Premier Brian Pallister said the wave of homicides and vicious attacks in Winnipeg this week — including the stabbing of a three-year-old boy — are alarming and he hopes an upcoming report by the police commision will provide recommendations to make the city safer.
Pallister made his comments at a news conference Thursday morning, around the same time the city recorded its 37th homicide of the year.
The news conference, to announce the new Women’s Hospital will open Dec. 1, took place relatively close to where a man was stabbed to death, on St. Matthews Avenue.
Pallister said there has been a decrease in violent crime statistically, "but any incident of violent crime is obviously a concern to all of us. And so of course we’re looking at continuing action."
The provincial government will soon receive a report from the Manitoba Police Commission about improving safety downtown.
Days after being re-elected on Sept. 10, the Pallister government asked the commission to survey other cities, such as Minneapolis, for best policing practices, and give suggestions to improve safety in Winnipeg, in 60 days.
Asked Thursday whether the commissioner’s review should extend beyond downtown safety — considering recent violence hasn’t been relegated to a single area — Pallister noted that issue has been raised.
“I consider this to be one of the major responsibilities of any government is to make sure that the law-abiding people are safe and secure in their own neighbourhoods in their own communities... ” – Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister
"We anticipate that some of the practices certainly, perhaps not all, but some of the practices adopted in other jurisdictions they’re looking at are relevant to other centres besides the City of Winnipeg. Clearly the safety of all Manitobans is a concern, so we’ll be looking for ideas," the premier said.
He later added: "I consider this to be one of the major responsibilities of any government is to make sure that the law-abiding people are safe and secure in their own neighbourhoods in their own communities, or visitors to our province — as we expect to have many for our 150th next year — are coming here confident that they’ll be secure and safe."
The NDP held a news conference to address the recent crime spree.
"These are people. These are human beings. These are peoples’ loved ones, they’re not disposable. People care about them. And this shouldn’t be happening," said Point Douglas MLA Bernadette Smith, who attributed much of the rising violence to methamphetamine addiction.
"We have the resources to be able to support people who are going through this, yet we’re not providing them. This meth crisis has been going on for a long, long time. We’ve been calling for this government to do something on it for the last couple of years," she said.
Smith and St. Johns MLA, Nahanni Fontaine, have organized a community gathering to brainstorm short- and long-term solutions to reduce violent crime. The event will take place at William Whyte School on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
“We have the resources to be able to support people who are going through this, yet we’re not providing them. This meth crisis has been going on for a long, long time. We’ve been calling for this government to do something on it for the last couple of years." – Point Douglas MLA Bernadette Smith
Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth and the Bear Clan Patrol will attend, Fontaine said.
She encouraged politicians of all stripes to attend, too.
"I think it’s important that today’s the day for us to come together and do the work so that we don’t see two-year-olds being shot at, we don’t see little babies who are sleeping who should be safe, woken up to being stabbed. That is bloody ridiculous," Fontaine said.
"We have a responsibility to do better and to fight for all of Manitobans."
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.