Confidence in public safety threatened as province continues fumbling Surrey police transition

Apr 12, 2024 | 42-5, Blog, Governance, Legislature, Question Period, Video | 0 comments

The Surrey policing transition has been fumbled from the beginning. Public safety minister Hon. Mike Farnworth has allowed politics to lead the policy and the result has been expensive and unnecessary.

Now the RCMP union President Brian Sauve is stating publicly that the Minister has issued “misleading statements.” It’s just the latest in the mess.

How the RCMP detachment and Surrey Police Service interact is critical. As the Minister stated the transition is happening and ensuring there is a consistent service from one police of jurisdiction to the next is critical for public safety in Surrey.

Minister Farnworth says, it’s all sorted out. RCMP union says, no it’s not. We shall see.


A. Olsen:

Yesterday the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General disagreed with my observation that the handling of the Surrey policing transition is resulting in the politicization of public safety. Anyone who has followed the Surrey police transition knows it has been fumbled from the beginning. The result is the minister and the mayor of one of the largest cities in our province sparring in public. How does that foster public confidence?

Now the National Police Federation union president Brian Sauvé has written the minister to address his “misleading statements”. It’s about police of jurisdiction. The minister claimed in a letter to Brenda Locke that he can force the RCMP to “work under the command of the Surrey police service.” Of course, the all-party consensus report tabled two years ago addressed these jurisdictional concerns, but the minister ignores good advice.

To the Minister of Public Safety, after receiving Mr. Sauvé letter admonishing him for misleading statements, does he still think the diminished confidence in public safety is disconnected from the mishandling of the Surrey policing fiasco?

Hon. M. Farnworth:

I appreciate the question from the member. I made no misleading statements. What’s clear when it comes to Surrey, and, in fact, policing, the structure of policing in the province of British Columbia, is that is the authority of the province of British Columbia — not Ottawa, not the city of Surrey. It’s the authority of the province of British Columbia as to whether we have contract policing, municipal policing or provincial police force. That decision is made here.

What I also said is that the path forward, which we have been working on…. We have an agreement-in-principle that my ministry and the federal RCMP, the commissioner and Public Safety Canada have agreed on a path forward. I will have more to say on that in the weeks ahead.

The package that the city of Surrey rejected is not about whether or not the transition is going ahead but is, in fact, about the law of the province of British Columbia, which is Surrey will be policed by the Surrey police service, and in terms of the contract, that is something that is taken up by the Police Federation with the RCMP management, and it is about ensuring that the law of British Columbia is upheld and the law of British Columbia is clear. Surrey will be policed by the Surrey police service.

A. Olsen:

There’s no question about that last part of the statement, but the entire process… This minister understood two years ago that the police of jurisdiction was going to be a problem. Here we are two years later, and the police of jurisdiction question…. Surprise, surprise, to everybody but the minister, hopefully, the jurisdictional issue exists.

Mr. Sauvé encourages the Public Safety Minister to “be more progressive and modern in their approach to labour relations.” That’s got to make the B.C. Fed smile. Continuing, the NPF has been asking the province for a clear transition plan with a definitive ending for the RCMP in Surrey. “Shouldn’t the province now have a plan? We eagerly await the details of the plan. Our members and the residents of Surrey deserve better from their political leaders, including clear, factual and evidence-based information on public safety.” That’s from the head of the National Police Federation.

The minister flexes his legislative muscles and has submitted a letter to Surrey. He told him that he had a plan with the federal government for the police jurisdictional issue Surrey police brought to our committee two years ago.

[10:50 a.m.]

It’s infuriating that we’ve worked so hard on building all-party consensus on police reform only to watch this minister squander it.

To the Minister of Public Safety, he told Surrey that he had it all sorted out, and now Mr. Sauvé has written a letter condemning his statements as misleading.

Tell the people of Surrey, all British Columbians, on the record, how he intends to navigate the police jurisdictional issues he’s allowed it fester for the last two years.

Hon. M. Farnworth:

I appreciate the question.

The transition has been underway. The transition continues. The member can shake his head, but the reality is this. The law of the province of British Columbia is that Surrey will be policed by the Surrey police service.


Hon. M. Farnworth:

I didn’t interrupt you, Member, so please don’t interrupt when I’m trying to give you an answer to a question that you asked.

Hon. M. Farnworth:

I’m sorry, Member.

I’m sorry, Member, but…. I am answering the question. The member asked the question, and we listened.

The Speaker: Members. Let’s get on with it.

Hon. M. Farnworth:

One thing I do know hon. Member, there’s definitely no consensus on Surrey on that side of the House.

What I can tell you, hon. Speaker, is that all of those issues have been part and parcel of the process that has been underway. All of it.

As I said a moment ago to you, in terms of the pass forward when it comes to police of jurisdiction, that issue has been front and centre in terms of my ministry, the federal government, the Ministry of Public Safety and the RCMP at the very highest level involving the Commissioner. I also said that there is an agreement in principle on how that will move forward, and that will be unveiled in the coming week.

What I can also tell you is that we have had key persons, Jessica McDonald, working very closely with all the parties. It’s unfortunate that the city of Surrey has chosen not to participate in that. We have made a very generous offer to address their concerns. The city of Surrey wants to walk away from $150 million, plus up to $100 million, in terms of ensuring a smooth transition so that their concerns are addressed.
All of the issues that have been raised are being addressed in a plan that has been in place since day one.

The transition will continue regardless of the judicial review because the law of the land and the law of the province of British Columbia is that Surrey will be policed by the Surrey police service.


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