A public rally was held to protest the arrival of repeat child sexual offender James Conway to Mission.
About 40 people attend the protest on Wednesday afternoon in front of Mission City Hall.
The announcement about Conway’s move from Abbotsford to Mission was made through a press release issued Sunday evening by BC Corrections. The exact location where Conway will reside was not released.
Missionite Angel Elias organized the protest, saying she wants to protect her community.
“We pulled this together within a couple of hours so I’m happy with the turnout.”
Between 30 and 40 people attended, chanting and waving signs.
Mission Mayor Randy Hawes spoke at the protest and told the public council was as surprised about the announcement as they were. He said council found out abut it through the media and had no prior warning.
“If they (BC Corrections) had been wise they would have included the police and the city in finding a way to put this out to the public that wasn’t going to cause wide-spread panic,” said Hawes.
“They have poisoned the well here now. There is absolutely nothing they can say that is going to calm people down and make them feel OK about this. So the best thing they can do is move this man to another community.”
Hawes told the crowd that the district doesn’t have much information. They don’t know where Conway is living, if there are children living in the neighbourhood or if he is being watched 24 hours a day.
They have asked all of these questions, but have yet to receive answers.
Hawes said the district is trying to organize a public meeting with both MLAs Simon Gibson and Marc Dalton, as well as someone from the ministry with the rank of assistant deputy minister or higher and a senior official from Community Living BC to answer these questions and explain to the public what has happened.
“This is because we as a council are powerless in this,” said Hawes.
One of his concerns is that Conway’s residence will eventually become public knowledge, as it did in Abbotsford.
“The public is searching right now. Once it is determined, I would expect there will be a protest in front of that house.”
He said police would have to attend the protest and, ironically, be there to protect Conway from the “anger of otherwise, completely law-abiding people who are just frightened.”
Hawes is hopeful that once the public has the opportunity to express their displeasure to provincial representatives, a solution can be found.
“There is no question that he needs to be gone from this community. We will do everything we can, under the law, to see that that happens,” said Hawes.
After the event, Elias said she wasn’t satisfied with what she heard.
“We are still going to put the pressure on and continue going. We know mayor and council is doing everything they possible can. We are supporting them and they are supporting us. We are very happy with that, but it’s still not good enough. Now we have to take it to the next level. We have to go after our MLAs we have to go after our MP,” she said.
Melissa Trellert was one of many parents who attended the rally. She said she was “disgusted” when she hear about the situation and decided to join the protest.
“I wanted to support the gathering and get Conway out of town. Protect our children.”
Conway, who is developmentally disabled, has a long criminal history, including three sexual offences against children, as well as sexual interference of a person under 16, sexual assault and arson.
He has also breached the conditions of his release at least twice.
In April 2014, he was caught staring at young girls on SkyTrain, looking down their shirts, and engaging them in conversation by producing a teddy bear.
He was sentenced to 10 months in jail and three years’ probation for breaching his conditions.
Police issued a public notice about his release from prison in February 2015, when he settled in the Surrey area. At that time, BC Corrections said he has a pattern of “sexually offending against female children in a predatory and opportunistic manner.”
Conway was back in jail 10 days later, after breaching his conditions when he sat down on a bus beside a 14-year-old girl, even though other seats were available.
Public notices were issued again in April 2015, when Conway was released from prison and planned to reside in Delta, and then on Aug. 1, 2015, when he moved to Abbotsford.
Now in Mission, Conway must continue to abide by several conditions, including that: he remain in his residence at all times unless supervised; he remain under electronic monitoring; that he not communicate with people under 18, including online; and he not travel alone on public transit.