As a former police spokesperson, one of my toughest duties was addressing the public after a 14-year-old boy from Burnaby was fatally shot in a targeted shooting in Surrey. This occurred in December of 2020, just after Christmas, when kids are imagined to be home enjoying the holidays, or playing with a new gift. It’s hard to think of a scenario that would lead a young boy to be seduced into a criminal lifestyle, or gang activity. Yet it happened, and the community was rightfully shocked and outraged.
Gang activity in B.C. is primarily driven by the illicit drug trade. Cash flows from the trafficking of illicit substances, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and even a healthy market for unregulated cannabis. It’s the façade of wealth and prestige associated with drug trafficking that can be alluring for youth. Social media posts with images of wads of cash, and guns, paint a distorted picture that can be attractive to vulnerable kids. Gangs recruit new members with their false appeal. They are bankrolled by people who buy drugs, whether to support an illness or for recreational purposes. Purchases from dial-a-dope dealers, or on the dark web, help put money and guns into the hands of gang members who have killed British Columbians in the hundreds. Last month the BC United Caucus exposed that the NDP Government has been bankrolling drug dealers too.
For 17 months, taxpayer dollars supported DULF, or the Drug Users Liberation Front. The group received over $430,000 of public funds, purchased illicit drugs on the dark web, and trafficked them to DULF members. The purchasing and trafficking of these drugs were being done as part of an illegal compassion club study done with the support of the BC Centre on Substance Use, a key policy adviser for David Eby’s NDP government.
On October 5, I wrote a letter to the Attorney General, Niki Sharma, calling for an investigation into how public funds were approved to support criminal activity. To date, there has not been a formal response by the Attorney General, but the contract to pay DULF was abruptly ended. Stopping the payment was an appropriate first step, but how was the decision to fund drug trafficking ever approved, and by whom?
Follow-up letters have been sent to the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, and the Federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for their responses. Unfortunately, the NDP has thus far refused to take any accountability for the misuse of public funds to support criminal activity, or to answer BC United’s calls for an independent audit. The NDP has to be accountable to taxpayers who expect their money to be used ethically and legally.
In Surrey, we pull out all the stops to keep kids, like that young 14-year-old boy, from being recruited to gangs, and drug trafficking. We’ve invested in anti-gang programs in our schools, funded afterschool programs, hotlines for parents, and youth outreach teams for counselling and support. We vigilantly deploy our police to suppress gang activity and prevent shootings. Having our government use our own tax dollars against us, by funding drug trafficking is a slap in the face to every community that has fought hard to keep people safe from gangs and organized crime.
MLA Elenore Sturko, Shadow Minister for Mental Health, Addictions & Recovery
Originally published in the Fraser Valley Today, November 15, 2023
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