SURREY (CityNews) — A motion to have all work on the transition to a city police force stopped until First Nations are consulted was swiftly ruled out of order by Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum Monday.
Coun. Brenda Locke wanted all work on the transition to a city police force to be stopped until First Nations are consulted, a move endorsed by one local Chief.
The motion asked for the replacement of the RCMP to be “immediately suspended” pending a “sufficient, respectful and transparent consultation process that meets the Federal, Provincial and Municipal obligations to consult with our First Nations.”
Semiamhoo Chief Harley Chappell said he shared Locke’s concerns over a lack of consultation.
He said he has raised the issue with Wally Oppal, who chairs the committee overseeing the transition.
“We were told that once the policing board is developed–if approvals happen, and a municipal force is approved–that we would be part of that policing board. That’s a little bit after the fact from my perspective,” he said.
McCallum said much the same thing at council Monday.
Surrey has the largest urban Indigenous population in B.C. and Surrey RCMP provides policing services to the Semiamhoo First Nation through the First Nations Policing Program.
“We’ve developed a good relationship with RCMP over the years and that’s taken a lot of work so to jeopardize that or put that in harm’s way is a bit of a risk that we do’t know if we’re able to take,” Chappell says.
Indigenous peoples and the RCMP have a long and difficult history, including the force’s involvement in the residential school system, for which they officially apologized in 2004.
Chappell said establishing a new police force will affect local Indigenous people, and so consultation and consent are required.
“I absolutely think there is a legal obligation to consult wit the First Nations who occupy these territories, absolutely.”
He said the province’s recent adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clearly sets out this requirement.
UNDRIP requires government to with Indigenous people to “obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.”
Before Monday’s meeting, Locke said raising this issue at city council was overdue.
“I think it’s time that we rectified a wrong. We should have had a government to government consultation with them from the get-go, at the beginning of the process, not in the rearview mirror.”
With files from David Zura