In a surprise move by council, Safe Surrey Coalition agreed Dec. 20 to rescind a bylaw it created in September that banned seven residents from attending council meetings.
However, Mayor Doug McCallum’s slate stopped short of apologizing to the individuals and council will not, at this stage, reimburse them for their legal fees.
During the Sept. 13 council meeting, the Safe Surrey Coalition majority passed a motion to “protect the democratic process,” by banning seven speakers from attending public hearings.
The individuals banned are members of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign, which is in strong opposition of the city starting its own Surrey Police Service.
During the council meeting, Coun. Jack Hundial pressed the city’s legal department to name the individuals who are no longer banned.
They include Annie Kaps, Debbie Johnstone, Colin Pronger, Ivan Scott, Merle Scott, Marilyn Smith and Linda Ypenburg.
On Dec. 14, the group filed a petition in BC Supreme Court seeking to overturn the ban.
“I was surprised by this because there it was, it was in the Supreme Court, and all of a sudden they come up with this,” Ivan Scott said Tuesday morning. “All of the councillors were completely caught off guard as well. Nobody knew this was coming.”
During Monday’s council meeting, Couns. Mandeep Nagra, Hundial, Brenda Locke, Steven Pettigrew and Laurie Guerra spoke in support of McCallum’s motion.
Guerra and Nagra said they hope the formerly banned individuals will keep their comments respectful.
“I will definitely support this but similar to what my colleague Councillor Nagra said, I really hope this is an opportunity to have, I would say, more of a respectful discourse. And people have a right to their opinion as long as it’s maintained respectfully on both sides,” Guerra said.
In addition to rescinding the ban, the motion includes a clause that the individuals can speak during meetings with the expectation that they refrain from “harassing” council members and staff, and that they keep all comments relevant to the bylaw that’s being discussed.
During discussion, Pettigrew and Locke suggested that an apology to the individuals is warranted.
“I think that an apology to the seven people in question is appropriate. They were maligned in the media, people know who they are, and I think that it would be appropriate that some apology is extended to them,” Locke said to council.
McCallum did not agree to adding an an apology to his motion.
“I think at this stage, it doesn’t include (an apology),” McCallum said to council. “I think we need to stay with what’s in the courts. I’m going to leave it with the motion that’s on the table right now.”
Scott, however, said the group “requires” an apology.
“Because we don’t quite understand why it was allowed… in the first place,” Scott said. “We’ve been maligned by this whole thing. At least an apology should come from the mayor, which he refused to do last night,” Scott said.
Scott said the legal challenge his group brought against the city was “robust” and cost thousands of dollars.
“We stood up to (McCallum) and he backed down,” Scott said. “They’ve spent thousands of dollars against us and we’ve spent thousands of dollars fighting this thing. If it was illegal in the beginning, or he agrees that it shouldn’t have been done, then he should be paying our legal fees.”