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Surrey mayor bans seven people from city council meetings

Doug McCallum’s political opponents receive council meeting bans. Critics question the legality.
doug-mccallum-surrey-mayor-file-photo
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum | Graeme Wood/file photo
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has banished seven people from city council and committee meetings, claiming they have repeatedly contravened a procedural bylaw that requires speakers to keep comments “relevant.”

In an unprecedented move by a Surrey mayor, McCallum named the seven individuals – who oppose the city’s police transition – in a motion, during a land-use committee meeting Monday. The motion reads:

“Whereas the following individuals have attended council meetings and have repeatedly disrupted the orderly conduct of council meetings and harassed council members and city staff: Annie Kaps, Debbie Johnstone, Colin Pronger, Ivan Scott and Merle Scott, Marilyn Smith, Linda Yependberg.

"And whereas these named individuals and their disorderly conduct have repeatedly contravened section 52.1 of the council procedure bylaw, which requires comments to be relevant to the bylaw under consideration at a public hearing and whereas the city has a responsibility under its respectful workplace policy and other policies and laws to ensure an environment free of harassment for its staff and other participants. Be it resolved [the seven individuals] be immediately prohibited from attending Surrey council and committee meetings until council determines otherwise.”

The motion was passed by McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition but was immediately criticized by dissenting councillors.

Coun. Steven Pettigrew asked if the city had formed a legal opinion but McCallum declined to have staff answer the question.

Pettigrew said he believes the ban to be unconstitutional.

“There’s the other issue of the democratic rights to express themselves,” he said. “I’m concerned about the liability. I would be extremely offended if my name was mentioned in the public like this.”

Coun. Linda Annis said, “I don’t think we should be banning anyone from city hall without them doing something illegal. Are we going to start banning all those who don’t agree with us?”

Coun. Brenda Locke asked for documentation on the apparent violations but none was provided.

“We will often hear things we don’t want to hear,” Locke said. “I can tell you I have heard things I don’t want to hear. But it’s part of democracy as elected officials.”

McCallum did note citizens have been banned from city halls elsewhere in Canada. He said the city reserves the right to enforce the ban via a court order, although Pettigrew questioned why the city hadn’t already sought such an order.

The banished seven – all of whom are seniors – are tied to the Keep the RCMP in Surrey group, which has proven to be a vocal political foe of McCallum, who is seeking to transition the Surrey RCMP to the Surrey Police Service.

The group’s leader, Ivan Scott, said Tuesday the council ban is a continuation of the long political feud and described the ban as farcical.

“This just shows you how this mayor is doing anything to sink this campaign,” Scott said. “It shows he has no feeling for anybody except himself and he proceeds ahead to dictate and do whatever he wants to do. It’s a sad travesty what’s happening in Surrey.”

Whether Scott and others have violated the bylaw is debatable. Typically, when Scott is cut off by McCallum, he will call in to discuss a routine housing development but begin by stating he is a member of the group and that he has remained safe as a result of the current police force. Scott will often question developments from a public safety perspective as the city is adding new residents while McCallum has a current freeze on new police officer hires during the transition. It is typically when Scott and others speak specifically to the transition that they get cut off by McCallum. The last major fracas in council chambers occurred last October.

Scott said he is exploring legal options, as he believes the ban contravenes his Charter rights. For now, he must write to council if he wishes to comment on matters in the agenda.

Meanwhile, Scott is also disputing a handful of bylaw tickets he and his group received this past week for collecting signatures on public property. The bylaw officers are accused by the petitioners, such as Scott, of performing political work on behalf of McCallum. The parks bylaw states advertising cannot be affixed to parks and the bylaw officers are said to be taking issue with picket signs that may or may not be affixed to the ground.

Last week, the group filed a complaint against McCallum with Elections BC for intimidation of their volunteers, who were at a South Surrey grocery store on September 4 collecting resident signatures for a referendum to vote on the transition. The complaint followed a confrontation between McCallum and the volunteers in the parking lot, wherein the group claimed McCallum told them they couldn’t petition there (they had permission from the store) while McCallum claimed someone hurled insults at him and one driver ran over his toe.

Initial statements made to media didn’t mention such an incident and it’s not clear if the driver is tied to the group or if it was just a random incident. Surrey RCMP says it is investigating the matter.

Also, at Monday’s council meeting, McCallum defeated a motion by Locke to have all police transition costs accounted for in a report by staff. Locke intends to run for mayor in October 2022 with the Surrey Connect slate.

 

gwood@glaciermedia.ca