British Columbia

Surrey's South Asian temple leaders push solicitor general to let city replace RCMP

Surrey’s South Asian temple leaders are calling on the province to allow the city to switch out the RCMP for a new municipal police service.

Leaders believe new police service will help curb violence affecting South Asian community

Satish Kumar, Bhupinder Singh Hothi, Hardeep Singh Nijjar asnd Gagan Singh are pictured outside of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Surrey's South Asian temple leaders are calling on the province to move faster to allow a new municipal police service to replace the RCMP.

They believe a new police service would help curb "disproportionate" violence affecting South Asian community members.

The executives of Surrey's six largest Sikh Gurdwaras and the largest Hindu Mandir have sent a joint letter to B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth urging him to approve the city plan to replace the Surrey RCMP.

Ivan Scott stands outside of city hall gathering signatures for a petition to save the RCMP in Surrey, British Columbia on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The leaders — who say they represent a large proportion of the 168,000 South Asians in Surrey — are eager to see the police service replaced, a promise of Mayor Doug McCallum.

To this end they've hired a communication specialist to deliver their message.

In an email to CBC News Farnworth says the province needs to ensure the proposed plan meets the requirements of the Police Act. 

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum stands near a mock-up of a Surrey city police vehicle during his state of the city address in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

"While the plan provides a sound concept for a policing model, there are several elements that require more detail prior to evaluation," Farnworth said.

At the same time, another group is rallying in the opposite direction. Keep the RCMP in Surrey is a group co-ordinated by Ivan Scott, whose son is a Surrey RCMP officer. It spent Canada Day signing up supporters, and says it has more than 8,000 names of people who want to keep the RCMP.

Something must change

Jonathan Ross, who speaks for the South Asian temple leaders, said there is real "hunger" for a faster transition.

Harnaik Singh serves food during Vaisakhi parade in Surrey, British Columbia on Saturday, April 20, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Ross said that Surrey's South Asian community has been hit disproportionately hard by gang violence that's rocked residential neighbourhoods in Surrey. A new policing model is seen as a solution to this.

"The South Asian community has faced the brunt of the violence that have infiltrated neighbourhoods in Surrey," said Ross.

"Something has got to change because year after year the violence is increasing," he told CBC.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum is pictured near a Surrey police vehicle during his state of the city address in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The province signed a 20-year renewal of the RCMP contract in 2012, but that decision ignored residents' concerns, the leaders say in their letter.

Ross said "ambiguous" comments made by Farnworth earlier this spring, suggesting he wanted to take his time and not rush into a transition from RCMP to municipal force, left leaders calling for more immediate action.

Tired of waiting

Ross said that the will of the majority of Surrey residents was made clear in the last city election, which brought in McCallum, his Safe Surrey Coalition and their promise to replace the RCMP. Now the temple leaders want that promise fulfilled, he said.

"We are tired of waiting for real change in Surrey's policing. The B.C. government must listen to the people who voted in favour of Mayor Doug McCallum's proposal last October," said Moninder Singh, president of Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar.

But the Safe Surrey Coalition has been increasingly divided. Two of the seven involved, Coun. Steven Pettigrew and Coun. Brenda Locke, have stepped away from the coalition in recent weeks. Both councillors gave multiple reasons for leaving the coalition, but each complained about how the police transition was being handled, including a lack of transparency.

Violent crime has increased in Surrey B.C., up 43 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2018 — although some of the increase can be attributed to a change in the way the government compiles the statistics. (Yvette Brend/CBC News)

About the Author

Yvette Brend is a Vancouver journalist. Yvette.Brend@cbc.ca or on Twitter or Instagram @ybrend

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