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Legislation improves process for changes to police of jurisdiction

CANADA, October 16 - The Province is updating the Police Act to clarify the process any municipality must follow when they wish to change their Police of Jurisdiction, actioning the government's commitment to remove uncertainty, enhance public confidence and keep people safe throughout British Columbia.

While municipalities are responsible for providing local policing and law enforcement, the minister of public safety and solicitor general is responsible for ensuring that police services are in place in a community and that police operations are not impacted by one municipality changing their police of jurisdiction. These changes address a lack of clarity in the Police Act that was exposed during the police transition in the City of Surrey.

“People deserve to know who is protecting their homes, families and businesses when there is a change in policing in their community,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “These amendments mean that the confusion caused by the City of Surrey won’t be repeated elsewhere in B.C. When passed, these amendments will ensure policing transitions proceed in a way that provides certainty for people and maintains public safety.”

These amendments will create a smoother process for all ongoing and future transitions by:

  • ensuring that once a transition plan is approved by the minister, that the municipality has a legal obligation to complete the transition;
  • clarifying the authority of the director of police services to oversee and give binding direction to parties to ensure that a minister-approved police change is implemented;
  • requiring that municipalities, police agencies and other entities must provide any information to the minister to assess a transition plan; and
  • allowing the minister to determine a path forward for a municipality that has just become responsible for providing policing services, in exceptional circumstances, such as:
    • when a municipality is unable to produce a transition plan that meets approval by the minister; and
    • when a municipality fails to implement a minister-approved transition plan.

The legislation also contains provisions that provide clarity and finality to the people of Surrey regarding their ongoing transition by specifying that the City of Surrey must provide policing services through a municipal police department, giving the minister the authority to cancel the existing agreement between the Province and the City of Surrey for the RCMP’s services and providing government the ability to appoint an administrator to assume the functions of the Surrey Police Board to manage the Surrey Police Service.

These amendments are separate from work underway to implement the recommendations made by the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act. Phase 1 of police reform amendments are expected to be introduced in spring 2024.

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