Outgoing Surrey mayor Doug McCallum’s seven-day trial on a charge of public mischief began Monday morning (Oct. 31) in Surrey provincial court with a plea of not guilty.
Judge Reginald Harris is presiding over the trial in courtroom 101, Surrey provincial court’s largest courtroom.
McCallum’s defence team is Richard Peck, K.C., accompanied by three assistant lawyers.
The former Surrey mayor is charged with one count of public mischief contrary to Section 140(2) of the Criminal Code, stemming from an encounter on Sept. 4, 2021 between himself and a group of volunteers that was gathering petition signatures outside the South Point Save-On-Foods store in South Surrey for a referendum on the policing transition.
Special prosecutor Richard Fowler told the judge that McCallum told police Surrey resident Deborah Johnstone ran over his leg and foot with a Mustang two-door convertible in the parking lot and then drove off in a “very dangerous” manner.
The prosecutor told the court McCallum walked away and later that day told police Johnstone “just about” pinned him to his car and as she pulled away “she actually floored it” and purposefully turned toward him and ran over his foot. “I really on this one want to go after her,” Fowler said McCallum told police.
Fowler said “the question will be” if McCallum intended to mislead police into believing she had done something illegal “by making false statements to the police with the intention to cause Ms. Johnstone to be suspected of having committed an offence.”
The court reviewed CCTV footage from the grocery store’s entrance looking out into the parking lot where Johnstone confronted McCallum, they had an exchange, she drove off and he then walked to the store.
“I said ‘Resign, McCallum” when she first saw him at the scene, Johnstone told the court. She said the roof was down on her car, which she was sitting in. It was parked, she said, and indicated she was roughly 15 feet away from him.
She said McCallum walked in front of her car and over to her passenger side and asked her, “What did you say, madam?” to which she again told him to resign.
“It became unpleasantries between the two of us, back and forth,” Johnstone said. “It was a heated debate. I told him he was the worst mayor that Surrey ever had. I told him he was mean-spirited and a liar.
“I swore at him,” she testified. “I made a reference to him having a scaly face. I called him a scaly-faced motherf—-er.”
She said McCallum was saying things back.
“He told me I was a loud mouth, and something to the effect that I was no good for Surrey,” she said. “He told me I wasn’t allowed to be there.”
Johnstone said the exchange lasted about a minute. McCallum had spit at the side of his mouth, she said.
“He was angry.”
She told the court McCallum threatened to call Bylaws on her and she replied for him to fill his boots, she’d call the RCMP.
“As I drove away I yelled, ‘You’re evil.’”
Johnstone told the court that she drove away slowly because she was in a parking lot. She said her intent was to find parking.
She didn’t hear, feel or see anything unexpected, she said, and doesn’t recall McCallum saying anything to her as she drove off.
Johnstone testified that later that afternoon she received a call from police asking her to come to the station “as there had been an incident.
“I went of my own free will,” she said.
When she got to the station, she said, she spoke with an officer.
“He told me I was being investigated for assault with a weapon and criminal harassment.”
McCallum sat with his lawyers and momentarily twiddled his thumbs while listening to Johnstone’s testimony as roughly two dozen people, six of them reporters, listened from the gallery.
In cross examination Monday, Peck asked Johnstone about her saying, ‘Holy crap, it’s McCallum” and that it was her “lucky day.”
He asked her why it was her “lucky day?”
She replied McCallum would typically put bylaw officers on the volunteers.
“Now he’s going to have to confront all of us on his day off.”
“It’s been a long four years,” she said. “I have tried very hard just to be heard.”
Peck suggested she uses “vile” language “to intimidate and instill fear in people.”
To this Johnstone responded, “I do it to let them know what they’re doing is not appropriate.”
Peck asked her about an incident during which she went to McCallum’s home in Crescent Beach.
“He was not governing the city in a democratic way,” she replied.
She added she thought it a legitimate way to protest and that she was not on his property.
“Just so you know, I voted for Mr. McCallum in 2018,” she said.
“Mr. Peck, there have been many things that have gone wrong.”
She told the court about her hanging out a sign during a provincial election when she saw someone in a black SUV with a gun.
“I also reported the death threat that was sprayed on my garage.”
Peck said she had no rational basis to suggest McCallum was behind these acts.
“I can’t say Mr. McCallum did it,” Johnstone retorted, adding she assumed it was “lousy supporters” of his.
Peck asked Johnstone if it’s her habit to demean people with physical disabilities, referencing her comment about McCallum’s “scaly” face.
“No,” she replied. “Mr. McCallum has been very disrespectful to me.”
The Crown is proceeding summarily in McCallum’s trial.
Criminal cases are prosecuted either by indictment, summarily or a hybrid of the two. Summary offences are the least serious of the three.
A person charged with an indictable offence is required to appear in court whereas someone accused of a summary offence does not, unless a judge says otherwise. A summary offence in B.C. is considered to be in the realm of petty crime and under the Criminal Code of Canada is the least serious type of offence.
After a 13-year break from the mayor’s chair, which he occupied from 1996 to 2005, McCallum was sworn in by a judge on Nov. 5, 2018 for his fourth term as Surrey’s mayor.
Brenda Locke, of Surrey Connect, defeated him for the mayor’s seat in the Oct. 15 election by 973 votes with 33,311 to McCallum’s 32,338. One of her election promises was to make McCallum pay for his own legal costs in this case, rather than Surrey taxpayers having to foot the bill.
Locke said Monday she’s instructed city staff to that end, “and that they are to seek outside legal for an opinion regarding the city’s obligation.”
Monday was a day of raw emotions. A man who had been in the courtroom was wrestled down and detained by sheriffs following a ruckus on an upper floor of the courthouse during the afternoon break.