Quebec Public Security Minister commits $250M to combat gun violence, hire more Montreal police

Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault spoke alongside Mayor Valerie Plante on Saturday.  (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press - image credit)
Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault spoke alongside Mayor Valerie Plante on Saturday. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press - image credit)

Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault announced the province will commit $45 million each year over the next five years to up the presence of police officers in Montreal.

Another extra $200 million each year will also go to strengthening the province-wide crackdown on the gun trade.

The announcement Saturday in response to growing gun violence in the city follows two daylight shootings last week, and a vow from Quebec Premier François Legault on Wednesday to "restore order and protect citizens."

"I said this before when announcing Opération CENTAURE last September and I'm saying it again today. We've had enough of the violence in Montreal," Guilbault told a press conference just after 1 p.m.

Over the next five years Montreal police will have access to enough funding to hire new 450 officers. Half of the funding will come from the province, with the rest coming from the city, Guilbault said.

"Here in Montreal citizens are especially on edge. Our citizens are scared and don't feel safe," she said. "I always said if we need to do more, we will do more."

Guilbault spoke alongside interim police chief Sophie Roy, Mayor Valerie Plante and Chantal Rouleau, the junior transport minister for the region.

Plante knows the coming hiring blitz will be cause for concern for some, especially in communities that feel targeted by police brutality, but emphasized the commitments that have also been made to fund the prevention of violent crime.

"Yes there's still a lot of work to be done, clearly. But the message we want to send today is that we are fully behind our police force," she said. "We want [the public] to support our officers in their work as well."

"Right now we're facing an extremely difficult situation with the increase in violence and guns, so we also need to have a robust answer to that."

Guilbault acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead for the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM).

"There is a challenge in recruiting and keeping police officers in the SPVM and this is a shared challenge," she said, saying higher overtime pay and support from provincial police have been in place in the interim.

There's over 750 graduates from Quebec's police academy each year. There will be 72 more starting this year for Montreal's police service specifically, Guilbault said.

With the support of $5 million from the province the city will also be upping the number of social workers who work alongside police. It's a sum also being matched by the city, a spokesperson confirmed.

The team responds to mental health related calls, which make up roughly 30 per cent of all 911 calls. However police officers are still the ones showing up to most calls — something Plante says needs to change.

"This will give police officers more room to breathe," she said.

In the short term, a team of over 60 officers — many of them criminal and intelligence investigators — will be ramping up the force's crackdown on organized crime, Radio-Canada has reported. The squad could hit the ground as of Sept. 12.

The officers at stations dealing with fewer crimes will be floated into more violent areas of the city to achieve this.

Daylight shootings 

The announcement comes as two men were killed in daylight shootings in two incidents less than an hour apart last Tuesday afternoon.

The first, a 44-year-old man, died after being shot in the parking lot of Rockland Shopping Centre in the Town of Mont Royal.

Kolya H. Guilbault/Radio-Canada
Kolya H. Guilbault/Radio-Canada

The second took place about 40 minutes later inside a pizzeria on St-Denis Street, in Montreal's central Latin Quarter, where a 50-year-old man was fatally shot.

More gunshots also rang out in Montreal's Merchier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough around 9 p.m. Friday.

There were no injuries reported by police, who said several shell casings were found on the ground by the corner of Grosbois and Taillon Streets.