B.C. says no change needed to federal legislation for Surrey police transition

B.C.’s public safety minister said Friday that the Surrey’s transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force will not require changes to federal legislation. 

Mike Farnworth’s comments came in response to a letter from the head of the RCMP saying there was no legal basis to allow the Surrey Police Service (SPS) to command RCMP officers.

A four-page letter from Commissioner Mike Duheme to Farnworth pointed out several sticking points over the proposed transition from the RCMP to the SPS.

“By virtue of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, I cannot delegate my powers, duties or functions to non-RCMP members or include SPS officers in the chain of command,” Duheme wrote in a letter dated April 12 that was leaked to media.

It said there were around 180 SPS officers in the Surrey RCMP detachment “with no clear authority to deliver services on behalf of the RCMP at this time.”

The letter’s contents question an April 9 statement from Farnworth that said the province and federal government had agreed in principle to a transition plan that would not require federal legislative amendments.

A leaked letter dated April 18 from federal Public Safety Minister Dominic Leblanc to Farnworth seems to contradict the Duheme letter and endorses efforts to date.

“I am pleased that our officials have agreed on an approach for the policing transition that respects existing Provincial and Federal legislative frameworks,” it reads.

Farnworth was expected to share more information this week about the police transition in Surrey, including a date for its completion, but that did not materialize.

No surrender of authority

On Friday, Farnworth told CBC News both sides had met three times in March and were working closely to ensure a smooth transition.

“We believe that we have that path to be able to proceed forward that would not result in the RCMP having to surrender authority to another policing agency during the transition,” he said, but did not offer more details.

At an unrelated media event in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the transition and whether federal legislation would need to be amended.

He said Farnworth and Leblanc were in close contact and were sorting out what “exactly needs to be done.”

“We’re there to support communities, particularly growing communities like Surrey that need to keep their citizens safe, there’s always an outreached hand from the federal government,” he said.

WATCH | Trudeau says Ottawa and B.C. are working together on Surrey police transition:

Trudeau says federal and B.C. governments are in close contact over Surrey police transition

5 hours ago

Duration 0:30

Speaking in Victoria on April 19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said ministers in both federal and provincial governments are working on what needs to be done to have the Surrey Police Service take over from the RCMP in B.C.’s second biggest city by population.

CBC News has asked the RCMP if the concerns outlined in Duheme’s April 12 letter have been satisfied.

The letters are the latest back and forth in a process that has been marked by controversy, competing information, political battles and a court challenge.

Earlier this month, Farnworth offered $250 million on top of an already offered $150 million to help Surrey deal with costs related to the transition over a 10-year period.

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke rejected the new money and it was taken off the table.

Both the province and the city are set for court on April 29 for a legal challenge by Surrey that claims a change in the Police Act by the government related to the transition is unconstitutional because it places limits on voters’ freedom of expression. 

Locke was elected mayor in 2022 after campaigning to halt the transition to a municipal force that was already underway under the previous council.

“We are confident that the province will be successful in the upcoming litigation,” Farnworth said April 9. 


Posted in CBC