Judge dismisses City of Surrey’s petition, new police force stays

The Surrey police dispute is in its 19th month. Whether this will end the bitter fight, is unclear. B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has called a news conference for 11:45 a.m. today. More to come …

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The City of Surrey has lost its court battle to keep the RCMP and shut down its fledgling municipal force.

In a decision Thursday, the B.C. Supreme Court threw out all the city’s arguments.

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The city asked the court for three things:

• To quash the B.C. government’s 2023 order that Surrey continue the transition.

• To declare that a new provincial law that required the transition to continue was unconstitutional.

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• To order that the province must pay for the transition to the Surrey Police Service.

In a 27-page written decision, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kevin Loo said regardless of whether the July 2023 transition order was reasonable or within the minister’s authority, the provincial legislature’s exercise of its authority over policing in the city, through last fall’s legislation, was valid.

“The provincial legislature is entitled to enact legislation even where its intention is to overcome a legal proceeding, as in this case,” wrote Loo.

The City of Surrey had filed the petition challenging the B.C. government’s decision in October and a five-day hearing was held recently in Vancouver.

Whether this will end the bitter fight is unclear. The city could file an appeal.

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said he hoped the decision would end the dispute.

“I think what’s important is the people of Surrey want this over. And this decision certainly indicates that the transition will continue to the Surrey Police Service,” he said.

Now is the time for all of the parties to come together, including the City of Surrey  to ensure the transition takes place quickly and smoothly, said Farnworth.

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“It would be great if the city were at the table,” he said.

As of just before noon, Farnworth said he had not talked to Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke and he did not know whether the city intended to file an appeal.

There was no word immediately whether Locke intended to speak about the decision today.

The Surrey police dispute is in its 19th month.

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke and her majority council have been fighting since their election in the fall of 2022 to keep the RCMP, largely because the force is less expensive.

Under former mayor Doug McCallum, a 2019 transition plan argued Surrey was the most-populous city in Canada without its own municipal force, would bring oversight to the local level rather than Ottawa, and be more responsive to changing conditions and demands, and be more representative of the community.

The increased cost of the SPS over the RCMP has been estimated by the province at up to $30 million a year, or about 15 per cent more than the RCMP. Locke and her majority council rejected a $250-million offer from the province to help aid the transition to a new municipal force to replace the RCMP.

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Shortly after that, the B.C. NDP government set a date of Nov. 29 for the takeover of policing in Surrey and said part of the offered money, $150 million, would be used to move the transition ahead.

More to come …

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