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Darpan's 10

Darpan 10 With Honourable Mike Farnworth, Minister Of Public Safety And Solicitor General

Ish Sharma Darpan, 25 Jan, 2024
  • Darpan 10 With Honourable Mike Farnworth, Minister Of Public Safety And Solicitor General

1. There has been a recent spate of gun violence during broad daylight in Surrey. With policing being an ongoing issue for Surrey how can residents feel safe during such incidents?

Gun and gang violence impacts us all. We are coordinating with local, provincial and federal police agencies to ensure that we are taking steps to keep people safe, and to put those who engage in gang activity behind bars. We know that the recent events in Surrey are concerning. That’s why we are making sure that multiple police agencies have the tools and resources they need to coordinate their efforts and work on these investigations. We’ve invested $1.6 million into programs to divert young people from gang activity which works with local programs like Surrey WRAP.

2. The latest development in the ongoing police saga has been the suspension of the police board and Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke has accused you of bullying and misogyny in the past now stating that the BCNDP is trying to force a BCNDP police. How do you respond to that?

This is the City’s police service. The City formally asked to have its policing by means of a municipal police department, the Surrey Police Service (SPS), in 2018. The SPS was established in 2020 and has been in the process of being built since this time. There is no question that it’s time for the City to stop wasting tax payer dollars and move forward together to complete this transition. Any delays and increased costs are being caused by the City of Surrey. I look forward to this transition being complete and welcome members back to the Surrey Police Board. My hope is that there are productive conversations that lead to an agreement of the funding levels for the SPS.

3. In which area does the City of Surrey need to act now? 

The City has an obligation to provide its policing by means of the SPS, which requires them to work with the SPS, the RCMP and the federal and provincial governments to complete this transition. Surrey is a key partner in this transition, and their leadership is essential. This includes finalizing a police budget, signing legal agreements and working with all partners to finalize the transition plans. The City should also accept the $150M that the Province has offered for the transition. They haven’t accepted this funding, and it will be Surrey taxpayers who will pay the price for the Mayor’s games. 

4. The public feels that the Surrey Police vs the Surrey RCMP back and forth has gone on too long. What will it take to put the focus back on public safety and not on political football?

I agree, this transition has gone on too long. It is disappointing that only the City of Surrey is dragging this transition out as long as possible for political games. We have been clear- provide a plan that is safe or continue the transition to the SPS. The City failed in providing a safe plan and now the City of Surrey is required to complete the transition to the SPS by law. I will not let one community make a decision that impacts the safety of people in another community. Public safety has been and continues to be the core driving principle that guides any matter related to policing.

5. Mayor Locke says Surrey residents could be looking at a 20% tax increase if the transition to the SPS continues. However, you are questioning these figures. With the matter now before the courts and the delays what kind of bill are the Surrey taxpayers on the hook for?

It is extremely disappointing that the City of Surrey has decided to spend significant taxpayer dollars on lawyers, consultants and public ad campaigns rather than invest in public safety in the community. The Mayor is trying to delay the transition which will only increase the costs for the people of Surrey. These delays are costing people more than $8 million dollars a month. We committed to providing $150 million to assist in completing the transition to the SPS, mitigating impacts to Surrey taxpayers. This offer of support is still on the table. 

6. What is the future of policing looking like for Surrey in the upcoming new year? How can Surrey residents feel reassured they will be served by the police in a timely fashion?

When people call 911, they expect the police to arrive. Currently, the City of Surrey is policed by a mix of RCMP and SPS officers, under the command of the Surrey RCMP. I am confident that the citizens of Surrey will continue to be well served by the combined efforts and work of both police agencies. Over the next year, I expect the transition to move forward with more regular pacing like hiring of more front-line officers, and the reassignment of some RCMP officers to fill key vacancies in the province.

7. The BC government introduced a bill banning the use of illicit drugs in many public places. Where would this bill ban the consumption of illicit drugs?

Under the Restricting Public Consumption of Illegal Substances Act, drug use is not allowed at parks, beaches, sports fields, and outdoor community recreation areas as well as within 6-metres of a public transit bus stop and within 6-metres of an entrance to a business, workplace or a residential building that is next to a public space, like a sidewalk. The legislation explicitly prohibits drug use within 15-metres of playgrounds, spray and wading pools and skate parks. 

8. Have there been consultations with Dr. Bonnie Henry and Coroner Lisa LaPointe in ending open drug use in open public spaces?

We have engaged widely with many stakeholders including First Nations, Métis and Indigenous partners, service providers supporting people who use drugs, local governments, police leadership and public health.

9. BC has filed the first-ever application to secure an unexplained wealth order in Canada. Do you feel had you used this approach prior to the money laundering investigation it would have gone differently?

We brought in unexplained wealth orders (UWO), a court order that requires a person to explain how they acquired their assets based off of the recommendations from the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia. We called that commission as a Government, and we are working through each one of those recommendations to stop BC from being a place where criminals can launder money. These orders will require people to explain how they acquired their assets if there is suspicion of unlawful activity.

10. What's a message you would like to share with the South Asian community?

We have so much to be proud of as a vibrant province and we have so much more work to do to tackle the challenges that we face. I am wishing your families joy, peace, prosperity, and new beginnings in the coming year. Happy New Year to our vibrant South Asian community in BC. May 2024 be filled with happiness and success!

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