Government must act on Surrey community court promises

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STORY 3 ITEM 10AFTER years of promises and delay, the Liberal government must move forward with a much-need community court for Surrey, the New Democrats said on Sunday.

“Surrey could have had a community court in place years ago had the Liberal government acted on its commitments,” said Surrey-Newton MLA Harry Bains. “Surrey deserves better than a government that offers nothing but endless rhetoric and delays.”

Bains joined Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Sue Hammell and Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston in calling for immediate action.

“New Democrats have been pressing this government on the need for a community court for almost seven years,” said Bains. “The evidence is clear that the Vancouver Community Court has been successful since it opened in 2008, yet the government continues to stall with claims that it needs to complete its evaluation of the Vancouver court. It’s time to act.”

A community court would be a central pillar of a proposed Surrey Accord, which would bring all levels of government together to tackle the challenges of crime, mental health and addictions, and homelessness.

“Judge Thomas Gove, who presides over the Vancouver community court, and former Attorney General Wally Oppal are on the record stating that the Vancouver community court has been successful,” said Hammell. “No more excuses — it’s time for this government to step up and help make Surrey a safer, healthier community.”

A community court would provide efficient access to the justice system, and a problem-solving approach to criminal behavior. Community courts work to increase community safety by looking at underlying causes of criminal behavior and providing fast, informed and coordinated responses.

“As early as 2006 the Liberals were committing to expand the community court approach to Surrey, a commitment they reiterated during the 2009 election,” said Ralston. “This is simply mismanagement and yet more confirmation that Liberal commitments aren’t worth the hot air expended to make them.”

Bains, Hammell and Ralston are hosting a public discussion about the future of Surrey at the Surrey Arts Centre Studio Theatre on February 4 at 7 p.m. Admission is free, and participants are asked to register in advance for the event at www.surreyaccord.ca.