January 15, 2014
SURREY — All levels of government must listen to community outrage over violence in Surrey and come together to create a safer, healthier community, say New Democrats.
“People in Surrey want safer streets, and they want to take action to create that change now. Today, we are proposing an agreement that calls on our municipal, provincial and federal governments to take measurable steps towards a better future for this province’s fastest growing city,” said New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix.
Dix joins Surrey-Newton MLA Harry Bains, Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Sue Hammell, and Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston in proposing the Surrey Accord – a collection of measures that address challenges facing Surrey neighbourhoods: crime, mental health and addictions, and homelessness.
“Since the tragic death of Julie Paskall, we have seen an outpouring of grief and we have heard the calls to action, certainly in Newton, but also throughout Surrey,” said Bains. “This accord represents a powerful vehicle for the changes we want to see on our streets.”
The measures proposed in the accord include investing in community policing and community courts, regulating recovery homes, committing to a mental health strategy similar to Vancouver’s, and creating more accessible social housing.
“The provincial and federal governments have stalled for too long in addressing these needs in our community,” said Hammell. “They need to find a way to repair the critical systems that are broken, and that work needs to start today.”
The MLAs hope to press for the adoption of the accord when the legislature’s spring session begins Feb. 11, but first they are inviting input from the public and other community leaders in Surrey at a forum to be held in the next two weeks.
“All over Surrey, we are having important conversations about the future of our city, and we want those conversations to lead to serious, long-term change. In other jurisdictions, we have seen real results from tripartite agreements like the one we are proposing today,” said Ralston. “The future of Surrey is critical to the future of this province – today we are asking for the commitment and resources of all levels of government to the goal of making that future better.”
The City of Surrey is currently facing a number of complex and challenging socio-economic, public safety, and health issues. Addressing them effectively will require the commitment and co-operation of all three levels of government, the partnership of community and business groups, and the involvement of residents. Surrey is projected to become the most populated city in Metro Vancouver by 2020. We must ensure that Surrey continues to grow with healthy, safe neighbourhoods.
That is why New Democrats are calling on the provincial, federal, and municipal governments to come together and form a new Surrey Accord to tackle the challenges facing Surrey in a coordinated and targeted manner. Specifically, the proposed Surrey Accord should focus on the issues of crime and public safety, mental health and addictions, homelessness and housing affordability.
New Democrats are advocating for the Surrey Accord to support local community concerns and solutions, as well as the following five-point plan:
(1) Increased policing
Surrey has one of the highest crime rates in British Columbia, yet ranks 31st in the province in the number of police officers per capita. Surrey is also the fastest growing city in British Columbia. Police resources, including community policing and transit police, must continue to grow with the population to ensure safe streets and neighbourhoods.
(2) Creation of a community court
Community courts offer efficient access to the justice system, and a problem-solving approach to criminal behavior. These courts work to increase community safety by looking at underlying causes of criminal behavior and providing fast, informed and coordinated responses.
(3) Regulation of recovery homes
The B.C. Liberals created this problem by deregulating supportive recovery homes in 2002, eliminating any minimum standards. While there are many very well run recovery homes, some unscrupulous or unsafe operators create havoc for neighbours and exploit people in vulnerable situations. This is provincial jurisdiction and it is past time the B.C. government stepped in and reintroduced regulations for recovery homes.
(4) Mental health action plan
In fall 2013, the City of Vancouver faced a mental health crisis and called for intervention from the provincial government – the result was a mental health action plan for Vancouver. People in Surrey deserve the same level of care. The B.C. Liberal government should act now – in partnership with the City of Surrey, the RCMP, and the Fraser Health Authority – to create an action plan to support mental health in Surrey.
(5) Non-profit and supportive housing
In addition to addressing crime directly, it is critical to address the long-term health of the community by addressing poverty. As Surrey’s population grows, all levels of government in partnership with business and the community must invest in building new social, co-op and affordable housing to tackle the challenges of affordability and homelessness in Surrey.