Surrey pays legal fees for Councillor Tom Gill's defamation lawsuit

The fact that taxpayer dollars are being used to cover Coun. Tom Gill's legal fees is raising eyebrows, with one municipal lawyer saying it's an unusual move by the city.

Defamation suit over comments Gill made regarding a shooting his relative was involved in

The fact that taxpayer dollars are being used to cover Coun. Tom Gill's legal fees is raising eyebrows, with one municipal lawyer saying it's an unusual move by the city. (City of Surrey)

The City of Surrey is paying for Coun. Tom Gill's legal fees in a defamation lawsuit over comments he made about a shooting that involves his relative.

But the fact that taxpayer dollars are being used to cover his legal fees on an issue involving his family is raising eyebrows, with one municipal lawyer saying it's an unusual move. 

Gill is being sued by Harjit Atwal, a man who was shot in the leg outside a Surrey Sikh temple wedding in 2010.

Atwal's lawsuit says the councillor defamed him in a Surrey Leader article when he allegedly implied Atwal had threatened Gill's relative, Maninder Gill — a well-known broadcaster in Metro Vancouver's South Asian community.

Coun. Tom Gill's relative, Maninder Gill, was allegedly involved in a shooting at a Sikh wedding in 2010.

Maninder Gill, who is the owner of Radio India, is also the uncle of Tom Gill's wife. 

The City of Surrey's solicitor Craig MacFarlane says Tom Gill's legal fees are being paid because of a bylaw that says the city will cover the legal costs of councillors arising out of their duties. 

"There are no guidelines outside the bylaw and the decision is based on legal advice, which is privileged," MacFarlane said in response to explain the city was paying for Tom Gill's legal fees. 

But there are questions over whether Gill's libel case has anything to do with his duties as a councillor. 

"Why would the city get involved in that?" said municipal lawyer Jonathan Baker.

"Since it doesn't sound like it has anything to do with the performance of his duties, I don't know why the city would indemnify him."

Tom Gill said he's not commenting on the defamation case since it's before the courts. 

The case against his relative, Maninder Gill, for firearms-related offences started last year and will continue in April. 

With files from Meera Bains