A lawyer hired by an opposition Surrey politician says Mayor Doug McCallum was wrong for quashing an opposition councillor’s motion for a referendum on the new Surrey Police Service.
Coun. Brenda Locke of the Surrey Connect party retained Mark Underhill of the Arvay Finlay law firm to provide a legal opinion after McCallum deemed her motion out of order at the April 26 city council meeting.
“Mayor Doug McCallum was clearly wrong to rule my motion to hold a referendum on Surrey policing out of order and the majority on Council were wrong to uphold that ruling,” Locke said in a news release accompanying Underhill’s opinion.
As such, Locke will ask council at the May 31 meeting to release the city’s legal opinion on which McCallum said he relied.
”The police transition has been a very divisive issue in Surrey: it’s time that the public had their say — once and for all,” she said.
In Underhill’s legal opinion, he wrote that the NDP cabinet has jurisdiction to order a referendum, because the issue of policing is a matter of public interest.
“The fact that steps have already been taken to establish the Surrey Police Board and Surrey Police Service would not, without more, establish bad faith or improper purpose. Thus, these circumstances would not make a decision to hold a referendum unlawful, or vulnerable to being overturned by the courts,” according to Underhill.
Underhill also wrote there is no reason why city council cannot ask the province for a referendum.
“We are not aware of any provision in the Community Charter, Local Government Act, or the Surrey city by-laws that would prevent such a request,” he wrote.
“Given that the province has jurisdiction to hold a referendum, and the city may properly request that the Province do so, our opinion is that the motion was within council’s jurisdiction to decide, and did not otherwise violate rules of procedure. Thus, in our view, the motion was not out of order.”
The release of Underhill’s legal opinion comes the week after the widow of a man murdered in 2018 in a case of mistaken identity became the face for a referendum campaign backed by the RCMP officers’ union.
Darlene Bennett is the spokeswoman for the Surrey Police Vote petition under the B.C. Referendum Act and B.C. Recall and Initiative Act. Her husband Paul was an innocent victim of the ongoing gang war in Cloverdale in 2018.
Behind the scenes in the Surrey Vote Campaign is Bill Tieleman, the NDP insider who is registered to lobby for the National Police Federation. Tieleman was behind winning campaigns to stop the HST in 2011 and prevent electoral reform in 2018.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner wrote McCallum on May 18, after Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaigner Paul Daynes complained about the lack of lie detectors in SPS recruitment and that SPS is falsely claiming to be a functioning police force.
Deputy Commissioner Andrea Spindler’s letter ordered McCallum, who chairs the Surrey Police Board, to order an investigation or study of the complaint, dismiss the complaint with reasons or take any other adequate course of action to respond to the complaint.
Daynes wrote in his April 22 complaint that the SPS is “causing great confusion and some distress” because it has not issued a disclaimer that it is not yet a full-service police force. SPS is not advising the public to contact the RCMP with requests for assistance.
SPS has added a small-print disclaimer to the top of its website saying it is not yet in operation. It directs anyone needing police services to call 9-1-1 in case of emergency or the non-emergency line at 604-599-0502. It does not mention the RCMP nor does it link to the Surrey RCMP website.
Daynes also complained May 6 that SPS is failing to meet the B.C. Police Act requirement for screening job applicants. SPS is only using lie detectors on new recruits, not senior officers hoping to transfer from the RCMP or a municipal force. Lie detectors are standard practice for vetting job candidates at other municipal forces in B.C., such as Vancouver.
McCallum ran on a platform to replace the RCMP with a municipal force and promised the new department would be up and running by April 2021. Instead, it could take until the end of 2023 or start of 2024 for SPS to replace the RCMP. The transition is costing Surrey taxpayers $63.7 million.
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