Multiple charges laid against 69-year-old in Surrey collision that left woman dead

Janet Dudgeon, 61, was killed and her mother Barbara, 84, was injured in a crash in Surrey last March

Jesse Johnston · CBC News · Posted: Sep 27, 2018 4:29 PM PT | Last Updated: September 27

Collision investigators photograph the scene of the hit and run on 72nd Avenue. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Collision investigators photograph the scene of the hit and run on 72nd Avenue. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

The family of the woman who was killed in a crash in Surrey last year says they're relieved an arrest has finally been made in the case.

Janet Dudgeon, 61, and her mother Barbara, 84, were travelling through the intersection of 72 Avenue and 152 Street in Surrey on March 22.

It was around 6:35pm when an eastbound van smashed into their sedan, killing Janet and leaving Barbara with serious injuries.

"We miss her terribly," said Janet's daughter, Melissa Gambone.

"My grandmother, too. We miss the way she was before the injury."

On Tuesday, police arrested Iqbal Singh Sidhu, 69, in Surrey.

Sidhu appeared in provincial court in Surrey on Wednesday to face 15 charges, including manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death and impaired driving causing death.

"It was definitely a long, complicated investigation," said Sgt. Chad Greig with Surrey RCMP.

"We hope the charges being laid will bring some solace to the family of the deceased."

Sidhu was released from custody on several conditions.

Serious charges

Gambone says her family is pleased to see the accused has been charged with manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

"It means that our society is looking at impaired driving with a little more seriousness," she said.

Linda Hepner delivers final State of the City address as Surrey mayor

Hepner announced that the city plans to hire a director of housing to come up with and execute a "made-in-Surrey" housing strategy.

JENNIFER SALTMAN Updated: September 19, 2018

The City of Surrey plans to hire a director of housing to develop and execute a housing strategy for the growing municipality.

“I think a housing director, at this point in Surrey’s history, is going to be critical,” Mayor Linda Hepner said on Wednesday, following her fourth and final State of the City address.

Hepner said a lack of affordable housing was not only a Vancouver problem — it’s a problem for the entire region. Surrey needed to have a strategy that looks at what kinds of projects were needed, she said, and it had to be tailored to the city.

“I think that what we’ve always been is a place where people can see themselves and their families growing, so I think as we’ve grown that now is the right time for a housing director,” Hepner said, pointing out that most big cities had such a position.

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She couldn’t say whether the position would be filled before the municipal election takes place on Oct. 20, but she expected the process would be underway by then.

Housing was one topic Hepner touched on during her wide-ranging speech, which for the most part read like a love letter to the city she has served — first as city staff, then councillor and finally as mayor — for more than 30 years.

After one term as mayor, Hepner is not running for re-election.

She reflected on the changes that had taken place over the past three decades, including skyrocketing population and more festivals and park space, as well as the development of post-secondary institutions.

Hepner touched on achievements during her tenure. At the top of the list was the removal of a tent city on 135A Street and the rehousing of its residents, the recent release of a report from the Mayor’s Task Force on Gang Violence Prevention, and the addition of 134 RCMP officers along with the hiring of a public safety director.

On policing, Hepner said it’s time to have a broader discussion about policing in the city, and what kind of police force Surrey should have.

“When you have episodes of tragedy in your community, there’s a lot of emotion and during an election period it escalates into fear mongering. I would just hope that everybody is prepared to look at it with a full-on study with facts and analysis, and let’s make the best decision for a growing community,” she said after her address.

Another hot election issue was the debate over whether Surrey should ditch its plan to build at-grade light rail in favour of SkyTrain, even though LRT was fully funded and procurement had started. She called it a done deal and said she found the debate incredibly frustrating.

“I think elections are always driven by different points of view — and that’s healthy — but I think that sometimes we get lost in the minutia of language and we don’t settle into what is the reality of fact,” she said.

Hepner said in her speech that she hoped the next mayor and council would work together and lead the city into its “next great chapter.”

If Hepner were to leave a note for the next mayor, it would be “short and sweet and in big, bold letters,” she said, becoming tearful.

“Be good to this city, because it is headed for greatness.”

Mike Smyth: More crime, fewer cops — What is wrong with Surrey's picture?

The spasm of gang violence in Surrey has triggered an outpouring of concern in a community worried about flying bullets and the seductive lure of gang life on impressionable kids.

But it’s also re-ignited a debate in a city that always seems to get the short end of the stick compared to its Metro Vancouver neighbours.

Does Surrey have enough cops? And is the RCMP the right force to patrol mean streets plagued by some of B.C.’s highest crime rates?

Tom Gill, the city councillor considered the frontrunner for mayor in this fall’s municipal election, said the city’s RCMP detachment has added 100 more cops with plans to add more.

“The number is unprecedented,” Gill said. “No other municipality has made as significant an investment in such a short time.”

But it’s not enough to match the per capita number of police officers deployed in neighbouring cities.

According to Statistics Canada, Surrey has just 139 police officers for every 100,000 residents. Compare that to Vancouver, which has 191 cops for every 100,000 residents.

Neighbouring Delta has 163 officers per 100,000. New Westminster has 153.

Now compare the rates of serious crime in those four cities for an even starker contrast.

Surrey has a crime severity index of 117, while Vancouver, New West and Delta have severe-crime rates of 114, 79 and 54 respectively.

The bottom line: Surrey has more crime, and less cops, than its neighbours. What is wrong with this picture?

“It’s actually quite shocking,” said Stuart Parker, a candidate for city council running for the Proudly Surrey party. “The thing a gang possesses is turf. If you don’t have the personnel to compete for that turf, then you’re ceding it to the gangs that do. We need 30 to 50 per cent more officers in Surrey.”

There are also growing demands for the city to dump the RCMP and create a local municipal police force, like the ones in Vancouver, New West, Delta and several other B.C. cities.

“The RCMP has multiple levels of bureaucracy and hierarchies and a backlog of unfilled vacancies,” Parker complained. “A local force will be less top-heavy and allow us to retain police officers in the community where they were recruited.”

But the ruling Surrey First party shows no interest in replacing the RCMP.

“The party is over,” insisted Mayor Linda Hepner, who is not seeking re-election. “We are going to make life (for gangsters) as miserable as we can legally in the city of Surrey.”

Hepner made the comments while releasing a new anti-gang strategy following a rash of deadly violence, including the daylight shooting death of 47-year-old hockey coach Paul Bennett, gunned down in his driveway on June 23.

The report includes recommendations to expand anti-gang youth programs and double the size of the RCMP’s gang enforcement unit in the city.

“It will give us more boots on the ground that will get in the face of gangsters and get them out of our city,” Dwayne McDonald, Surrey’s RCMP assistant commissioner, told Global News reporter Janet Brown.

“My message is, ‘You’re not welcome in Surrey. We are coming for you. You can run. You can hide. But we will find you, we will arrest you and we will put you in jail.’”

But McDonald said the additional anti-gang officers will be moved into the unit from other duties, not new hires. And he declined to say how many officers are actually in the gang unit now for “security reasons.”

“Disappointing,” responded Gurpreet Sahota, the community leader who fired up 5,000 protesters at a recent Wake Up Surrey anti-gang rally. “We need more police officers. And everybody in Surrey is talking about the need for a local police department. Neither was mentioned in the report.”

He questions why a promise to double the size of the city’s anti-gang unit is supposed to reassure anyone when police won’t say how many officers are in the unit to start with.

And why wasn’t the promised “Inadmissible Patrons Program” to ban gangsters from bars started years ago, when a similar program has been running in Vancouver for a decade?

Watch for these issues to heat up as the campaign for mayor gets closer — especially if Liberal MLA Rich Coleman, a former police officer, decides to challenge Gill for the job.

“That recent shooting (of hockey coach Paul Bennett) happened 10 blocks from my house,” said Coleman, who called for more street cops and increased gang surveillance.

“You need intelligence-gathering,” Coleman said. “You need to be visible on the street. You need to use statistical models to know where the hot spots are, target your resources and then push back on crime.”

But Gill said Coleman’s previous controversial oversight of casino gambling — the subject of a scathing recent report on money laundering — should disqualify the former solicitor general from the mayor’s job.

“You really have to rethink whether you can support an individual like that,” Gill said.

It’s clear that gang warfare, and political warfare, are both on the rise in Surrey.