Supreme Court sides with B.C., Surrey police transition to continue

The B.C. Supreme Court has sided with the province in favor of moving ahead with the Surrey Police Transition. Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke says she’s unsure whether she plans to appeal the decision.

The City of Surrey’s desire to stop the policing transition to a municipal force has hit its latest snag.

The BC Supreme Court has sided with the province, effectively throwing out the city’s plan to keep the RCMP as the police force of jurisdiction.


Speaking at a news conference Thursday morning, Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said that he hopes the court’s decision — handed down Thursday — brings stability to police officers in the city.

“Police officers, no matter the uniform that they wear, dedicate their lives to keeping people safe,” he said. “And I know that today’s ruling provides certainty to them and their families.”

“To officers in the Surrey RCMP detachment, I know that work is already underway to ensure that your preferred replacements are considered. My ministry is working closely with the RCMP as the transition continues.”

“I’m hopeful that we can now work together to complete this transition and continue the work to build the Surrey Police Service.”

The ruling comes after Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke submitted a judicial review of Farnworth’s July 2023 order that the RCMP must be replaced by the Surrey Police Service.

The petition, lodged in October of last year, sought to have the court declare that “the Province of British Columbia is without lawful authority to assign to the City the responsibility to transition the City’s police of jurisdiction from the police force established by the City,” under the Police Act.

Farnworth said he expects that Surrey will be combing over the ruling, but he has so far received no indication the city plans to appeal the judgment.

“I think what we really want now is for the City of Surrey to realize that the decision by the court has been made; that the transition to the Surrey Police Service will continue. I would really like them to be at the table to work with the province, the RCMP, and the Surrey Police Service to ensure that this transition completes quickly and smoothly,” Farnworth said.

Farnworth stated communication with the City of Surrey and its mayor has been a “challenging issue” over the past months.

“I think what the people of Surrey would want to see happen, is that the city comes to the table … to ensure that this transition continues smoothly and that we reach the [new] police jurisdiction date by November 29,” he explained.

Farnworth also confirmed Thursday that the province’s offer of $150 million toward the transition is still on the table, despite Locke’s previous decision to reject the funding.

Surrey Police Service pleased with province’s decision

Chief Constable Norm Lipinski released a statement Thursday afternoon, confirming the Surrey Police Service’s satisfaction.

Lipinski said the court’s decision “brings an end to an 18-month dispute over the future of policing in Surrey that has unfortunately been plagued with delays and misinformation by those who wanted to reverse the transition after SPS had already been well-established.”

“While the City of Surrey’s judicial review petition did not directly involve SPS, it obviously impacted our 427 employees and their families – today’s ruling brings them significant reassurance,” said Lipinski.

He added the SPS is diligently preparing for the transition in November.

Mayor of Surrey still considering court appeal

In a press event Thursday afternoon, Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke said she respects the decision, but is making it clear that she’s not happy about the transition.

Locke says the court ruling confirms the SPS will be more expensive than the RCMP.

“It still comes back to the cost. The cost and the tax burden to our residents. It’s extraordinary, and we are very, very concerned, and we will continue to be very concerned about that,” said Locke.

As for next steps, Locke says there will be a decision made by “the whole of council.” She added that the city’s legal team is still considering whether to appeal the decision.

Board of Trade president ‘deeply disappointed’ with decision

Surrey Board of Trade President and CEO Anita Huberman says that while she respects the decision, she has significant concerns.

The board is “deeply concerned” about how the transition will affect economic investments and tax increases for the city’s business community, she says.

“The financial implications of this decision will be significant, and it is always businesses that bear the greatest burden of taxation,” she told CityNews.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen in terms of our tax bills as residents and businesses in fiscal 2024. That also seems to be up in the air.”

Beyond financial concerns, she says there is no evidence that this change will actually reduce crime in the city.

“How are we going to be able to feel safe on November 29… and there’s not enough police officers on the ground?” she said.

“The technology isn’t in order, systems are not in order. We’re very concerned as to the future public safety environment of our city, but also the the taxation and loss of infrastructure investments that could happen as a result of spending money on a new police force.”

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