Surrey Challenges Province's Refusal to Halt Police Transition in B.C. Supreme Court

Surrey, BC challenges province's refusal to allow reversal of RCMP to municipal police transition, citing cost and voter mandate. Legal battle could impact municipal policing in BC.

Sakchi Khandelwal
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Surrey Challenges Province's Refusal to Halt Police Transition in B.C. Supreme Court

Surrey Challenges Province's Refusal to Halt Police Transition in B.C. Supreme Court

The City of Surrey, British Columbia, has launched a legal battle against the provincial government over the transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force. The hearing began on April 29, 2024, in the B.C. Supreme Court, with the city challenging the province's refusal to allow it to reverse the switch.

Surrey's lawyer claims that the province changed the Police Act to undermine the voters' desire to keep the RCMP, arguing that the switch to a municipal police force will cost an additional $75 million per year. The city maintains that the Police Act gives the municipal government the choice of how it wants to be policed, and that the minister's decision was unreasonable as he misunderstood key documents and only considered hiring 161 officers to re-staff the RCMP, without a full analysis.

Why this matters: The outcome of this legal battle could have significant implications for municipal policing in British Columbia and the balance of power between cities and the provincial government. It also highlights the financial and political challenges of transitioning between policing models.

The city further contends that the minister's decision nullified the electoral mandate from Surrey voters in the 2022 election, where policing was a central issue and the public voted to keep the RCMP. Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke attended the first day of the hearing along with several city councillors.

The province, however, claims that the transition is already underway and that a return to the RCMP could create a policing void. The provincial government is seeking to redact certain details from the court documents, including allegations of harassment and bullying by the RCMP, citing public safety concerns. The city opposes this attempt to seal information from the court and the public.

The judicial review hearing is expected to last five days, with the city making a constitutional argument accusing the province of denying Surrey voters their right to freedom of expression through the ballot box. The court is expected to rule on the sealing and redaction order on Tuesday, as the legal proceedings continue to unfold in the B.C. Supreme Court. The city argues that the province has violated the Community Charter by imposing the municipal police force without providing adequate resources to fund the transition, which is estimated to increase the annual cost of policing for Surrey taxpayers by at least 46 percent.

Key Takeaways

  • Surrey, BC sues province over transition from RCMP to municipal police force.
  • City argues transition will cost $75M more per year, nullify voter mandate.
  • Province claims transition underway, return to RCMP could create policing void.
  • Judicial review hearing to determine constitutionality of province's actions.
  • Outcome could impact municipal policing in BC and city-province power balance.