On Dec. 10, the British Columbia Prosecution Service released a statement announcing a charge of public mischief against Surrey mayor Doug McCallum, after the service investigated a complaint made by the mayor.
In the complaint from McCallum, he was allegedly “verbally assaulted and then run over by a vehicle” during a grocery store run.
Public mischief is defined in the Criminal Code as “making a false statement that accuses some other person of having committed an offense,” fabricating an offense, acting in a manner that makes one think a specific person committed a crime, or reporting a crime in a manner that makes one think a death has occurred.
If a person is found guilty of public mischief, they can be sentenced to prison for up to five years.
McCallum’s first court date is scheduled for Jan. 25, 2022 at the Surrey Provincial Court.
Since the announcement of McCallum’s public mischief charge, the mayor has been asked to step down from his position and citizens have come together to sign a petition to prevent the city from using taxpayer money under Section 7 of the city’s bylaws to cover the mayor’s court bills.
Dr. Ross Michael Pink, chair of Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s political science department, says that when a person who works for the government or a private sector is accused of a crime, it’s not uncommon for the government or private sector to pay for their legal fees. If the accused is eventually found guilty, then either party can “recoup some of the legal fees.”
This situation would be different in the case of a provincial or federal official. Pink says the mayor position is the top in civic government which gives McCallum more power than a cabinet minister would have if they were facing a charge like this.
In the case of a provincial or federal cabinet minister facing a charge of public mischief, they would need to answer to the premier or prime minister, and other ministers might vote for them to step down until the charge is cleared up.
Although no one can make him step down, McCallum is still facing public calls to leave the office.
“Obviously, you would expect the opposition to hammer mayor McCallum. Criticize him. Criticize the decision to pay his legal fees. That’s totally expected. That’s politics and politics … is always adversarial,” Pink says.
McCallum plans to run for the 2022 municipal election, and he will face off against councillor Brenda Locke, who was previously in the same party as McCallum.
“We trust our electorate to make good decisions about who they elect and who they don’t elect. It’s really up to the voters of Surrey to decide whether or not he earned their respect to be given another term as mayor,” Pink says.
“If you believe in law, as I do, and you believe in the integrity of law, as I do and most citizens do, you cannot penalize somebody until they’ve had their day in court,” Pink says.
Pink says McCallum has the right to stay in office until the charges against him are “adjudicated in the court.”
“I believe in the rule of law, and there is a very important principle that we do not condemn people until they are proven otherwise in a court of law,” he adds.