Newton residents left in the dark over proposed community court in Surrey with no response from Attorney General Susan Anton
It was back in January 2014, following the death of Julie Paskall, that both Mayor Watts and the NDP renewed calls for a community court in Surrey.
Watts met with Attorney General Susan Anton in February, where it was agreed that a steering committee would be set up to gain input from the judiciary, the province and city staff.
However, the prospect of a community court greatly concerns many Newton residents, who worry about the impact this would have on a community already ‘overloaded’ with social services.
They’ve been asking for answers as to whether or not members of the community will be included in the consultation process, but to date, have not received any response.
This is a copy of the email sent to Attorney General and cc’d to NDP MLA Harry Bains on July 10th:
Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2014 03:41:37 -0700
From: Liz Walker ( email removed for privacy)
Subject: Community Courts in Surrey
9 July 2014
Attention: Hon. Suzanne Anton
Minister of Justice
Dear Ms. Anton,
RE: Community Courts in Surrey
Earlier this year Mayor Watts alerted Newton community members to an Advisory Committee meeting regarding the proposed Community Courts expected to locate in Surrey’s Newton community. We are concerned about this initiative as our community has not yet received any formal notice from the City about it. To our knowledge there have not been any open houses or other avenues of consultation regarding it.
The Newton community has suffered a serious decline, both economically and socially, for more than a decade. Newton has come to be described as the new “Whalley” or Vancouver DTES of Surrey. Our community continues to observe this decline as we are either disregarded or excluded from decision making processes.
Many perceive Newton to be the low income, socio-correctional component of Surrey. With the concentration of social services that have located in the Newton area we have concerns that those, serviced through the community court, will be directed into Newton for its’ availability of services. This will add more troubled individuals to our streets and transit services without the stabilizing effect of an increased police presence.
We would like to see local citizen representation on committees/task forces related to proposals with the potential to directly impact our communities. We believe the Surrey specialized court task force is such a committee, as you have stated in a Hansard, CSC debate, “they are determining the needs of Surrey, because there is no cookie-cutter approach on courts. It’s to determine the community needs and do a needs assessment”. Newton is only one community in Surrey yet we have been encumbered with the responsibility of providing the bulk of correctional services to all of Surrey’s other communities.
We did ask our MLA, Harry Bains to determine why there was no invitation to the local community to be part of the task force and he did present the question to you, “I would like to ask the minister why any member of the community was not appointed on that”.
Unfortunately he did not receive an answer so we are left to ask the question again, and request local citizen representation on the task force/advisory committee for the Surrey specialized courts.
We welcome your reply. We hope that you will be able to provide us with a “Terms of reference” for the Surrey Specialized Court Task Force and a task force structure that recognizes the importance of local citizen involvement, i.e. citizen representation.
Newton Community Association
nb: copy of letter also included as an attachment for your convenience.
This same email was again forwarded to Attorney General Susan Antons office for response yesterday:
Date: Tue, 12 Aug 2014 18:15:53 -0700
To: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
From: Liz Walker
Subject: Sending again for response
Dear Ms. Anton,
Members of the Newton Community Association would truly appreciate answers to our questions posed in the following/attached correspondence.
I think all residents understand that there may at times, be delays to response from city or government officials due to holidays, vacation or other important events.
However, one would think that with all that Newton and other areas of Surrey have endured, and continue to endure, the respect would be given to respond accordingly to the very real concerns of local residents.
Once again, Newton appears to be getting the short end of the stick when it comes to consultation on the issues directly impacting our community.
The only indication I can find in the city of Surrey references to this agreement to form a steering committee was in this document, which is quite the read and worthy of a blog post in itself, is copied below.
Newton residents deserve to know one way or another:
1) if indeed the province is genuinely engaged in this effort as both our mayor and Attorney General announced earlier this year, or if this was just noise to soothe worried residents
2) if the province and city indeed are engaged in such consultation on a steering committee, whether or not the community will be consulted and engaged as part of the process.
From Page 43/44, April of this year :
Specialized Courts in Surrey
A means of addressing the inherent delays in the existing Court system would be the establishment of a
Community Court, Drug Treatment Court, and Night Court in Surrey. The idea of establishing a
Community Court and Night Court was raised in the City of Surrey Crime Reduction Strategy in 2006
[Surrey Crime Reduction Strategy (2006) – Section 2.3- Prosecuting and Sentencing Offenders- pages
This issue received some media attention in late January following the PASKALL Homicide with Mayor
WATIS stating her support and offering the former Surrey City Hall as the location for a Community
Court. Mayor WATIS made a significant push for a Community Court in 2011 and indicated that she will
continue to champion this initiative.