Winnipeg Budget has no funds for community safety hosts, but councillor says cash may still come

Mary Burton, Executive director of Fearless R2W says she’s ‘deeply disappointed’ there was no cash for Millennium Library community safety hosts on Wednesday, but one councillor says an in-year ask could be coming later. @_MorganModjeski reports.

By Morgan Modjeski

Some community members say they’re deeply disappointed city council did not fund the implementation of community safety hosts at the Millennium Library, saying the police-centric approach the city is taking will be harmful to marginalized community members.

But the city councillor for the ward where the library is located says the funding is not completely off the table this year.

“City council is going to do what city council is going to do, but we had to step up for our community and our people and say what we think was needed,” said Mary Burton, executive director of the Fearless R2W organization. “We’re not asking for a whole lot of money.”

The frontline organization Fearless R2W, helps parents looking to reunify with their children and youth aging out of care.

The organization’s budget ask to the city included $478,000 for specially trained Community Safety Hosts to provide security at the Millennium Public Library, where both security and police are present as part of security additions following a fatal stabbing at the facility late last year.

Burton says police are just not the best option for the job, given the facility also serves as a hub for many in the community.

“I’m all for police. I’m all for making sure everybody is safe, but traditionally, and most recently, our people. People who look like me, who are brown or people of colour, they don’t feel comfortable with police officers, they don’t feel comfortable with security officers and they will not go to the library.”

City councillors passed Winnipeg’s operating and capital budget Wednesday afternoon including Coun. Sherri Rollins, who represents the Fort-Rouge, East Fort Garry ward where the library is located.

“For community that is concerned about what they didn’t see, the answer was substantively not a no, but a ‘to be continued’,” said Rollins.

Sherri Rollins, City Councillor for Fort-Rouge, East Fort Garry, says more information on Millennium is coming in the future and the ask is not a ‘no,’ but a ‘to be continued.” (Photo Credit: Morgan Modjeski, CityNews)

Rollins says money for the community safety hosts will likely be made available for the program later this year.

“We will see more reports on Millennium in the short term here and then you will see an in-year budgetary submission. While today is a big day, it’s budget day, and we moved the bulk of budgetary updates within the updates, there is always room for in-year submissions that can get funded. And we can modify this budget throughout the year.”

Some patrons inside the library Wednesday had mixed responses to the new measures.

“I feel more safe when there are some police officers and I can see there’s a line where they’re checking everyone who is entering the library, so I think it’s good,” said Oleksandra Ushakova.

Victoria Morin saying, “Maybe volunteers who actually care about the library, but aren’t like tied to any security or police force.”

One Library staff member, who reached out to CityNews anonymously on Wednesday, said in an email the police and additional security measures are “absolutely” needed saying their presence is crucial to staff and patron safety.

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