B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth (Black Press Media)

B.C. sets terms to review police, mental health, race relations

MLAs to recommend Police Act changes by May 2021

The B.C. government has fulfilled its promise to review the role of police in maintaining public order amid protests about excessive force and racism that have spilled over from the United States.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced an all-party committee of MLAs, to review the Police Act and recommend changes, as police forces across B.C. grapple with incidents of mental illness and alcohol and drug abuse that occupy much of their time. The committee is to report on its recommendations by May 14, 2021.

Two former RCMP officers have been appointed to serve on the committee, Surrey-Guildford MLA Garry Begg and Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Mike Morris. Also on the committee are Skeena MLA Ellis Ross, Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen, Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh, Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell, North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma and Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons.

The committee will examine “the role of police with respect to complex social issues including mental health and wellness, addictions and harm reduction,” as well as “the scope of systemic racism within British Columbia’s police agencies, including the RCMP, independent municipal police and designated policing units, and its impact on public safety and public trust in policing,” Farnworth told the B.C. legislature.

It will also examine whether changes are needed to make B.C.’s 1996 Police Act consistent with the province’s Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, passed in 2019 to make B.C. laws conform to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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