B.C. Premier John Horgan, Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner pose in photo with convicted shooter
Politicians deny being aware of convicted gunman Maninder Gill's attendance at private residence
A picture taken of the premier and other political leaders with a convicted gunman raised questions and eyebrows on Friday, just as the NDP's first throne speech was getting underway.
The photograph was taken at the newly built residence of Kulwant Enterprises CEO Kulwant Dhesi, a long-time NDP supporter. who said he had invited the politicians to his new home for a private function.
It shows B.C. Premier John Horgan and Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner at the centre, with Surrey MLA Jinny Sims posing near Maninder Gill.
The former Radio India manager, a major and influential fixture in the community before the shooting, is out on bail awaiting the appeal of his conviction.
'I was not aware'
Political leaders are denying any knowledge of Gill's presence at the event, which the NDP said was not a fundraiser or ticketed.
"I was not privy to the invite list," said Horgan.
Horgan said he wasn't aware of Gill's charges until the photo made headlines.
"I abhor what he has done and he has been convicted and he will pay the price for that. I was not about inviting anyone. I was one of the invitees," he said.
"I'm certainly not in a position to tell people who they can and cannot invite in their home. But I'm certainly going to be more careful in the future," he said.
Surrey MLA Jinny Sims gave a similar response.
"I was not aware of the full guest list or that Maninder Gill would be in attendance," Sims, a Surrey MLA and the minister of citizens' cervices, said in a statement.
"Anyone who knows me understands that I abhor violence. I have spent my life fighting against violence of all types. Maninder Gill was convicted of a very serious crime that I do not condone in any way. He should not have been there."
Sims was not available for an interview and her office did not take further questions.
Atwal, the victim of the shooting, said he was disappointed to see the photograph and is calling for Sims to step down.
"She should resign. This is not the first time. This is the second time she has done this," said Atwal.
In 2013, Sims an NDP MP at the time, awarded Gill the Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal for community service, while he was facing trial on firearms charges related to the same shooting.
Hepner said lots of photos were taken at the event to which she was invited as a guest.
"I only went to chat with the premier and I left before dinner," said Hepner.
Hepner's office called the photo a mistake and said her stance, condemning gun and gang violence, which have plagued Surrey in recent years, has not changed.