being needs is a crucial next step.”

The siege in the city revealed once again that with a few exceptions, Ottawa City Council, the OPS and the OPSB are not functioning in the best interests of the community members that they supposedly serve. 

“A key element of healing is having the chance to be heard. The new Ottawa Police Service Board members showed their disdain for Ottawa residents’ mental health by denying them that chance when they canceled the Board’s February 28th meeting”, said Browne. “The City needs to remove the OPS from the Guiding Council and allow grassroots groups and people with lived experience to lead it.”

The Community Safety and Well-Being (CSWB) Fund was created by Ottawa City Council in October 2021, with a commitment from Budget 2022 of $2.1 million. The inaugural funding includes projects that address two of the CSWB’s priorities: discrimination, marginalization and racism and mental well-being. Specifically, the call for proposals is to fund projects and services for racialized youth, Indigenous mental health, mental health promotion, the prevention or intervention of mental health crises, and outreach services. The application deadline is March 24, 2022.

613-819 Black Hub; Horizon Ottawa; Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women; Coalition Against More Surveillance; Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition