Rarely-used petition law could force referendum on Surrey police transition
VANCOUVER -- Advocates wanting to keep the RCMP in Surrey are hoping a last-ditch effort will stop the city from transitioning to a municipal police force.
Elections BC has approved a petition under the Recall and Initiative Act. If it garners enough signatures, it could force a binding referendum asking whether Surrey should keep the RCMP or transition to a police force.
The campaign is being led by Darlene Bennett, a Surrey resident whose husband Paul was shot and killed in 2018 in a case of mistaken identity.
“I am very excited, hopeful,” Bennett said in a Zoom news conference on Thursday to announce the launch of the petition.
“I hope this gives the residents of Surrey a voice. I hope they will be heard and I hope everyone is able to make an informed decision.”
Bennett has long been an advocate against the Surrey Police Service, even telling Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth the move was “putting lives in danger.”
Despite this being a Surrey-focused issue, for the petition to be successful, Elections BC requires “at least 10 per cent of the registered voters in each of British Columbia’s 87 electoral districts.” The deadline to submit the required signatures is Nov. 15.
Since 1995, there have only been 14 similar petitions launched, and only one has been successful.
On Thursday, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said the petition was a “waste of money,” adding the most recent municipal election was, in essence, a referendum on the transition.
“Cities should be governed by the people who live in them, not from other cities around the province,” McCallum said.
No firm date has been set for when the transition to the Surrey Police Service will be complete. A Surrey Police Transition Trilateral Committee is currently looking at some time in the fall.