British Columbia

Surrey RCMP accuses opponents of trying to undermine public confidence in federal force

The officer in charge of Surrey's RCMP detachment said the mayor's municipal coalition crossed a line with a recent tweet criticizing the force.

Officer in charge of Surrey's RCMP detachment said mayor's municipal coalition crossed line with recent tweet

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum is pictured near a Surrey Police vehicle on May 7, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The officer in charge of Surrey's RCMP detachment said the mayor's municipal coalition crossed a line with a recent tweet criticizing the force.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards said he plans to speak to Mayor Doug McCallum about Saturday's tweet, which he characterized as part of "deliberate efforts to undermine confidence" in public safety.

On Saturday, McCallum's Safe Surrey Coalition tweeted about a public opinion survey conducted by the incoming Surrey Police Service, which is set to replace the federal force, a key campaign promise of the mayor.

The tweet showed a cardboard cutout of an RCMP officer holding a vehicle-speed detector, with the words, "Only 6% of #SurreyBC residents support keeping the @SurreyRCMP & their cardboard cutouts."

The local force is set to deploy its first officers at the end of this month, but for the foreseeable future will remain under the RCMP's command, Edwards told CBC News. Many details of the controversial transition remain unresolved.

"Public support is vital to maintaining safety in the city, and I cannot allow deliberate efforts to undermine that confidence, because it will affect each and every one of us," Edwards said in an interview Sunday. "It is impacting or has the potential to impact public safety in this city."

A petition to hold a vote on who should police the city failed to garner enough votes to trigger a provincially overseen referendum earlier this month, but more than 42,000 people signed their names.

The opinion survey cited in the municipal coalition's tweet Saturday did not in fact ask any questions about whether its respondents favoured the RCMP or a municipal force in the city. Instead, according to pollster Insights West, there was an "open-ended" space provided for respondents.

Protesters opposed to transitioning to a municipal police force in Surrey stand outside city hall on Sept. 15, 2020. (Keep the RCMP in Surrey/Facebook)

"The survey purposefully did not ask specific questions about whether residents were in favour of the Surrey Police Service (SPS) replacing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police," wrote Eli Sopow, who designed the survey. "However, the open-ended portion of the question about policing priorities for Surrey was taken as an opportunity by some to offer such opinions.

"In such a case the results showed that six per cent of residents who provided their opinion of Surrey policing priorities indicated their support for keeping the RCMP as the policing service for the city."

'Completely unscientific'

According to Bill Tieleman, a spokesperson for the recent referendum campaign on policing in the city, the Safe Surrey Coalition's characterization of that survey response was misleading and "completely unscientific."

"This is an absolutely ridiculous thing to say," Tieleman told CBC News on Sunday. "The support for the RCMP in Surrey is remarkably strong, despite Mayor McCallum and other councillors' comments otherwise.

"This is a demeaning and completely unscientific thing for the Safe Surrey Coalition to put out."

Neither McCallum nor his Safe Surrey Coalition responded to requests for interviews Sunday.

In a statement, the coalition said Edwards' remarks follow "hundreds of thousands of dollars" spent in efforts to "undermine the democratic mandate" of the municipal leadership and the incoming Surrey Police Service. 

"Yet for this duration of over three years of attacks and propaganda, Surrey RCMP Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards has remained silent," the coalition wrote. "Surely the indignation that he has voiced today equally applies to these groups' organized efforts to destabilize and demoralize our city's incoming police force."


David P. Ball


David P. Ball is a multimedia journalist with CBC News in Vancouver. He has previously reported for the Toronto Star, Agence France-Presse, and The Tyee, and has won awards from the Canadian Association of Journalists and Jack Webster Foundation. You can send story tips or ideas to, or contact him on Twitter.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?