Roslyn Cassells has been making waves ever since her surprise election to Canada's only elected park board.
After less than six months at the job, the 37-year-old English language teacher has already collected a string of firsts.
Ms. Cassells is the first member of the Green Party to win any kind of election in Vancouver; she is the first commissioner to bring a wounded bat to a park-board meeting; the first to call for all other commissioners to resign, then complain when no one seconded her motion; and the first park board commissioner to demand an end to Stanley Park's "evil petting zoo."
Last week, she added one: She is the first commissioner to be asked by a Vancouver police chief to apologize for trying to stuff a doughnut into the mouth of a city policeman.
The request is contained in a stinging letter to Ms. Cassells from Police Chief Terry Blythe.
"I personally consider your actions to have been infantile," he wrote. "In my opinion, your conduct . . . falls well below the threshold of acceptable behaviour for an elected Park Board Commissioner."
He called on Ms. Cassells to apologize to the pastry-ized policeman and to the entire Vancouver Police Department for "your ill-advised and reprehensible behavior."
If she refuses, he warned, he may launch formal proceedings against her at the park board.
The alleged doughnut caper is just the latest chapter in Ms. Cassells' stormy tenure on the board.
Whether it's correcting grammatical errors in meeting minutes, haranguing staff or making long, strident speeches in defence of "the animal nation" or protecting green space, Ms. Cassells generally has the board in an uproar.
After one rancorous session when she refused to stop talking and her supporters kept heckling, the park board hired a sergeant-at-arms to be on call at all board meetings. Video cameras have also been installed. Two more firsts attributed to Ms. Cassells.
It is all very unexpected for her.
After winning a spot on the seven-member park board, she confessed she was in a state of total shock. As a virtual unknown in the Green Party, Ms. Cassells had no budget. She campaigned with only a bus pass and a phone, yet she attracted nearly 32,000 votes. The six other commissioners belong to the well-heeled Non-Partisan Association, which has dominated municipal politics here since the 1930s.
But rather than being cowed, Ms. Cassells has adopted an edgy, confrontational, hard-line approach on almost every issue that drives her fellow commissioners batty.
"There's never been anyone like her before," complained veteran commissioner Allan DeGenova. "Monday night meetings are just not fun any more. It's sad."
Chairman Duncan Wilson said he's been sent flowers by people out of commiseration for having to deal with her. "It's crazy. I'm even getting e-mails from people apologizing for having voted for her."
As for the doughnut incident, police say it occurred during a rally last March by the Vancouver Coalition Against Police Brutality.
According to Chief Blythe, "At one point in the demonstration, she approached a uniformed motorcycle officer and attempted to thrust a pastry into the member's face."
A photographer accompanied Ms. Cassells to record the action, Chief Blythe said. "But quick thinking by the officer in question prevented her from being entirely successful in her efforts."
Ms. Cassells said yesterday she had not received Chief Blythe's letter, but she thought she would probably see a lawyer about it.
"The policeman assaulted me. He hit me in the arm and I dropped the doughnut," she said.
A city councillor has suggested Chief Blythe be fired for inappropriate threat against an elected official.
At any rate, Ms. Cassells, who lives in a suburban apartment where she reportedly cares for as many as 50 cats, is not likely to apologize.
Her penchant for doing it her way was apparent from her very first meeting.
As a series of proposed projects came before the board for approval, Ms. Cassells asked for an environmental-impact study on every one -- even the building of concrete pads under park benches.
Finally, the agenda reached an item Ms. Cassells could not challenge. Commissioners were invited to a breakfast gathering where coffee and muffins would be served.
"Will those be vegan muffins?" Ms. Cassells demanded.