B.C. to bring in law forcing Surrey to go with municipal police force
October 16, 2023 By The Canadian Press
Oct. 16, 2023, Victoria, B.C. – British Columbia Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has introduced legislation that will require the City of Surrey to provide policing with a municipal force in the latest jurisdictional salvo over the RCMP and the Surrey Police Service.
The update in the Police Act also gives the province the authority to cancel the RCMP contract it has with Surrey, B.C.’s second most populous city behind Vancouver.
Farnworth introduced the Police Amendment Act Monday in the legislature, where he said the change would provide Surrey residents with “clarity and finality” on the future of the city’s police services.
“What I want to ensure is that this transition moves forward,” Farnworth said after introducing the changes.
The legislative changes come after a tumultuous five years over policing in the city. Doug McCallum was elected in 2018 and immediately promised to bring in a municipal force, only to be defeated four years later by Brenda Locke, who had promised to return to the RCMP.
Farnworth, who is also the public safety minister, issued an order in July for Surrey to continue its transition to a municipal police force, despite Mayor Locke’s pledge to go back to the Mounties.
Farnworth said Monday he made it clear in July that the province was introducing legislation “to ensure no other solicitor general has to go through” a dispute similar to the one involving Surrey.
“It’s been no secret that I was bringing forward legislation, and it’s been brought forward,” he said.
The proposed legislation comes just days after the City of Surrey filed a petition in court asking for a judicial review of the B.C. government’s directive that it must continue its transition to the local police force.
In its petition, the city is asking the Supreme Court of British Columbia to assess whether Farnworth has the authority to force it to change to an independent police force, while not offering enough funding to support such a move.
Locke said after the legislation was introduced that the city’s legal team was reviewing the bill, but she declined specific comment about the amendments or its possible effect on the city’s petition.
Locke said if the city is forced to transition to the Surrey Police Service and away from the RCMP, the cost will be “generational” for city taxpayers.
“This is going to be forever,” Locke said. “This is going to be for my kids, my grandkids. And we need to make sure that we have protected the taxpayers in our city.”
The City of Surrey has said the municipality would face a shortfall of $314 million over a 10-year period if it was forced to complete the transition to the Surrey Police Service, while the province only offered $150 million to aid the shift.
Locke also said she does not believe the city is stalling on the police issue by fighting the province over jurisdiction.
“Look, we would all like to see this done,” she said. “We would all like to see our policing stabilized in the City of Surrey. But it isn’t, and that’s the decision of the minister, and so we are now in a position where we have to fight for our taxpayers.”
The legislative amendments introduced Monday would require any municipality that has approval from the province to change its police force to “proceed to completion” once the transition starts.
In a written statement, Farnworth said a lack of clarity in the existing Police Act was “exposed” during the Surrey police transition process.
He said the new amendments would ensure that the “confusion caused by the City of Surrey won’t be repeated elsewhere in B.C.”
“People deserve to know who is protecting their homes, families and businesses when there is a change in policing in their community,” Farnworth said in the statement.
“When passed, these amendments will ensure policing transitions proceed in a way that provides certainty for people and maintains public safety.”
The new legislation also gives the province the power to appoint an administrator to “assume the functions” of the Surrey Police Board to oversee the municipal force.
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