The Mayor of Surrey, B.C., says a protester ran over his foot at a grocery store over the weekend, marking a dangerous new low for those fighting his government’s move to end the city’s relationship with the RCMP in favour of a new municipal police force.
Doug McCallum, the 76-year-old leader of B.C.’s second-most-populous city, told The Globe and Mail that he was exiting his car on Saturday when a woman in a convertible pulled in behind him. The driver, who Mr. McCallum said was wearing a “Keep the RCMP” T-shirt, yelled obscenities at him. When she sped off, she clipped the Mayor’s side and ran over part of his left foot, he alleged.
Mr. McCallum said he recognized the woman as a protester who had previously confronted him about his policies at another event. Residents opposed to the upcoming rollout of Surrey’s new police force have been out in the community trying to gather at least 35,000 signatures, which they believe will demonstrate enough support to force a referendum on the mothballing of Canada’s largest RCMP detachment.
“In this circumstance, I’m okay, I’m lucky,” Mr. McCallum said. “This is assault by a car, basically ... and they’ve taken it to a different level.”
Mr. McCallum was elected, in part, on his promise to eliminate the Surrey RCMP. He has said doing so would improve public safety amid increasing violence. The municipality has contracted out its policing to the Mounties for the past 70 years.
Opponents of the shift to a local police force say the Mayor has not adequately consulted residents, and that in-house policing will dramatically increase the city’s spending. In addition to protesters, the Mayor’s plan has faced opposition from four city councillors and the Surrey Board of Trade.
After the incident, Mr. McCallum was shaken up, but he continued into the supermarket, he said, only to get into an argument with a group of pro-RCMP demonstrators on his way out of the store. After that, he said, he drove to the local RCMP detachment to report the woman, and then to the hospital for X-rays on his bruised left foot.
Surrey RCMP Staff Sergeant Tyner Gillies confirmed Monday that Mounties did attend the scene on Saturday.
“The investigation is active and ongoing and still in the information-gathering stages,” he said.
Mr. McCallum alleged that the Mounties are deliberately delaying their investigation of the incident. He said the local RCMP has also resisted investigating threats to him from pro-RCMP protesters over the past year.
“The police have let it escalate to the point where it’s getting very dangerous and somebody is going to get hurt,” he said. “The police have not taken any action against these people.”
A call to the Surrey RCMP’s media hotline went unanswered Monday.
Ivan Scott, founder of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign and a canvasser with the referendum push, disputed Mr. McCallum’s version of Saturday’s events. Mr. Scott alleged that the Mayor went to the grocery store to surveil and intimidate his group of demonstrators.
“I told him to his face, ‘You don’t shop here.’ ... I know exactly where he shops, we’ve seen him down there, he’s never up here,” said Mr. Scott, who is shown pointing at the Mayor outside the grocery store in a photograph posted to social media shortly after the incident.
Mr. Scott said the woman accused of running over the Mayor’s foot remained at the grocery store and helped the group of seven campaigners continue getting signatures. Mr. Scott said he is unaware of anyone from his group verbally assaulting the Mayor in previous run-ins, but added that they have a right to demonstrate outside Mr. McCallum’s home as long as they are respectful.
Stewart Prest, a lecturer in political science at Simon Fraser University, said Canadian politics now appear more tense than in previous years, with substantial vitriol being directed at lawmakers online and in person. (At a campaign stop in London, Ont., on Monday, protesters pelted Justin Trudeau with gravel as he stepped onto a bus.)
“It’s certainly reflective of this sense that some of the boundaries are fraying a little bit in terms of where and how discourse can take place around issues,” he said. “Social media can make it a lot easier to find out where people are and what they’re up to. So on the one hand politicians are more accessible, but on the other hand it seems like that leaves less insulation for politicians when they are doing something controversial.”
The Mayor said the transition cannot be stopped, and that 100 of the estimated 800 officers needed for the new local force have now been hired. Some of them, he said, will be out patrolling in weeks.
With a report from The Canadian Press
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