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Gun violence in Montreal | A not very public forum

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A first forum on armed violence in Montreal will finally take place starting this Thursday. Finally, it is an opportunity to discuss and find possible solutions to this serious problem which has caused us to experience an absolutely terrible year 2021.

Let’s say it straight away, the meaning of the word forum is not public here. The event, organized by the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) and the City of Montreal, will take place behind closed doors, without the presence of the public, families of victims and journalists.

I find it unfortunate that this crucial subject, which affects the reality of Montreal, is treated in this way. If there is one aspect of urban life that deserves to be looked at and passed through a huge prism, it is this one. But hey, we’re not facing altar boys, after all.

“These are sensitive issues,” said Alain Vaillancourt, city councilor for the Sud-Ouest borough and head of public security on the executive committee. There are people who were reluctant to come and speak if it was public. »

I understood that one of the “sensitive issues” to which Alain Vaillancourt refers relates to the transmission of information. It is obvious that this aspect will be at the heart of the discussions. For the moment, educational institutions, community organizations or links in the health network that would like to give relevant information to the police can hardly do so.

We absolutely have to find a way to improve this. This must be done while respecting confidentiality and maintaining trust in the community. It’s a challenge.

Alain Vaillancourt, city councilor in the Sud-Ouest borough and head of public security on the executive committee

And this challenge must go through legislative changes. So that means collaboration with other political authorities and time, a lot of time.

During this type of exercise, there are things you don’t like to hear, but which must be said anyway. These are often the ones that upset and improve the system. I asked Alain Vaillancourt if he feared that his administration would be accused of controlling the ideas that will be presented during this forum.

“It is not our intention, adds Alain Vaillancourt. The whole process was transparent. I understand the frustration of those who cannot be there. That said, I hope this forum will not be the last. »

This situation arouses the ire of the official opposition, which regrets that the holding of this event, which was first announced in November before being canceled in January, was confirmed only four days ago.

“To my surprise, my director of sports and recreation told me a week ago that he had been invited by the SPVM to this forum, confided to me Abdelhaq Sari, councilor in Montréal-Nord and spokesperson of Ensemble Montréal in terms of public security. Who really organizes this forum? How can we forget elected officials from Montreal North, Saint-Léonard and Rivière-des-Prairies, where issues of armed violence are very important? »

Abdelhaq Sari has not seen the list of participants in this forum which will extend over three days, February 24, as well as March 17 and 31. In the afternoon, Wednesday, Alain Vaillancourt promised to send it. But Valérie Plante’s communications team finally told me “not to be able to share the complete list for reasons of confidentiality with our partners”.

I remind you that this is a forum, not an investigation, not a trial. Participants will not be asked to inform or name names. They will be asked to think of possible solutions. But hey, we can understand that some people fear being victims of reprisals.

For the first day of the forum, 178 people are registered in the morning and 115 in the afternoon. Representatives of the CIUSSs, the Regional Public Health Department, school service centers and various community organizations will take part.

Abdelhaq Sari told me that he receives many calls from organizations wondering why they are not there. “It raises a lot of questions about transparency and municipal democracy. For me, it’s a political forum. »

The other major absentees at this event are Montrealers, those who live in the neighborhoods concerned or others. On the SPVM website, it is said that it is “together that we can turn the tide”, but that “the forum is specifically intended for strategic institutional and community partners (by invitation only)”.

This is also what we told the media who will not have access to the presentations and discussions. However, it is promised that a spokesperson will be available for interviews at the end of the days of February 24 and March 31.

The problem of violence in the metropolis is of great importance. It seems normal to me that, in an open and democratic city like Montreal, the ideas that will be brought forward and debated during these three days can be reported by the media so that the population has the feeling of being part of this exercise, given that she has no right to speak.

Between February 24 and March 31, a one-day workshop will bring together a group of young people on March 17. “We are going to place young people at the center of the process,” said Valérie Plante on Monday, during a press briefing.

In this context, why not add a day with citizens? It would have been simple to do, beneficial and therapeutic.

The idea for this forum came after three teenagers, Meriem Boundaoui, Jannai Dopwell-Bailey and Thomas Trudel, were killed by knives or firearms in Montreal.

This problem was a major issue in the last elections. It has many ramifications and is extremely complex. Social issues, racism, street gangs, drugs, prostitution, handgun control… It’s all part of this problem that has grown to frightening proportions over the past few months.

It’s not a three-day forum that will solve everything, of course. But it’s the beginning of something that looks like a desire to curb the monster. Let’s hope that we will come out of this with a real synergy and measures that will quickly leave the paper to transpose into the street.

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