By John Horgan
This week, young people in four Surrey schools were locked down after gunfire erupted on a nearby street.
This follows last week’s shooting on the grounds of Prince Charles Elementary school, and another shooting in September in which four bullets hit Strawberry Hill Elementary school.
You don’t have to be the premier of this province to know that this isn’t right. No one should have to wake up to the sound of gunfire on their street. No parent should have to endure the sight of bullet holes in the walls of their child’s school when they drop them off in the morning. And no child should have to wonder whether their school is safe from gun violence.
This year, there has been an average of one shooting each week in Surrey. This is a public safety crisis, and it’s long past time for Premier Clark to step in and take action. Concern is not enough. Failure to act is not good enough.
My New Democrat colleagues and I wrote to Premier Clark in September, asking her to take immediate action to address this crisis. The premier never responded.
We did receive a response, a month later, from Justice Minister Suzanne Anton. Her letter was little more than a list of existing government initiatives and a few platitudes about public safety, and showed more concern with justifying her own inaction than with making Surrey safer.
This week, we sent another letter to the premier, asking her to meet this crisis with action, rather than photo ops and piecemeal promises. In September, we asked her to immediately redeploy RCMP officers from other areas to meet her government’s commitment of 100 new officers for Surrey. Meeting part of this commitment is not good enough, and deploying new recruits is not good enough. People in Surrey are facing a crisis – they need experienced officers on the streets today. We also asked that a dedicated internal RCMP task force work full-time to end this epidemic of gun violence.
After months of silence from the premier, this week we reiterated these calls.
The measures we are calling for are the bare minimum required to address the current crisis. But there is much more to be done.
I have also called for a comprehensive, long-term approach to addressing violence in Surrey – the Surrey Accord. The accord calls not only for more officers on the street, but also for measures that address the root causes of violence, including a strategy to improve mental health, and a community court to allow efficient access to the justice system.
I have also called for an increase in crime prevention, to make sure that families and teachers have the resources and supports they need to intervene if they see a young person heading down the wrong path.
There is so much to do. There is so much that can be done.
Premier Clark needs to recognize her responsibility to protect the lives of people living in this province and take steps to end this crisis. Until she does, New Democrats will not stop fighting for the safety and security that people in Surrey deserve.