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Surrey seeks court order to ban seven seniors from council meetings

Court order follows a council resolution barring the senior citizens from meetings after they could not contain their criticism of the city’s police force transition.
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Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum and his five-member Safe Surrey Coalition voted 5-4 in favour of a resolution to ban the seven, deeming they “have repeatedly disrupted the orderly conduct of Council meetings and harassed Council members and City staff”

The City of Surrey has elevated its fight against seven senior citizens it has deemed to be disruptive in city council meetings by seeking a court order against them.

Surrey filed a petition to B.C. Supreme Court October 18 seeking an order to block the following individuals from physically attending council and committee meetings: Annie Kaps, Debbie Johnstone, Colin Pronger, Ivan Scott, Meryl Scott, Marilyn Smith and Linda Ypenburg.

On September 13, Mayor Doug McCallum and his five-member Safe Surrey Coalition voted 5-4 in favour of a resolution to ban the seven, deeming they “have repeatedly disrupted the orderly conduct of Council meetings and harassed Council members and City staff,” in contravention of the council procedural bylaw requiring comments to be “relevant” to the bylaw under consideration at a public hearing. The city furthermore argues the seven residents have violated its Respectful Workplace Policy to ensure an environment free of harassment.

The seven individuals are organizers or supporters of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign, which is seeking a referendum and ultimate cancellation of the city’s police transition, a capital project supported by the Coalition but mired in allegations of secrecy and overspending.

Kaps, Johnstone and Ivan Scott had been among the more regular speakers (callers during pandemic-related online meetings) at council meetings based on observations made by Glacier Media. They will often address council on routine development bylaw changes or amendments but insert comments related to the police transition. They also make comments critical of the mayor’s work. Scott has defended his stance by noting the city is developing more housing while simultaneously blocking new police officers from joining the existing RCMP detachment to service the new residents.

However, the city claims, “the political opposition of the respondents has exceeded the bounds of respectful opposition.”

Specifically, the city claims the group has made “inappropriate and harassing allegations about City staff members and intentionally caused a nuisance and/or obstructed the workings of Council and/or the operation of municipal institutions.”

The city claims the group still has online access to meetings (although not committees) and can still make written submissions.

The city relies on the Community Charter, which it asserts avails no rights to attend meetings. The city cited the 1993 case of Port Coquitlam vs. Osberg. In that case a judge ruled Port Coquitlam resident Sylvia Osberg employed “intolerably disruptive tactics to the point that the orderly conduct of business at times became impossible.”

Glacier Media has reported a number of incidents in council meetings related to the police transition and alleged disruptive behaviour. In December 2019, two council meetings were met with vocal citizen outbursts in the chambers, including from both sides of the debate (McCallum supporters and those aligned with the group). On October 20, 2020, McCallum ejected Ivan Scott from a council meeting and called a recess. 

Representing the city is lawyer Matthew Voell of Lidstone and Company. Ivan Scott told Glacier Media he was unaware of the petition and said he would be reviewing the document today.

Scott and others are subject to alleged targeted action by bylaw officers enforcing a sign bylaw that restricts Keep the RCMP in Surrey petitioning for a referendum. 

McCallum is the subject of a related independent public mischief investigation related to his allegations his foot was run over by a Keep the RCMP in Surrey supporter in September, according to court documents served to Global News (who McCallum made the allegations to).

Other legal proceedings brought about by McCallum include the unsuccessfully litigation against Uber, which eventually forgave taxpayers for legal costs.

gwood@glaciermedia.ca

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