Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons has been named chair of the special committee on reforming the Police Act that was appointed by the Legislative Assembly of BC.
Simons said he was very pleased with the appointment and policing is an area of interest of his.
“It’s timely to be engaged in this process,” said Simons.
He said the public is acutely aware of injustices people have seen perpetrated and has raised its voice, asking the government to examine institutions for any systemic racism and to ensure something is always being done to improve administration of the justice system.
“It’s important for public confidence to have regular, in-depth looks at the legislation that governs an important part of our community,” said Simons.
He said the committee’s work schedule will be determined when he meets with his committee members from all sides of the legislature.
“I’m sure our schedules will converge and we’ll convene our first meeting,” said Simons. “At that point we’ll have the discussion about our schedule of activities.”
Simons said terms of reference for the committee have been provided. He said he considers them broad and inclusive and he’s glad about that because he thinks, as the committee begins its deliberations, it will likely be able to identify areas that need further scrutiny.
“We want to have that flexibility as a committee,” said Simons.
He said as communities change, so do expectations of public services and programs.
“Some of the issues we’ll be addressing I’m sure are long-standing ones,” said Simons. “Part of our job as a committee is to figure out what effective recommendations can we make to the legislature with respect to improving the public confidence in the justice system. It can be restored by amendments to the Police Act.
“With amendments to the Police Act, you are looking at everything from training, oversight, structure, governance – all of the things included in the terms of reference.”
The BC Police Act includes all policing, including RCMP, municipal police forces and combined units.
In addition to doing research, Simons said he expects the committee will be calling witnesses. He also hopes the committee can get out into BC communities to hear directly from British Columbians.
“I want to ensure all the voices of the different communities have their voices heard or reflected at least in our deliberations,” said Simons.
The committee has a lot of work ahead and a tight timeline, according to Simons.
“It seems to me we have a steep hill to climb but everybody is interested and I think it is a committee that will be interesting for the public to follow,” said Simons. “It seems there is a renewed interest in ensuring our communities face their challenges and find solutions to the problems that have been identified. It’s appropriate and timely that this committee is struck now and I’m really pleased to be part of that.”
Simons said in his career prior to politics, he worked closely with the police. Both of his degrees are in criminology.
“It’s really an honour and I look forward to working with all my colleagues,” said Simons. “We all know it’s a challenge but we’re all up for it.”
On July 8, the Legislative Assembly appointed the special committee on reforming the Police Act to examine, inquire into, and make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly on: reforms related to the modernization and sustainability of policing under the Police Act; the role of police with respect to complex social issues including mental health and wellness, addictions and harm reduction; the scope of systemic racism within BC’s police agencies; and whether there are measures necessary to ensure a modernized Police Act is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007).