Indigenous group demands apology from SD61 on removal of school liaison officer program

Indigenous group demands apology from SD61 on removal of school liaison officer program

Nearly a year after the Greater Victoria School District (SD61) voted to remove liaison officers from its schools, an Indigenous group is calling for an apology.

In an op-ed published in the Times Colonist, Kim Cameron and four other Indigenous women are calling for an apology from SD61’s board for removing the police liaison officer program.

In the op-ed, they allege that the board was “blaming it on Indigenous people’s fear of police.”

“It seemed to me that the blame was placed squarely on Indigenous students, and you know that, of course, that was a ridiculous notion,” said Cameron in an interview with CHEK News.

Cameron is in favour of the program and believes it would help create better relationships with students.

In its decision, the district gave a variety of reasons for ending the program, such as lack of oversight and no clear objectives.

In a survey sent to the public, SD61 also said while most people were in favour of the program, some reported feeling unsafe and uncomfortable with police officers in schools.

“We don’t have enough to say that we should run these programs. We don’t know if they do more good than harm, and that’s why I’m asking for more research before we have these programs and these armed officers in our schools,” said Kasari Govender, BC Human Rights commissioner, during a March 12, 2024, interview.

The board said its priority was to create a trauma-informed environment.

Before SD61 made its decision, the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) called for the removal of the program. In a survey of 39 BIPOC-identifying staff, many of the responses were largely negative.

“There was mixed opinions, you know, some of our members pointed out spots that they thought the SLO program had provided value in a school,” said Clint Johnston, BCTF president.

“But overwhelmingly, what we saw was that there was there was essentially damage, if you will being done to relationships into individuals by the presence of SL officers.”

One key finding of its research was that funding should be allocated to school resources rather than officers.

“Should it be a police officer trying to do some counselling with a student who needs support? Or should it be a counsellor, someone who’s trained and doesn’t come into the school with any of the additional baggage,” said Johnston.

CHEK News contacted SD61 for a comment but did not hear back.

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