South Surrey’s Ivan Scott says he has collected nearly 8,000 signatures from residents who wish to keep the RCMP in the city, while members of Surrey’s South Asian community are speaking out in favour of a proposed new municipal police force.
Scott, who says his request to set up a booth with his petition at Surrey’s Canada Day celebration at the Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre in Cloverdale was denied by the city, went to the event anyway and collected 2,655 signatures with his team.
He said his formal application to attend the event was denied because event organizers don’t allow political groups to set up booths.
“We decided to go anyway,” Scott told Peace Arch News Wednesday. “We got there and they refused me entry. They said no, we can’t come in because we’re carrying signs.”
Scott said that he, along with his group, “just walked in,” and “they didn’t do anything to stop me.”
Scott takes issue with the City of Surrey’s “citizen engagement process,” which has been held through a number of city events and an online survey.
A recent press release from the City of Surrey states that 93 to 98 per cent of residents support the mayor’s initiative on policing, which Scott calls, “phoney baloney.”
Scott says the survey, as well as the consultation events, don’t offer an opportunity for residents to express opposition to the police force, which is one of the reasons Scott started a petition.
“I totally reject the findings of the so-called Surrey Police Department Proposal Engagement Process.
“We believe the whole consultation process and its methodology was calculated to come up with a pre-determined result. It is, in our opinion, a very shallow, dishonest, superficial, box-ticking exercise,” Scott wrote to PAN.
Meanwhile, 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 B.C. government’s review.”
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.
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 front line of hearing the calls for change from residents who are tired of living in fear.”
– files from Amy Reid