An example of a Surrey Police cruiser showcased at Mayor Doug McCallum’s State of the City Address at Civic Hotel on May 7. (Photo: Amy Reid)

Surrey Gurdwaras, Hindu Mandir urge public safety minister to approve policing plan

Group says decision will have ‘significant impact on how our communities vote in the next provincial election’

The leaders of Surrey’s six largest Sikh Gurdwaras and largest Hindu Mandir have penned a letter to Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth urging him to quickly approve the city’s proposed transition to a local police force.

In the letter, the leaders are critical of Farnworth’s remark that he “won’t make a snap decision” about the city’s proposal. They call for a “prompt response” instead.

They say the government’s next steps will have a “significant impact on how our communities vote in the next provincial election.”

“We are tired of waiting for real change in Surrey’s policing, which is why all of our executives have signed this letter to Mr. Farnworth,” said Moninder Singh, president of Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar, in a release. “The BC government must listen to the people who voted in favour of Mayor Doug McCallum’s proposal last October.”

Salish Kumar, president of the Laxmi Narayan Temple said he has “never seen such collective support for any policy at the municipal level.”

“The people have spoken loud and clear, and the only thing that is standing in the way of progress at the moment is the BC governments review.”

SEE MORE: First look at Surrey’s policing transition report

READ ALSO: Could Surrey find 800-plus officers for its new force by 2021?

In their letter, the leaders say the issue is a “regular and active topic of conversation amongst our various congregations, as well as within the local Sikh and Hindu communities collectively.”

The group says they represent 168,000 South Asian residents in Surrey between their seven institutions (Gurdwara Sahib Dasmesh Darbar, Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara, Gurdwara Amrit Parkash, Darbar Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Gurdwara Dukh Nivaran Sahib, Laxmi Narayan Temple and Gurudwara Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib).

They add that Surrey’s South Asian population is “regularly and disproportionately impacted by the violence that has infiltrated our city’s residential neighbourhoods over the past decades.”

“As community leaders, we are on the frontline of hearing the calls for change from residents who are tired of living in fear,” they stress.

The letter states that Mayor Doug McCallum’s proposal to introduce a Surrey Police Department is “widely supported” in their community. They also point to a City of Surrey survey that concluded 93 per cent of residents “strongly agreed” it was time for a local police force to replace Surrey RCMP.

That survey has been criticized by others.

Lone Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis has called the results “slanted” and “misleading,” noting much of the consultation was done before the policing transition report had been released to the public.

Ivan Scott and his”Keep the RCMP in Surrey” campaign have also slammed the survey results.

”We believe the whole consultation process and its methodology was calculated to come up with pre-determined results,” Scott say in a media release. “It is, in our opinion, a very shallow, dishonest, superficial, box-ticking exercise, crafted by Mayor McCallum’s people to deliberately mislead and deceive the public and further to attempt to bamboozle the BC Provincial Government into approving Mayor McCallum’s new Surrey Police Department proposal, by the provision of false and misleading so-called survey results information.”

READ ALSO: Surrey spent $15K on police cruiser prototype for a force not yet approved

READ ALSO: McCallum says Surrey Police officers will be patrolling streets by July 2020

On Tuesday morning, Scott said the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign had so far collected more than 6,800 signatures in their petition to keep the existing force, which will eventually be sent to Farnworth as well.

The group was canvassing at Surrey’s Canada Day celebration in Cloverdale on Monday, and Scott said the group collected more than 2,500 there.

“The groundswell in Surrey to keep the RCMP in Surrey is unbelievable with people lining up to sign, and showing incredible empathy to the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign cause.”

Scott said the group intends to set up a petition table at Surrey City Hall on July 2, the due date for property taxes.

Last month, McCallum told the Now-Leader he is “confident” he can get the proposed municipal force up and running by 2021.

But that hinges on provincial approval being achieved – and fast.

“The only exception that I would put to it is that as long as the province gives us a fairly quick go-ahead. The longer they delay it, it’s going to be harder to meet the deadline,” the mayor said in early June.

“The one concern we have is they do need to make a decision fairly quickly, because we do have a tight timeline,” McCallum added, saying he’d like to see approval before the summer break.

The City of Surrey’s proposed transition plan to convert from RCMP states the force will “go live” on April 1, 2021 and its operating costs will be $192.5 million that year.

That’s a 10.9 per cent increase from the $173.6 million the city projects the RCMP would cost that year. The report states that a unionization drive is underway within the RCMP and if achieved, “the gap between the cost of the Surrey RCMP and the cost of the Surrey PD would be eliminated.”

There are also an estimated $39.2 million in start-up costs.

The transition report suggests a new municipal force in Surrey would have 805 police officers, 325 civilian positions and 20 Community Safety Personnel.

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