British Columbia

Surrey mayor charged with public mischief over parking lot skirmish claim

A special prosecutor has approved a single charge in relation to a claim made by Mayor Doug McCallum that his foot was run over outside a grocery store.

Doug McCallum told police in September that his foot had been run over by a car outside a city grocery store

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum pictured in May 2019. On Sept. 4, McCallum went public with the claim that he was verbally assaulted and run over by a vehicle. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has been charged with one count of public mischief related to a police complaint he made in September, claiming that his foot had been run over in a grocery store parking lot in the south of the city.

In a release, the B.C. Prosecution Service (BCPS) said special prosecutor Richard Fowler had approved the charge.

McCallum went public with the claim on Sept. 4, saying he was verbally assaulted and run over by a vehicle.

At the time of the alleged incident, McCallum was in the vicinity of members of Keep the RCMP in Surrey, a group collecting signatures for a policing referendum campaign at the South Point Save-on-Foods on 152nd Street. 

Tensions have been high between McCallum and those opposing his plan to replace the Surrey RCMP with an independent force called the Surrey Police Service.

The BCPS said the B.C. RCMP Major Crime Section took control of the investigation from the Surrey RCMP "to ensure there was no potential for real or perceived conflict of interest or improper influence."

It said the special prosecutor was brought in "to avoid any potential for real or perceived improper influence in the administration of justice."

In response to the charge, McCallum released a one-line statement: "We are in the middle of changing from RCMP to the Surrey Police Service and as this matter is before the courts, I will not be making any comment."

Protesters opposed to transitioning to a municipal police force in Surrey are pictured outside city hall in September 2020. (Keep the RCMP in Surrey/Facebook)

Public mischief involves falsely reporting crimes to a police officer, according to the Criminal Code of Canada.

McCallum has a first appearance scheduled in Surrey Provincial Court on Jan. 25, 2022.

Surrey city councillor Brenda Locke said McCallum must resign as mayor and as chair of the Surrey police board immediately.

"This report is a damning indictment of behaviour that is completely unacceptable for a mayor or any elected official," she said. "Residents deserve better and to have confidence that their mayor is acting with honesty and integrity." 

The executive director of the Surrey Police board said the charge does not affect McCallum's role as chair of the Surrey Police board.

"Per the B.C. Police Act, the chair of the board must be the mayor of the municipality and has a non-voting
role on the Board, except in the case of a tie," said Melissa Granum.

The Surrey Police Service will continue to move forward, completing all requirements to become police
of jurisdiction under the oversight of the independent civilian Surrey Police Board."

Hamish Telford, political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley, said McCallum being charged is bound to be another polarizing moment in his polarizing political career.

"His opponents are going to say, 'You see, we told you all along he's unfit,' and continue to push against him and presumably push for his resignation," said Telford.

"Others who support him and the development of the Surrey Police [Service] will use it as expected blowback, that he went in there to shake up the status quo and of course the forces of the status quo are against him."

McCallum has hired high profile defence lawyer Richard Peck to represent him. Peck was lead counsel for Ajaib Singh Bagri who was acquitted in the Air India bombings. He also was on Meng Wanzhou's defense team.

with files from Meera Bains, Megan Thomas