Winnipeg activist claims she was wrongly silenced by Police Board

A Winnipeg activist says the Police Board silenced her at a recent meeting for political reasons, but the chair says the remarks made were out of line. Morgan Modjeski reports.

A Winnipeg activist claims she was censored and cut off at a public meeting at City Hall after she tried to raise concerns about nine deaths following police interactions in the city and question growing police spending in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg Police Cause Harm member Inez Hillel says she was kicked out not because she was disruptive or rude, but because of concerns she had raised.

“My remarks were relevant to the board, I think the conversation around police violence is inherently important to have when we’re talking about police budgets,” explained Hillel.

“Their rationale was I hadn’t made the link to police budgets yet, which obviously I couldn’t because they cut me off and didn’t let me speak.” 

Hillel feels she was unfairly removed from the meeting, saying to divorce conversations around budgets and police behaviour, is dangerous logic.

“We’re not willing to actually meaningfully engage with what it means to fund policing in this city. What are the consequences of investing in policing, not only at the expense and detriment of other city services, but quite literally, what is it that we get when we invest nearly $300 million in policing every year,” said Hillel.

Police Board Chair Markus Chambers disagrees, saying the focus of the meeting was on the police budget, but stressed he is concerned about the deaths, saying none are acceptable.

Markus Chambers, Chair of the Winnipeg Police Board, says while people can criticize police at the board, the recent presentation was out of line. (Photo Credit: Morgan Modjeski, CityNews)

“As soon as that delegation started and started in about the police had killed nine people with impunity, I felt that wasn’t appropriate for the context, or the meeting that we were having. If they wanted to speak about budget issues, they were more than welcome to do that,” said Chambers.

He claims criticism is welcome, but he felt the presentation as it was brought forward, was out of line. 

“When it’s done in such a way that it’s defaming, or salacious like that, quite honestly, the message is lost,” said Chambers. 

“Democracy is absolutely at stake.” 

Chambers has discretion on decorum, but Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land who’s on police politics feels its use was not about meeting functionality but was political and in this case, protecting police. 

Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land, an associate professor at the University of Winnipeg, says the use of decorum to silence people at public meetings is often political. (Photo Credit: Morgan Modjeski, CityNews)

“One way or another, their goal is to narrow the scope of criticism.” 

The Police Board meets again in June. 

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