B.C. Ecosocialists advocate use of polytechnical institutes to alleviate first-responder violence

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      Sometimes, so-called fringe parties advance policies that are adopted by mainstream parties many years later.

      We've seen that in Canada with its universal health-care system, employment insurance, and regulated work weeks, which were all initially advanced by left-wing parties and organized labour.

      Now, the B.C. Ecosocialists are calling for a major transformation in the education of first responders.

      And they want B.C.'s three polytechnical institutions—BCIT, Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University—to make this happen.

      Today, the B.C. Ecosocialists proposed that the Ministry of Children and Family Development, the Office of the Solicitor General, and the Ministry of Advanced Education cofund a Centre for First Response, which would be housed at these three schools.

      “A wide variety of professions do first response work, including child protection workers, psychiatric nurses, paramedics, firefighters and police officers," B.C. Ecosocialists spokesperson Stuart Parker said in a party news release. "And yet their education and training on first response work is highly siloed in different education and training programs, associated with their respective professions.

      “We also need to recognize that first responder violence is bigger than the RCMP and local police forces," he continued. "Systems like child protection are rife with the threat of colonial violence. Threatening to abduct children is just as coercively violent as placing a gun to the head of a young parent.”

      Parker, a former leader of the B.C. Greens, is a university professor with experience teaching in B.C.'s polytechnic system.

      His party believes that a Centre for First Response could offer integrated, multidisciplinary classes to all professions involved in emergency first responses. It has advocated for "trauma-informed courses in first response that emphasize nonviolence, non-confrontation and other approaches recommended by current social science".

      Paramedical, social work, and other training that takes place at other institutions would be augmented by Centre for First Response courses, according to the B.C. Ecosocialists' plan.

      Law-enforcement training changes

      In addition, the party has proposed "an end to training contracts and credential recognition with the RCMP and the Justice Institute".

      Instead, law-enforcement training would be centralized at institutions with a Centre for First Response. This would entail "an explicitly feminist and anticolonial approach to instruction that recognizes sexual and gender-based violence and the ongoing colonial violence of settler society as endemic in B.C. society".

      The party's executive director, Ash Manohar, said that to change the culture of policing and emergency response, the province must transform education.

      "We need classrooms of firefighters, psych nurses, social workers and law enforcement officers thinking and learning collaboratively as the embryo of a new nonviolent service culture," Manohar declared. "Education is just one piece of the massive, society-wide reform we need but it is an indispensable one."

      Last December, the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal awarded an Indigenous mother $20,000 for injury to her dignity, feelings, and self-respect following an encounter with Vancouver police.

      Acording to tribunal member Devyn Cousineau's 51-page ruling, the Vancouver police board only offered a half-day course in 2015 about policing Indigenous people.

      That led Cousineau to conclude that it's likely that officers "are not trained to understand or recognize problematic features of the relationship between police and Indigenous people, or their role in that".