Surrey City Councillor and former Mountie Jack Hundial argues that it’s not only Mayor Doug McCallum’s duty to vet the messaging that comes out of the Safe Surrey Coalition’s social media accounts, but all five Surrey council members connected to that civic slate also share that responsibility.
Hundial’s comments come on the heels of social media posts, since deleted, that accused the RCMP of murder. The post included a link to a news story about the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. recommending charges against five officers in the death of a Prince George man in 2017.
Asked if the RCMP is considering civil court action against the SSC, Staff Sergeant Janelle Shoihet, of RCMP “E” Division communications, replied to the Now-Leader by email that “the post was ill-informed and we are mindful the matter it referenced was and is, subject to independent investigation and assessment. We appreciate that the post has since been deleted and we are dealing directly with the Safe Surrey Coalition on the issue.”
Meantime, Hundial said Monday he’s “yet to hear someone come out and apologize.
“Secondly, what corrective actions have been taken to not have it happen again?”
McCallum told the Now-Leader on Saturday that an “unauthorized person” was to blame for his slate’s posting and subsequent deleting of social media posts that accused RCMP officers of murdering a man and covering it up by destroying evidence. The tweet and Facebook post were posted Friday (May 29) on the SSC social media accounts.
The posts stated, “Poorly trained RCMP murder a defenceless man and then delete video evidence to cover up their crime.”
“It’s not just the mayor, it’s all the members of the Safe Surrey Coalition, that need to step up,” Hundial said. “They have a duty, before it goes out – it’s not just the mayor’s responsibility, it’s every person. When you’re promoting it, when you’re on social media sharing and liking it, you have an obligation to ensure the information going out is correct and accurate, and really, these are the same police officers that are out there in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic risking their lives to keep all of us safe and when you start undercutting, or undermining, those emergency workers all around, it doesn’t bode well for anyone.”
McCallum told the Now-Leader that he doesn’t agree with the post and “can say that it won’t ever happen again. It was sent out by an unauthorized person.
“They recognized immediately that it was a mistake and they took it off within 15 minutes,” he said.
“We’ve corrected that and it won’t happen again. I have, and certainly Safe Surrey Coalition, have tremendous respect for the RCMP.”
Curious to know if Surrey’s mayor and council majority back the sensationalist, inflammatory and potentially libelous language of this tweet, or just the party handlers, for political gain they desire? #SurreyBC
For the record here is the tweeted story: https://t.co/KoJzbj26sW pic.twitter.com/EqQDLvkuMC
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) May 30, 2020
Asked if he thinks it’s incumbent upon McCallum to reveal the identity of the “unauthorized person,” Hundial, who split with the SSC to form a new slate called Surrey Connect with fellow councillor Brenda Locke, said not necessarily.
“Well, no, I don’t think it’s incumbent upon the mayor to reveal who it is, but certainly to ensure that the messaging coming out follows really the guidelines of not only the Code of Conduct but also what’s acceptable for elected officials,” Hundial said. “You know, Delta had a homicide where the IIO was investigating Delta Police. You didn’t see the mayor come out and call Delta Police officers murderers, right? It does not fit the standard of what other communities put up with.”
The Now-Leader reached out for comment Monday to the four Safe Surrey Coalition councillors.
“I asked them to take it down,” Councillor Doug Elford said. “We’re going to an SPD and we’re going to need these people, these good people to join us.
“Twitter is a sewer,” he remarked.
“We’re working towards not having that happen again.”
As for the mayor, Elford said, “basically he vets everything and so from now on we’re going to try and ensure that some tweets like that don’t happen again. I’m not in any position to offend the police officers, I respect them and I appreciate the work that they do and that’s my position.”
Councillor Laurie Guerra said she learned of the post after it had already been taken down.
“I am not on Twitter and by the time I was informed of the content of the tweet it had been removed,” she told the Now-Leader. “I thought it unacceptable. I also requested that the full post on all social media platforms be taken down.”
Councillor Allison replied by email. “I do not support the comments regarding the RCMP in Prince George,” she wrote.
Last month Surrey council gave final approval to a new Council Code of Conduct, with the SSC tilting the scale on a five-to-four vote. There is a section of this code that deals with council members’ use of social media.
Asked if this code extends from council members to their political slate, and activities on their slate’s social media accounts, Hundial replied, “Well, the members make up it. I mean McCallum is the leader of that slate. It’s no different than Surrey Connect, which is Brenda (Locke) and my slate. We’re members of that, so we’re responsible for what we put out and how we react to it, right?”
Does he think the code has been breached?
“That would have to be part of a complaint made I guess to the ethics commissioner. If there is a complaint, that is the logical place it should go. I think probably some time in the next month there should be an announcement for a fulltime position.”
Linda Annis, of the Surrey First slate, noted that “in any organization, the buck stops at the top.
“Ultimately the person that’s in charge of Safe Surrey Coalition is Doug McCallum, so the buck stops with him” she said. “He should be aware of what’s going out on his social media. If he didn’t know, he should have known.”
Does she think the Council Code of Conduct has been breached?
“In social media, we’re supposed to put on anything that we’re saying, that they’re our own opinion, and in my opinion I don’t think – and I would have to check – that the Safe Surrey Coalition says that,” she says. “It’s very strange and I think it’s very, very unfortunate and I’m embarrassed that that kind of messaging would be out there.
“There’s just no place in our world for those kinds of comments, and particularly when there’s been no charges laid. It’s false accusation.”
Annis remarked that “it’s all part of the agenda to convince people that we need to transition to the Surrey Police Department, and we know there’s more than 43,000 signatures now saying they want to keep the RCMP out here and if I have my facts correct, I believe there’s about 1,500 signs out there saying that they want to keep the RCMP.
“So clearly in Surrey people want to keep the RCMP, and I think that’s part of the strategy from Safe Surrey Coalition was to dig up stuff that isn’t necessarily valid about the RCMP,” Annis said. “When you look at their Facebook and their Twitter stuff, it’s all anti-RCMP and that’s not what a party should be based on. I think it’s just bad taste.”
– with files by Lauren Collins