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Surrey council refuses to apologize to 7 residents who were barred from meetings

‘We sure as hell weren’t vindicated,’ said Annie Kaps, one of the residents
Surrey city hall. (File photo: Anna Burns)

Seven Surrey residents who were barred from council chambers by the Safe Surrey Coalition majority last year – a move council later rescinded – will get no apology for “any hurt that they may have experienced as a result of council’s actions.”

Coun. Brenda Locke, the mayoral candidate for Surrey Connect, unsuccessfully presented a motion to that end during Monday afternoon’s special council meeting.

“It’s my intent for council to offer a formal apology for the pain and suffering arising from council’s motion,” she said.

The council majority last year prohibited Keep the RCMP in Surrey members Ivan Scott, Merle Scott, Annie Kaps, Deb Johnstone, Colin Pronger, Linda Ypenburg and Marilyn Smith from attending and participating in council meetings.

“I do believe that the actions by some on this council were actually reprehensible and that subsequently they did change their minds, I’m grateful for that, so with that I think it is only proper from this point that council offer a genuine, formal apology for these actions.”

Locke’s motion failed with Mayor Doug McCallum and Councillors Allison Patton, Laurie Guerra, Doug Elford and Mandeep Nagra voting against it and Steven Pettigrew, Jack Hundial, Linda Annis and Locke voting in favour of it.

Annie Kaps, one of the seven residents, said she’s taken aback.

“We sure as hell weren’t vindicated,” she told the Now-Leader. “I’m taken aback because they retracted that charge against the seven of us and then they don’t do an apology.”

The Safe Surrey Coalition majority, during a land use meeting on Sept. 13, 2021, passed a motion it said was designed to “protect the democratic process” by banning the seven from attending public hearings in council chambers and to ensure “a safe and respectful environment” for council and staff.

A press release issued by the City of Surrey claimed the seven senior citizens “repeatedly disrupted and verbally harassed” council and city staff during public hearings but would be “provided the opportunity” to submit questions and comments by writing.”

A petition to the court was filed by Lidstone & Company on behalf of the City of Surrey on Oct. 18, 2021 at the B.C. Supreme Court registry in Vancouver, asking the court to prohibit the seven “from physically attending City of Surrey Council and Committee meetings in person, until Council determines otherwise…”

The banned residents responded by filing a petition in B.C. Supreme Court on Dec. 14, 2021 to have the ban overturned. Six days later, on Dec. 20, council rescinded the ban but offered no apology.

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Councillors Laurie Guerra and Allison Patton spoke at length to Locke’s motion before voting against it.

“I’ve tried not to be too vocal as to the shenanigans that have been played out by this group of people, the seven mentioned and I won’t say their names again,” Guerra said. “And even when I shared that two in this group had showed up at my home, Councillor Locke was the first one to pooh-pooh that away and say well that’s just the price that elected people have to pay. To me that’s crazy, this is not the Surrey that I know nor do I want that to be the Surrey going forward that I know.

“In council chambers we’ve been flipped the bird, I’ve been told to go ‘F’ myself,” Guerra claimed. “I’ve had people from this group, and only from this group, try to intimidate and harass me throughout the city and why? All because I voted for the Surrey Police Service.”

READ ALSO: Surrey asking court to block seven residents from council meetings ‘outrageous overkill,’ former mayor says

READ ALSO: Surrey council rescinds ban on 7 residents from public hearings, but won’t apologize

Patton said she stands up “against bullies.”

“I’m a little bit concerned about what I can only guess is the lack of empathy of my colleague Councillor Locke who’s also been through her own challenges with not necessarily this group but perhaps other groups in proposing this notice of motion,” Patton said. “Again, Councillor Locke, I’m just shocked that you would suggest that I would do anything else but stand up against this.

“I would never, ever suggest that you apologize to your harassers or those who’ve terrorized you so I won’t be able to support this motion today, and thank you,” Patton said.

Meantime, council on Monday also gave final approval to amendments to its political signage bylaw with McCallum, Patton, Elford, Nagra and Guerra voting in favour and Hundial, Annis, Pettigrew and Locke voting against.

“I think that the bylaw was rushed,” Locke told council. “I think it actually is more ambiguous than it was before.”

In July, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Nigel Kent ordered the city to rewrite its contentious political signage bylaw after members of the aforementioned group of seven Surrey residents challenged its constitutionality. Kent concluded the 2021 amendments gave rise to “an ambiguity in the bylaw that arguably prohibits the posting of political signage on private property except during limited specified periods of time, and that such a restriction would infringe s. 2(b) of the Charter which guarantees the petitioners’ constitutional protection for freedom of, among other things, their political expression.”

READ ALSO: Judge orders Surrey to rewrite its sign bylaw following constitutional challenge

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Kent also noted in his reasons for judgment that “these particular petitioners have been directly targeted by certain members of Surrey city council for special treatment; they were the subject matter of a (quickly and appropriately rescinded) bylaw prohibiting their attendance at council meetings and an injunction lawsuit seeking to enforce that bylaw. Their organization (KTRIS) has even been accused, wrongly it appears, of inflicting physical injury on the mayor.”

On Monday (Aug. 8), the Keep the RCMP in Surrey issued a press release announcing it is endorsing Locke and her Surrey Connect slate in their bid to be elected to council on Oct. 15, the date of Surrey’s civic election.

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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