SURREY — A photo of Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, Surrey-Panorama MLA Jinny Sims and Premier John Horgan with a convicted gunman is generating heat for the politicians.
The picture shows the politicians posing with former Radio India managing director Maninder Gill at a private residence. Gill was sentenced to four years in jail for a shooting that took place outside a wedding at a Sikh temple in 2010. Gill is appealing the conviction.
The photo was taken at a private event hosted by Kulwant Dhesi. Dhesi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hepner said she attended the event as a guest and posing with Gill was “a mistake.” She said she didn’t consult with anyone prior to attending and wasn’t made aware of the guest list.
“People just said, ‘Come in, come in, take a picture.’ And I didn’t pay enough attention as I should have given that I know Maninder Gill and it’s not my intention to give a mixed message because I’m very clear about how passionately I feel about gun violence…. It’s heading into silly season, so I do have to be a bit more careful with whom I’m being photographed.”
Politicians from all parties take photos with people all the time, including Maninder Gill pic.twitter.com/frRLRKvdLY
— Sue Stroud (@suestroud) September 8, 2017
Hepner said she looked at the event as an opportunity to speak with Premier Horgan.
“Kulwant Deshi called me and asked me to attend a function with the Premier. I did see it as an opportunity as the mayor to start creating a good kind of relationship when he’s in my city. So off I went.”
If she knew who was in the photo, she wouldn’t have been in it, she stressed.
Hepner said she also said she didn’t pay to attend and no one said it was a fundraiser.
“I didn’t stay for dinner,” she added.
— Laila Yuile (@lailayuile) September 8, 2017
Sims, who is standing right in front of Gill in the photo, has released a statement saying she, too, was unaware of the guest list, or that Maninder Gill would be in attendance.
“Anyone who knows me understands that I abhor violence. I have spent my life fighting against violence of all types,” said Sims in her statement. “Maninder Gill was convicted of a very serious crime that I do not condone in any way. He should not have been there.”
"It seems that Premier John Horgan and minister Jinny Sims will entertain just anybody who can give them big-time money!" – Great line
— Canuck (@jonnycanuck42) September 8, 2017
Surrey Councillors Mike Starchuk and Tom Gill were also at the event.
Tom Gill was also photographed with Maninder Gill, who is the brother of Tom Gill’s mother-in-law.
He was not immediately available for comment.
Tom Gill was sued by Surrey businessman Harjit Atwal over comments Maninder Gill made to the Surrey Leader about the violent 2010 incident that Maninder was convicted in. Atwal was shot in the thigh outside a wedding at Newton’s Guru Nanak temple.
There were rumours in 2015 that the case had just been settled out of court, and at the time, Tom Gill said it would be “premature” to comment.