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Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum charged with public mischief

Calls for mayor's resignation follow announcement of criminal charge; provincial laws for elected official recall are limited
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum is facing a charge of public mischief after a police investigation into his claims his foot was run over by a car driven by a local resident opposing the police transition.

On Friday special prosecutor Richard Fowler QC approved the charge, which is considered serious in criminal case law.

McCallum told media on Sept. 5 he was “run over” by a car and “verbally assaulted” while grocery shopping on Sept. 4, adding he called police at the time.

However, McCallum also had an apparent interaction with political opponents with the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign at a Save-On-Foods in South Surrey, which appears to be linked to McCallum’s claims. 

Based on social media posts from campaign members, such as coordinator Ivan Scott, McCallum confronted the group, which had been collecting signatures for a petition to call a referendum on the municipal police transition, from Surrey RCMP to Surrey Police Service. 

A public mischief charge could indicate McCallum lied about the incident or parts of the incident.

McCallum is presumed innocent until or unless the allegations are proven in court. He is due in Surrey Provincial Court on Jan. 25. If McCallum is convicted he faces up to five years in prison. He issued a statement to media Friday afternoon saying he would not be commenting on the case.

On Sept. 20, 2021 the BC Prosecution Service announced that Fowler had been appointed special prosecutor to provide legal assistance and advice to the RCMP during the investigation of the complaint.

McCallum is leading the police transition from the Mounties to the municipal service. He is chair of the incoming Surrey Police Board.

"The appointment of a special prosecutor is intended to avoid any potential for real or perceived improper influence in the administration of justice. The BC RCMP Major Crime Section – Special Projects Unit took conduct of the Surrey RCMP investigation to ensure there was no potential for real or perceived conflict of interest or improper influence."

Surrey Coun. Brenda Locke, who is running for mayor, has called for McCallum’s resignation.

“This is a sad day for Surrey. He must resign. He’s lost the moral authority to govern our city and chair the police board. This is appalling.”

Cities are governed under the province's Local Government Act and BC Community Charter, neither of which contain language to recall a council member facing a criminal charge, or even enforce a leave of absence.

Rather, disqualification can only be met if the council member is in a conflict of interest, fails to make an oath of office, has unexcused absences from council meetings or makes unauthorized expenditures. In those circumstances 10 electors or the municipality (with council support) must apply to B.C. Supreme Court.

And even if a council member is convicted of a crime, no provincial legislation is in place to recall them.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities has asked at least twice in six years to table recall legislation but the provincial government has chosen not to act.

Likewise, there appears to be no recourse for the Surrey Police Board, which stated Friday, it "is aware of the legal situation involving the Chair of the Board."

"While the Board is bound by the Police Act on this matter, it is important to stress the Board’s independence from the Chair of the Board. All Board Directors, excluding one municipal appointment and the Mayor as Chair, are appointed by the Provincial government. The Surrey Police Service will continue to move forward, completing all requirements to become Police of Jurisdiction under the oversight of the independent civilian Surrey Police Board."

According to the website of Toronto-based criminal lawyer Mark Zinck, public mischief, even in the most minor of circumstances, is considered a serious criminal offence.

"The Crown Attorney’s Office will almost always prosecute this crime heavily. Jail and a criminal record is often sought for first time offenders charged with public mischief even if they have never been arrested before in their life."

Coun. Jack Hundial, Locke's council colleague on Surrey Connect, said he was unsurprised by the charge following media interviews McCallum provided after the alleged incident. 

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