McCallum called ‘undemocratic’ for banning pro-RCMP voters from council

McCallum called ‘undemocratic’ for banning pro-RCMP voters from council

The seven, who belong to a group called Keep the RCMP in Surrey, will not even be allowed to participate in meetings or hearings remotely, but they are allowed written submissions.

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Ivan Scott and six other Surrey residents have been barred from attending council meetings and public hearings in the city, after council voted for the ban on Monday.

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The seven, who belong to a group called Keep the RCMP in Surrey, will not even be allowed to participate in meetings or hearings remotely, but they are allowed written submissions.

Scott said the people he has consulted, including one former mayor, told him they are “absolutely astounded” by the ban.

“There’s no real precedent of this happening before,” Scott said on Tuesday. “This is a ridiculous thing.”

Keep the RCMP in Surrey is organizing a petition to present to Elections B.C. to force a referendum in which Surrey voters would get a direct say in whether the city should go ahead and replace the RCMP with a municipal force.

In 2018, Mayor Doug McCallum ran on a mandate to both extend SkyTrain to Langley, and to git rid of the RCMP and replace it with a Surrey police department.

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Municipal elections usually have low voter turnout. Coun. Linda Annis points out that with a 32.9-per-cent turnout among Surrey’s 337,289 eligible voters, McCallum’s win with a 41.43-per-cent plurality represents just 13.5-per-cent of the city’s voters.

Banning people who want to keep the RCMP in Surrey from council meetings is about as undemocratic as it gets, said Annis, the only councillor to win a seat in 2018 who wasn’t part of McCallum’s slate.

“Silencing people, particularly people opposed to you, is what politicians do when they’ve given up on democracy,” she said. “Doug McCallum and his councillors would rather ban Surrey residents from city hall than listen to their frustration and very real concerns.

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“People in Surrey are frustrated and angry. Rather than banning Surrey residents from city council, the mayor should look in the mirror and realize that voting to keep people away from council doesn’t deal with the real issue, which is all but being ignored.”

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

A spokeswoman for the mayor said McCallum would not comment, other than through a news release he issued on Monday which said the prohibition “protects the democratic process.”

“Our democracy provides for freedom of thought, opinion and speech, but when the discourse devolves into aggressive and disorderly behaviour, we must ensure that council and city staff are able to carry out their duties without fear of verbal assault and harassment,” the statement quotes McCallum as saying, without offering any specific examples of such behaviour.

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On Sept. 4, Scott and McCallum had a heated exchange in a parking lot after the mayor accused a Keep the RCMP in Surrey supporter of running over his foot with her car. Scott vehemently denied that the incident happened and accused McCallum of bullying and intimidation.

The letter from the city clerk’s office cites council’s procedure Bylaw 52.1, which states a person speaking at a public hearing has five minutes to make their case, and that their comments be restricted to the matter at hand.

Ivan Scott of Keep the RCMP in Surrey and Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, right, have a heated conversation in a grocery store parking lot on Saturday in South Surrey. ORG XMIT: POS2109061544010090 [PNG Merlin Archive]
Ivan Scott of Keep the RCMP in Surrey and Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, right, have a heated conversation in a grocery store parking lot on Saturday in South Surrey. ORG XMIT: POS2109061544010090 [PNG Merlin Archive] Photo by Keep the RCMP in Surrey photo /PNG

It does not specify a section of the bylaw, or any other law, that would give council the power to ban attendance by voters at a council meeting.

“The reason for this prohibition,” the letter reads, “is due to your conduct at previous council meetings and public hearings, where you have repeatedly disrupted the orderly conduct of council meetings and harassed council members and city staff, and/or raised matters that were irrelevant to the bylaw being considered at the public hearing contrary to section 52.1.

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“We trust that you will find this to be in order.”

Postmedia News requested clarification from the city clerk late on Tuesday afternoon, but did not receive a reply by publication time.

The two-year transition to a municipal force has already begun, and the Surrey Police Service plans to have its first 50 officers on the street by Nov. 30.

The petition drive was approved by Elections B.C. this summer and all residents of the province, not just those in Surrey, can sign if they support a bid for a binding referendum on changing the police in Surrey under B.C.’s recall and initiative act.

At least 10 per cent of the registered voters in each of B.C.’s 87 electoral districts must sign the petition for it to be successful, but organizers say the provincial government could okay a binding regional referendum if they have enough support in Surrey.

— with file from Susan Lazaruk

gordmcintyre@postmedia.com

twitter.com/gordmcintyre

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