Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said in a canned statement that this year’s Surrey Canada Day celebration was “a phenomenal showcase of national pride.”
But behind the scenes, it’s alleged, there was effort made to keep Surrey MP Sukh Dhaliwal – who has not yet confirmed his intention to run for mayor – and Surrey Mounties in red serge from joining the mayor on stage at the Bill Reid Amphitheatre on July 1.
McCallum did not return a phone request for comment on Tuesday. The city’s communications department also stated in emails he “will not be commenting” and, “The City will not be commenting.”
Dhaliwal, meantime, said Tuesday he’s in the process of writing to City Manager Vincent Lalonde in an attempt “to find out who gave the instruction to the staff and why would it happen. This was the first time I have ever seen something like this happen. This is the first time ever.”
“The attempts by the city to prevent me from participating in Canada Day was deeply disappointing,” Dhaliwal, Liberal MP for Surrey-Newton, told the Now-Leader. “Canada Day is a celebration of our great country and not a time to play petty political games. We should expect better.”
Lalonde has not yet returned a request for comment.
Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards, officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP, told the Now-Leader on Tuesday that the “Surrey RCMP received a last minute request for our officers in Red Serge not to march in the Canada Day civic procession. That request to remove officers from the procession was absolutely dismissed. Our officers proudly marched in the procession – a long-held tradition in our community. We remain honoured to participate in the Cloverdale event each year.”
Edwards declined to comment beyond this statement.
Coun. Linda Annis, of Surrey First, weighed in.
“When I first heard it I thought no, it’s not true,” she said. “I did check in with staff at city hall and I also checked in with the RCMP and unfortunately, and I hate to say sadly, but it was true.”
“Specifically I checked on the RCMP,” Annis said.
“Apparently,” she said, “staff that were there didn’t have them included as part of the procession and I found that absolutely shocking.”
Traditionally there is a mustering station away from the stage from which the civic, provincial and federal-level politicians along with other dignitaries and the RCMP proceed to the stage where speeches are made.
“Certainly as long as I’ve been a councillor the RCMP have always been included and they come in their red serge and march with us and this time they were just omitted from the procession and when they arrived thinking of course that they were part of it they were told no, they weren’t.”
Ultimately, the Mounties and Dhaliwal got up on the platform anyway, stage right and left.
The alleged exclusion, Annis said, “was I think a very disrespectful thing.”
“I have no idea where the instructions came from. I’m certain it wasn’t the staff that were on site making that sort of decision. I don’t know if it was political or it’s just the underlying culture that’s taking place in the city over the police transition or what it is, but it’s an embarrassment, I don’t know what else to say.”
The city is in the process of replacing the Surrey RCMP with the Surrey Police Service.
Mary Rukavina, Surrey’s manager of special events & filming, parks, recreation and culture has not yet returned requests for comment.
Dhaliwal said every MP got a related package, “a badge or something.”
“I was the only one who that did not get that package,” he said. “It is my understanding that in fact instructions were given to the bylaw by the co-ordinator of events not to let Sukh Dhaliwal on the stage.”
“I am an elected Member of Parliament,” he stressed.