British Columbia

Semiahmoo First Nation chief says he's had 'zero' consultation with Surrey over policing transition

The chief of the Semiahmoo First Nation says he’s disappointed that Surrey’s mayor hasn’t contacted him to discuss the city’s transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force.

Harley Chappell says the city ‘needs to have a conversation’ with the SFN before a municipal force is created

A smiling white man in a dark-blue suit stands beside an SUV emblazoned with the words "Surrey police."
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum expects the Surrey Police Department to be up and running by April 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The chief of the Semiahmoo First Nation says he's disappointed Surrey's mayor hasn't contacted him to discuss the city's transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force.

Harley Chappell says he's had very little contact with the mayor and councillors who belong to his Safe Surrey Coalition since they were elected in 2018.

He fears the SFN's relationship with the city will deteriorate as a result.

"I'm very blunt about it — I don't' want to get involved in Surrey politics and I don't want to intrude in their internal process but if we're affected in any way by this transition, we need to have a conversation," he said.

"There's no dialogue — zero — and that's troublesome."

The province officially gave the city the green light to create its own police department last month after reviewing a detailed report on the transition authored by former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal.

The city expects the Surrey Police Department to begin patrols in April 2021 and is currently in the process of putting together a police board that will be in charge of setting policy.

"We were basically told that if and when the police board is developed, we'll be part of that conversation, but that's after the fact," Chappell said.

"That's not a consultation."

Harley Chappell, elected chief of the Semiahmoo First Nation, says he has had 'zero' consultation with the city over its plan to replace the RCMP with a municipal police force. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Policing arrangement

The SFN, which is located along the Semiahmoo Bay waterfront, currently receives its policing through the RCMP's First Nations Policing Program, which is a partnership between the SFN, province and federal government.

Oppal writes in his report that the province, federal government and the city should engage the SFN and Katzie First Nation lands on Barnston Island, which is currently policed by the RCMP.

McCallum declined CBC's request for an interview but has said in the past the federal and provincial governments should initiate talks with the SFN.

Surrey will join in those discussions once a police board has been created, but Chappell questions why the mayor hasn't called in nearly two years.

"I think there's a lot of things that we can and should be working on together, policing being one of them," Chappell said. 

"But we haven't had much of a relationship with this new leadership."

Last month, Coun. Brenda Locke asked council to suspend the policing transition until local Indigenous communities were consulted, but her motion was defeated.

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Jesse Johnston worked in private radio from 2004 to 2014 in Vancouver, Red Deer and Calgary. He spent the next five years based out of Surrey (his hometown) as CBC's South of the Fraser reporter until he joined the Impact Team in 2019. Jesse is a two-time recipient of the RTDNA Dave Rogers Award for Best Short Radio Feature. He loves radio, running and dogs. He also loves the Detroit Lions, but if you follow him on Twitter, you already knew that. @Jesse_Johnston