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HomeBusinessSurrey cop swap goes before judge

Surrey cop swap goes before judge


Bob Mackin 

The battle over the Surrey policing transition took a detour April 29 from the court of public opinion into the court of law. 

The Law Courts in downtown Vancouver, to be precise.

Coun. Brenda Locke (Surrey Connect)

City of Surrey’s challenge of the NDP government’s imposition of the Surrey Police Service went in front of B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kevin Loo. 

Surrey claims the province ignored the results of the 2022 election, in which a majority of voters elected pro-RCMP candidates. It alleged that the transition to a municipal force will cost taxpayers an extra $75 million annually. The province had offered $30 million per year over five years to make the switch. 

Surrey is contesting the constitutionality of the province’s action and argues that the Police Act gives the municipal government the choice of how it wants to be policed. The province, however, says municipalities are a creature of government and can be overruled. 

Two weeks ago, Surrey balked at a $250 million out-of-court settlement offer from the province. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth responded by setting Nov. 29 as the date that the Surrey Police will take over command from the RCMP. 

Loo heard a sworn statement from a widow of a Surrey murder victim read aloud in court. 

Darlene Bennett’s affidavit recounted the June 23, 2018 fatal shooting of her husband Paul Bennett outside their Cloverdale house in a case of mistaken identity. 

“It was devastating,” Bennett’s statement said. 

In February 2021, she was asked to join a citizens’ initiative campaign to keep the RCMP and agreed to be the proponent. 

“The filing fee for submitting the referendum was the best $50 I’ve ever spent,” Bennett said. 

B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth (Mackin)

The Surrey Police Vote petition gained the unverified signatures of almost 43,000 people who wanted a referendum on the policing question. But Elections BC ruled in November 2021 that it fell short of the legal requirement to obtain support from 10% of registered voters in all 87 ridings. 

Regardless, Bennett said she wrote to Premier John Horgan, asking for Surrey citizens to be given a voice. 

“I got no response to that letter,” Bennett said. “At that point, it became crystal clear to me that the province wasn’t willing to listen.”

Along came Brenda Locke, a councillor who split from the 2018-elected Safe Surrey Coalition to form Surrey Connect and run for mayor on the promise to keep the RCMP. 

“Ahead of the 2022 municipal election, I was aware that Surrey Connect was running on a promise of keeping the RCMP in Surrey, I saw this as the central issue in the election. I cast my vote on that basis,” Bennett swore.

“This was the only way we could make our thoughts known to the provincial government, who hadn’t listened to the citizens initiative. For me, this was the referendum.”

Locke won the mayoralty over incumbent Doug McCallum and her Surrey Connect gained majority control of council. 

“I thought the province would respect the decision that Surrey voters made, and when Surrey Connect won, I just felt thankful,” Bennett said. “I was thankful that voters were finally being heard. I thought we’ve gotten the path forward because the doors have otherwise been shut in our face.”

The NDP government, however, eventually imposed the Surrey Police Service and began the process to wind-down the RCMP detachment. 

“I was angry. Your vote is your voice, and I felt my vote did not count,” said Bennett’s affidavit. 

The judicial review hearing, expected to last five days, continues April 30. 

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