Surrey Council Chambers. (File photo)

Surrey Council Chambers. (File photo)

Surrey council removes ‘age discrimination’ clause after Code of Conduct bylaw complaint

Annie Kaps, 82, had complained to federal minister for seniors

Surrey council decided Monday to rescind a controversial aspect of its new Council Code of Conduct bylaw after a Surrey woman lodged a complaint with Deb Schulte, federal minister of seniors, and other provincial and federal politicians, claiming it discriminated against people over the age of 75.

“I am a senior of years beyond the age defined in this bylaw,” said Annie Kaps, 82, a retired bookkeeper from Cedar Hills. She maintained the bylaw “leaves me and all City of Surrey Citizens beyond age 75 open to age discrimination, contravening our protection under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Council voted to remove the age clause on Monday night (April 20).

The bylaw, initially approved by council on April 6, establishes a code of ethical conduct for members of council, and how it is to be administered by a yet-to-be announced ethics commissioner.

The bylaw’s “bully and harass” definition includes “any conduct” contrary to the City’s Respectful Workplace Policy and “any unwelcome or objectionable conduct or comment that would be considered discriminatory under the Human Rights Code if the conduct or comment was in respect of the following prohibited grounds,” which covers such things as race, physical and mental disability, religion, sex, political belief, marital status, conviction for an offence, colour, ancestry, sexual orientation, family status, and, until Monday, also included “age (19 to 75 years).”

Kaps noted that the B.C.’s Human Rights Code says “age” under its auspices “means an age of 19 years or more.”

Interestingly, Mayor Doug McCallum reportedly turned 76 on Sunday.

READ ALSO: Surrey senior slams new Council Code of Conduct bylaw for ‘age discrimination’

Councillor Steven Pettigrew asked council on April 6 for a “friendly amendment” to have the age range struck, but McCallum would not permit it.

“This bylaw looks good on paper and I agree with the principals contained within it. But I do have very strong concerns about the abuse of this bylaw by a majority government. Only time will tell if this bylaw will be applied in a non-partisan and unbiased way,” Pettigrew told council. “I don’t want to potentially penalize people that are over 75 years old, or people that are under 19 years old, to have any sort of discrimination.”

homelessphoto

McCallum deferred it to the city lawyer.

“I’ll go to our lawyer on that, so the public recognizes we’ve had at least four sessions of council to make any changes council wanted to make on this and I think bringing it up at the last minute is probably not a friendly amendment because you had lots of opportunity to bring it up in the four or five sessions we had before,” the mayor told Pettigrew.

Pettigrew protested.

“I did mention this during the four or five times you mentioned in the past, I want to bring it forth again because I believe that strongly about it. This was not the first time I brought it up,” he said.

City lawyer Philip Huynh told council the age range of 19 to 75 is consistent with other human rights codes and case law in British Columbia.

“Nineteen is the age of majority, so those under 19 are by law often treated differently. Similarly, 75 was used as a cut-off because codes across Canada have used 75 as a cutoff and that’s also recognized as a cutoff under the case law in the province,” he said.

Councillor Linda Annis told the Now-Leader she “totally” agrees with Pettigrew “because that’s, to me, age discrimination, not allowing people over the age of 75 to be able to participate as the ethics commissioner or on the board.”

As for the mayor, she said, because of his age, under the bylaw, “he couldn’t participate, theoretically – he would be discriminated against, and that’s not right. We shouldn’t be discriminating against anyone based on race, age, ethnicity, none of that. That’s not what good Canadians do.

“I’m not sure why that was in there, that sure shouldn’t have been.”

Councillor Jack Hundial said April 6 he is “extremely supportive” of Surrey’s new Council Code of Conduct.

“The fact that we’re probably one of the first few cities to update our code of conduct I think speaks volumes in the direction we’re going and certainly with the in-coming ethics commissioner I think it adds a great addition, really, to allow for more transparency and better governance in the City of Surrey,” Hundial said.

This past Monday, Councillor Laurie Guerra noted that the B.C. Human Rights Code supersedes Surrey’s Council Code of Conduct “so there’s no way anybody would be discriminated against because of their age.”

Still, she said, “I think it’s vital we get this right from the get-go, if nothing more than to avoid confusion,” and argued for the age element to be eliminated.

McCallum replied, “If you’re all saying the same thing, then I’ll made a suggestion how we can get it changed.”

City lawyer Philip Huynh commented that removal of the age “parenthetical” would bring the city’s code in line with the human rights laws.

Hundial questioned Monday why there hasn’t been a public hearing on the bylaw and after “reflecting” now harbours concerns and is no longer comfortable with voting on it for approval as is.

“Councillor Pettigrew raised a really good point last time that perhaps there should be more than just a majority of council when it come to assessing every level to the next level of sanction.”

Council gave the bylaw third reading approval, with the age change, but it has yet to win final approval.

McCallum said that “if certain council members feel that we need to make changes in the future we can certainly bring motions to amend those particular ones to satisfy what council wants.”

Pettigrew said he’s “glad that council is considering this much more seriously this time. We need to look after our seniors and our young people for all the reasons that were stated.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

City of Surrey

Just Posted

Rahim Manji owns and operates the Hollywood 3 Cinemas in Newton, along with the Caprice in South Surrey, a theatre in Duncan and another in Pitt Meadows. “I think right now it feels different than last June, it just does,” Manji said. “I’m a lot more optimistic, with more people calling, more people out and getting vaccinated, so I think the comfort level is a lot better.” (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey movie theatre operators reopen and rejoice, even with 50-max capacity

‘We have been one of the hardest-hit industries’

(Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police searching for Surrey woman missing at Centennial Beach

Wenyan Lan, 54, reported missing when she didn’t come home from a crabbing/clam digging trip June 14

Outdoor vendors at the Cloverdale Flea Market are seen in this bird’s eye view image from the flea market’s Facebook page.
Cloverdale Flea Market to reopen

Market to open June 20 after being closed since Nov. 2020

Ian MacDonald, spokesman for Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey Police Service launches public consultation campaign

This is to help the SPS form its first strategic plan

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
UPDATE: Surrey RCMP say missing 13-year-old has been found and is safe

Steven Vail was last seen at 8 a.m. after arriving at Frank Hurt Secondary but did not show up for his 8:30 a.m. class.

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers found that 56% of foundations and eye products contain high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus students Ethan Reid, from left, Brenden Higgins, Ty Oviatt, Kaleb Alphonse, Nathan Kendrick and Landon Brink with RCMP officers Const. Nicoll and Const. Stancec. (Photo submitted)
RCMP thank 6 teens for helping prevent forest fire in Williams Lake

The students came across fire in a wooded area and used the water they had to try and extinguish the flames

Most Read