Surrey City Hall Council Chambers (Now-Leader file photo)

Businessman sues over tweets regarding his connection to Surrey mayor, policing plan

Bob Cheema claims Brian Young damaged his reputation with series of tweets alleging backroom dealings

A Vancouver-based businessman who played a key role in Mayor Doug McCallum’s successful election campaign is suing former Surrey city council candidate Brian Young for defamation.

In a Notice of Civil Claim, Bob Cheema alleges Young “falsely and maliciously” published statements about him on Twitter, using the handle @YoungOneSurrey.

Young is a former president of the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce who ran for city council in 2014 under Barinder Rasode’s One Surrey slate. Young claims he worked on McCallum’s election campaign in 2018 and insists the information in his tweets are factual, therefore not defamatory.

Several tweets are mentioned in Cheema’s suit, including six sent by Young from this past May and one from April.

“Doug and Bob hide their hand picked police Chief who just happens to be a deputy chief at #vpd,” one tweet alleges. Several refer to Cheema as “#backroombob.”

“The Tweets are false and defamatory,” Cheema’s suit states.

The civil claim states Young’s tweets implied Cheema was “unethical, dishonest and of disreputable character” and “encourages, facilitates and supports the abuse of power by elected representatives of the City of Surrey.”

Further, the suit claims Young’s tweets insinuate Cheema “manipulates, intimidates and bullies the media and member of the City of Surrey’s elected councillors,” is “orchestrating a secretive and improper scheme in relation to the City of Surrey’s proposed municipal force” and has been “involved in decision-making for the City of Surrey’s proposed municipal force.”

It also asserts Young has implied Cheema “supports the mayor of the City of Surrey in order to further his own financial interests.”

Cheema’s suit argues that by publishing the tweets, the plaintiff has “been seriously injured in his character, credit, and reputation and has been exposed to public scandal and contempt, all of which have caused him personal embarrassment, distress and humiliation.”

Cheema is seeking an injunction to stop Young from posting further comments, as well as general, punitive and aggravated damages.

The claim was filed on June 3 and Young’s response was submitted on June 24.

In his response, Young quotes McCallum’s Oct. 20 election night speech, in which the mayor thanks Bob Cheema and states he has worked with Cheema for up to 45 years.

“He worked behind the scenes, all of those years and not only that during this campaign I do not think he slept at all for three months,” McCallum said in his acceptance speech last October, “and he always always gave support and he is a person that I don’t agree with a lot of the times and I have told him that. But still he respects that and truly he is a friend of mine and he’s the reason I’m sitting here today. I want everybody to thank very much Bob Cheema.”

In his reponse to the suit, Young argues the statements constituted a comment on a matter of public interest and were based on fact.

He claims that “on or about August 2018” Cheema told him he had already picked the chief of police.

“The Defendant made the tweet on an occasion of qualified privilege,” Young’s response states. “The Defendant has a legal, moral and social right, duty and interest as being involved in the Mayor’s campaign and possessing information relating to the Surrey Police transition.”

Young denies the tweets caused actual loss, damage or expense to Cheema.

Young states in his response that he first met Cheema in 2018, when helping McCallum on his campaign.

Young claims Cheema made the following comment to him: “You will never see me in photos or videos with Doug. I’m only in the back room,” hence the use of “#backroombob” in Young’s tweets, the suit alleges.

Further, Young alleges Cheema said he spent over $300,000 on McCallum’s campaign and, that he said “I control the South Asian media by paying host to report my stories.”

Young alleges Cheema also said he “paid cleaning staff at Surrey city hall and they retrieved items from councillors garbage.”

On Aug. 9, Young submitted a Notice of Application seeking Cheema’s civil claim be struck, arguing Cheema did not provide a list of documents and particulars pursuant to Young’s request. Young alleges Cheema has “not complied with the Supreme Court Civil Rules by providing a List of Documents within 35 days after the end of the pleading period.”

None of the allegations have been proven in court.



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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