A member of Moncton's social inclusion committee is calling on the group and the city to redirect spending from Codiac Regional RCMP to other services like affordable housing and grants to organizations supporting homeless people.
"I think there's a discussion to be had at the municipal level, here at the City of Moncton, about the police and the space that Codiac RCMP have in the city budget," Charles MacDougall said during a committee meeting Tuesday.
The idea of defunding police has been raised across North America in recent weeks as part of marches and debates following the deaths of Black and Indigenous people at the hands of police.
MacDougall also suggested that the committee should have new members that reflect the diversity of the community.
MacDougall pointed out the members are all white, suggesting the group should have representatives from the Black, trans and immigrant communities.
MacDougall's suggestion was met with a mix of support and pushback from other committee members, who include representatives from various non-profits and others dealing with social issues.
Councillor says wrong venue for discussion
Charles Léger, a Moncton councillor who chairs the committee, cut into MacDougall's comments to say the inclusion committee wasn't the right venue for the RCMP discussion.
He instead pointed to the Codiac Regional Policing Authority board that he also chairs. The organization provides general oversight for the force that polices Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview.
"I guess I'm at a bit of a loss," Léger said. "Not a bit of a loss, but I think it would be better there."
Moncton budgeted to spend $23.9 million of its overall $161.8 million operating budget on police this year, up $6.2 million from 2013.
Recent budgets have included additional spending to increase the number of officers from 143 in 2019 to 157 in 2022 to address staffing issues and rising crime figures in the region. Moncton's budget projects spending $25.8 million on policing by 2022.
As well, Moncton plans to spend around $46 million in the coming years to build a new downtown police station for the force. Earlier this month, the city approved a $1 million contract to deal with contaminated soil at the site purchased for the building.
"I have reason to believe that we're going in what I believe is the wrong direction," MacDougall said. "I think we're asking more and more and more of the RCMP."
Léger said adding officers reflects the growth of the community.
Deputy Mayor Shawn Crossman said he agrees "in portion" with MacDougall's points.
"What we're seeing in Moncton and around the world going on not only with the coloured race, or Black Lives Matter, or anything along that line, I think we need to take in anybody's life and the way that situations are being handled by police forces," Crossman said.
Crossman pointed out annual spending on policing is likely to rise as RCMP members unionize, suggesting this year's budget figure could be a "small amount" by comparison.
He said the social inclusion committee lacks a police representative who could speak to issues raised by MacDougall.
But MacDougall rejected the idea the committee should include a police presence, instead saying he was sad that people were suggesting the committee ask police what they need.
"I think we should be asking what Black people need, what do trans people need, what do immigrants need?" MacDougall said.
Léger said he supports a more diverse committee membership if new members can be found who will commit to regularly attending the meetings.
No decisions were made during the discussion, which lasted about 45 minutes.
MacDougall said in an interview that he expects to hold the city accountable to appoint new members.
"We need many more members," MacDougall said. "If that means others need to resign, then so be it."