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Vancouver trustees set to vote on bringing police officers back into city schools

A Vancouver Police Department patch is seen on an officer's uniform. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck A Vancouver Police Department patch is seen on an officer's uniform. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C.'s human rights commissioner is among those opposed to a motion that would see Vancouver reinstate the controversial School Liaison Officer program, which stations police in city schools.

On Monday, the Vancouver School Board is set to debate and vote on bringing back a "reimagined" version of the program – which was cut in June of 2021 – by the beginning of the next school year.

Brought by ABC trustee Preeti Faridkot, the motion would make good on the party's campaign promise to reintroduce the program.

"The election of a new School Board on Oct. 15, 2022, and the demonstrable lack of community consensus surrounding the discontinuance of the SLO program, offers the incoming board an opportunity to implement a reimagined SLO program that addresses the needs and concerns of students and stakeholders," it reads, in part.

In 2021, the board commissioned a third-party report that found students had a range of experiences and perceptions of the program but that negative experiences and perceptions were far more pronounced among students who are Black, Indigenous, disabled, LGBTQ, and low-income. Faridkot's motion mentions this report, asking that the new program "takes into consideration the thoughtful inputs and opportunities" contained within.

Four of nine school trustees are members of the ABC party. A fifth trustee ran with the party until he was dropped from the slate. However, the ballots had already been printed by the time he was ousted, meaning the party name appeared beside his on election day. 


In a letter to B.C.School Trustees opposing SLO programs in all of the province's schools, Commissioner Kasari Govender specifically mentions the VSB's impending vote.

"It is troubling that the VSB motion implies, without evidence, that SLOs are necessary for school and community safety and that tweaks to the SLO construct will be sufficient to address community concerns of harm and discrimination," the letter reads, saying the move to bring back the program would be made "over the objections of marginalized voices."

Further, Govender says when it comes to safety in schools and support for students, there are alternatives to police – such as counsellors, substance use educators, and restorative justice facilitators.

Last week, the board heard from dozens of speakers on the issue. Those who supported the program emphasized the positive relationships students built with individual officers and the need to prevent and respond to issues like bullying, drugs and gang recruitment. While acknowledging that different students experience the presence of police differently, proponents of the program said they are confident change scan be made that will assuage the concerns raised by students, parents and communities in the past.

Those opposed echoed the concerns voiced by incumbent school trustees and summarized by Govender.

"Indigenous, Black and other marginalized students—as well as their parents and communities—have raised significant concerns about the harm caused by having police in schools."


In her motion, Faridkot cited "a marked increase in incidents involving Vancouver youth" and a "notable increase in youth-involved violence that she claims corresponds to the end of the SLO program. In support of that, she cited several statements made by the Vancouver Police Department.

The VPD does not release youth-specific crime statistics as part of its quarterly report to the police board. However, youth were mentioned in the Third Quarter update, saying several incidents involving bear spray were linked to "youth-involved violence." It also notes research showing the destabilizing and negative impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on young people in the city and beyond.

Data from Statistics Canada on youth crime includes both incidents in which charges were laid and incidents in which youth were diverted out of the criminal justice system. The most recent report, which covers 2021, notes that nation-wide these numbers have been trending downward for decades.

The Youth Crime Severity Index, which measures both the volume and severity of crime involving youth accused has fallen 50 per cent in Canada since 2011.

In British Columbia last year, the YCSI was 26.9 – the second lowest in the country behind Prince Edward Island, and significantly lower than the national average of 41 per cent.

The figure represents a year-over-year drop of eight per cent and a decrease of 55 per cent over the last decade.


A previous version of this story said the ABC party has a majority on the school board, in fact four of nine trustees are with the party. Top Stories

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