Skip to content

Surrey only objected when it didn’t get its way on police, lawyer argues

City raised ‘belated’ jurisdictional objections when decision went against it, court hears
The City of Surrey and the provincial government are continuing their court arguments over Surrey’s policing transition in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

The City of Surrey understood that Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth had the power to make a decision on the future of policing in Surrey but only objected when it didn’t get its way.

“It wanted a decision approving its choice,” Trevor Bant, the lawyer representing the provincial government, told the judge Friday (May 3). “The City understood that this is not something it could do unilaterally, on its own. Both options required the involvement of other parties, and the City invoked the minister’s jurisdiction in the hope of a favourable decision that would help the City get what it wanted from other parties. So it was only after the decision went against the City that a belated objection to jurisdiction would come.”

READ ALSO: Surrey council’s mandate to keep RCMP not protected by charter, court hears

READ ALSO: Surrey lawyer argues Farnworth’s SPS order akin to reversing 2022 civic election result

READ ALSO: Mayor-premier policing deal ‘irrelevant’ to Surrey court case: lawyer

Justice Kevin Loo is presiding over the City of Surrey’s judicial review petition aimed at quashing Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth’s July 19, 2023 order that the RCMP must be replaced by the Surrey Police Service. The five-day hearing began April 29 in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

He reserved his decision after hearing final submissions Friday.

“I am aware of the urgency of the matter,” Loo said. “I’ll make no specific promises except to say that I will do my best to get you a decision as quickly as reasonably possible. In conclusion I’ll just say that the excellence of counsel this week is not surprising but I’m grateful for it nonetheless and I’m thankful for your thoughtful, very considered and eloquent submissions.”

Before getting into the finals, Bant said the Police Act requires the minister to ensure an adequate level of policing.

Bant said the Police Act requires the minister to ensure an adequate level of policing.

The Interpretation Act codifies the principle that if in an enactment power is given to a person “to do an act or thing, all the powers that are necessary to enable a person to do the act or thing, are also gauged to be given,” Bant noted, adding that’s “an important principle in interpreting the Police Act – any legislation, but especially in this circumstance the Police Act. And I say that the Police Act empowers the minister, requires the minister, to ensure an adequate and effective level of policing is maintained.”

“It was reasonable for the minister to be concerned that the City proposed to re-staff the Surrey RCMP detachment by prioritizing Surrey’s needs over critical RCMP staffing needs in British Columbia,” Bant said. “The City’s assumption that 50 per cent – roughly half of SPS officers would want to join the RCMP, even if that assumption proved to be correct, the plan still contemplated hiring RCMP officers and putting them in Surrey when they could otherwise be deployed elsewhere to address critical vacancies within the RCMP.”

READ ALSO: Judge hears Farnworth ‘reneged’ on deal struck between premier and Surrey mayor

READ ALSO: Judge orders information sealed in Surrey’s police transition case

READ ALSO: Surrey opposes B.C.’s bid for judge to seal info in cop transition case

“In a very direct sense, it is not the City’s concern what happens elsewhere in British Columbia,” Bant stressed, “and if there are critical RCMP vacancies elsewhere, that’s not the City’s concern, but it is the minister’s concern.”

Bant told Loo that in the lead-up to Farnworth’s order, the SPS had provided him with a submission on where the SPS hires were coming from. He said the “key” information of that report is the SPS indicated it was implementing strategies to attract candidates from outside of British Columbia “in an effort to support the staffing of the SPS while preventing the destabilization of other municipal departments in the Lower Mainland.”

It was “particularly successful” in attracting candidates from the Toronto area, the court heard.

“The information that was available to the minister at the time is that SPS was doing a great job recruiting from outside of British Columbia, especially from Toronto,” Bant said. “Now that’s perhaps a problem for Ontario, but as far as British Columbia is concerned, a really quite positive net increase in officers.”

About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
Read more