2020 was a year of monumental disruption. The COVID-19 pandemic played one part. The profound impacts of the deaths of George Floyd in Minnesota, Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto and Chantel Moore in New Brunswick, in addition to allegations of racist “games” in the British Columbia health-care system, shook our business-as-usual public institutions for the better. No longer could the reality for many British Columbians who have personally experienced the deeply entrenched systemic bias, discrimination and racism be ignored.
In the summer, the B.C. government launched an investigation into the extent of institutionalized racism against Indigenous people in the health-care system. Following calls from the public to defund the police, they struck an all-party committee to review the Police Act. In the ensuing months the demands for justice, fair treatment and systemic change in our law enforcement institutions have continued.
The purpose of the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act is to review British Columbia’s law governing policing and public safety. It has been decades since there were any systematic or major reviews of the legislation. When creating the terms of reference for the review of the Police Act, Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general, gave the committee a sweeping mandate.
I am thankful to be a member of the special committee. For the past few months we have been hearing testimony from experts, academics, stakeholders, community advocates, Indigenous communities and provincial ministries and agencies. While I appreciate the challenge we have as a committee in parsing the huge volume of information, the quality of our recommendations must be informed by broad consultation. It is necessary that our review include knowledge holders from many sectors, including police, mental health and wellness, addictions and harm reduction, Indigenous communities and advocates.
We also need to hear from the public. The committee is accepting input from all British Columbians on policing, public safety, and related systemic issues. As an individual or organization, you can provide a written, audio or video submission – whatever best communicates your experiences and advice on the future of policing in British Columbia. The deadline to submit is April 30 and you can learn more about the submission process at: www.leg.bc.ca/cmt/rpa.
Gathering information is just the first step in the process. Once that is complete, my colleagues and I will begin deliberations on our recommendations to the government. It is likely this will include more than just a new Police Act. We have heard a variety of advice on a wide range of laws, regulations and government policy that all need to change if we are going to seriously address the systemic bias, discrimination and racism.
From what the committee has heard so far, we need systemic and institutional change. We have that opportunity now to take those necessary steps to ensure we have a just, fair and safe society for all British Columbians. In this spirit, I encourage you to please take this opportunity to have your say in this important work.
– Adam Olsen is MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.