Surrey council wins ‘dishonorable mention’ in Code of Silence award

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Banning people from Surrey city council meetings earned Mayor Doug McCallum and others the dubious distinction of a dishonorable mention in the annual Code of Silence awards

Surrey won a dishonorable mention in the 2021 Code of Silence award for outstanding achievement in government secrecy in the municipal category.

The ‘Award’ is one of many annual awards from the Canadian Association of Journalists, Ryerson University’s Center for Free Expression, News Media Canada and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. .

The intention of the awards is to draw public attention to government or state-funded bodies “working hard to hide information to which the public is entitled under freedom of access legislation.” information”.

The Feb. 15 announcement specifically mentions Mayor Doug McCallum and Councilors Doug Elford, Laurie Guerra, Allison Patton and Mandeep Nagra.

The announcement says documents submitted to the jury indicate that McCallum banned seven citizens last September from physically attending city council meetings or participating remotely. The group opposed the city’s transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force.

The mayor claimed they repeatedly breached a procedural by-law that requires speakers to keep comments “relevant”.

McCallum named the seven people in a motion at a land use committee meeting at the time.

The motion said:

“Whereas the following individuals attended council meetings and repeatedly disrupted the proper conduct of council meetings and harassed council members and city staff: Annie Kaps, Debbie Johnstone, Colin Pronger, Ivan Scott and Merle Scott, Marilyn Smith, Linda Yependberg. And whereas these appointees and their disorderly conduct have repeatedly violated section 52.1 of the council’s procedure by-law, which requires comments to be relevant to the by-law under consideration in a public hearing and that the city has a responsibility under its Respectful Workplace Policy and other policies and laws to ensure a harassment-free environment for its staff and other participants. Let it be resolved [the seven individuals] be immediately barred from attending meetings of the Surrey Board and Committees until the Board determines otherwise.

The motion was passed by McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition, but was immediately criticized by dissenting councillors.

Com. Steven Pettigrew asked if the city had formed a legal opinion, but McCallum declined to let staff answer the question.

Pettigrew said he believed the ban was unconstitutional.

Com. Linda Annis said: “I don’t think we should ban anyone from City Hall without them doing something illegal. Are we going to start banishing everyone who disagrees with us?

The city council agreed in late December to repeal the bylaw it had created to prevent citizens from participating. He, however, refrained from apologizing to the individuals or reimbursing them for their legal fees.

A request from Glacier Media to the city for comment has been forwarded to McCallum. He did not answer.

Other Code of Silence Awards

Earlier this month, journalists’ groups presented the NDP government of British Columbia with its annual Code of Silence award for its amendments to the provincial freedom of information and protection of life law. private (FIPPA).

Premier John Horgan, Citizen Services Minister Lisa Beare and the provincial government have been selected as the 2021 recipients of the Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy Award in the Provincial category.

The government of British Columbia received this honor following the passage of amendments to FIPPA in Bill 22 last year.

Stratford, Ont. The City Council has been selected as the 2021 recipient of the Code of Silence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy in the Municipal category.

The price announcement said for more than two years the board circumvented basic transparency measures by holding secret closed-door meetings and failing to properly report discussions and planning undertaken with Xinyi Canada Glass, the subsidiary. company from Hong Kong-based Xinyi Glass Holdings to build a $400 million glass factory in the community.

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