By Fran Yanor / Legislative Reporter

The B.C. Government has appointed a special all-party committee to consult with communities and experts, and make recommendations to ‘modernize’ the police act on issues including oversight, transparency, training, mental health issues and systemic racism, the Solicitor General said last week.

“We know that the 45-year-old act is outdated and does not reflect today’s challenges,” said Solicitor General Mike Farnworth from Victoria. “It is out-of-step with our government’s approach and our work with police services on important issues.”

One significant task of the committee will be to rewrite the police act to align with the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (UNDRIP), Farnworth said.

The Declaration itself states: “In consultation and cooperation with the Indigenous peoples in British Columbia, the government must take all measures necessary to ensure the laws of British Columbia are consistent with the Declaration.”

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced an all-party committee will engage communities and experts and make recommendations on updating the Police Act “to meet the needs of the 21st century.” Farnsworth is pictured above at a 2019 press conference. / Province of BC photo

Fundamental within the Declaration are the human rights and freedoms recognized under the UN’s Universal Charter of Human Rights, as well as, the right to be free from any kind of discrimination.

“As we know, our institutions in this province have systemic racism built into them,” said Farnworth. “Often in the form of bias, and often unintentionally.”

The motion, Appointment of Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act, filed in the Legislature on July 8, will examine the scope of systemic racism within police agencies, including the RCMP, municipal police, and ‘designated police units,’ along with its “impact on public safety and public trust in policing.”

The committee will hear from experts, academia, local governments, municipal police, the RCMP, and the community, and will bring forth recommendations that can take place within the purview of an updated police act, Farnworth said.

The special committee is also charged with examining issues related to service delivery, police education, the role of law enforcement with respect to harm reduction and mental health, and any other areas pertaining to modernization of the act.

The committee will table its report in the legislature and it will be a public report, Franworth said.

The recommendations and full findings will be submitted to the Legislative Assembly in May 2021.

“We know that this review will take time, but it is long overdue,” the Solicitor General said, “and we want to make sure that we get it right.”

Fran Yanor / Local Journalism Initiative / The Rocky Mountain Goat / [email protected]