Six of the seven Surrey residents banned from council chambers, who are also “prominent” members of a group called Keep the RCMP in Surrey, filed a petition in the BC Supreme Court on Tuesday (Dec. 14), seeking to overturn the ban.
The petitioners are being represented by Kevin Smith and Catherine George of Farris LLP, notes a release from Keep the RCMP in Surrey. It adds no date has been set for the hearing of the petition.
It was on Sept. 13, during a council meeting, that the Safe Surrey Coalition majority passed a motion to “protect the democratic process,” by banning some speakers from attending public hearings, toward “ensuring a safe and respectful environment” for council and staff.
Then on Oct. 18, Lidstone & Company filed a petition on behalf of the City of Surrey at the B.C. Supreme Court registry in Vancouver, asking the court to prohibit seven Surrey residents “from physically attending City of Surrey Council and Committee meetings in person, until Council determines otherwise…”
The respondents named in the petition are Annie Kaps, Debbie (Debi) Johnstone, Colin Pronger, Ivan Scott, Merle (Meryl) Scott, Marilyn Smith and Linda Ypenburg. They had 21 days to respond.
“The respondents are regularly opposed to the policy decisions of the City’s Mayor and Council and have regularly made this opposition known through written correspondence and submissions to Council and City staff, as well as attending and appearing at Council meetings,” the petition states, and alleges that “on numerous occasions, the political opposition of the respondents has exceeded the bounds of respectful opposition.”
Meantime, the Dec. 14 release from KTRIS adds the petitioners are asking the court to also “strike down amendments to Surrey’s sign bylaw which purport to restrict ‘political’ signs relating to federal, provincial, or municipal “issues” as being in breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Leader and founder Ivan Scott said the ban, and the amendment to the sign bylaw, don’t “serve a proper legislative purpose.”
“They are intended to punish us for expressing opposition to the mayor’s agenda. We see them as vindictive, undemocratic, and we’re asking the court to strike them down.”
Kaps said the petition is about standing up for freedom of speech.
“If a council majority can vote to ban citizens who disagree with them, and then prevent them from advertising in support of their causes even on their own private property, it should be of major concerning for everyone.”
In an emailed statement from Amber Stowe, communications and media relations lead for the city, said “since the matter is before the courts, the city will not be commenting.”
– With files from Tom Zytaruk