By Carol Aun
If Coun. Jenny Stevens was nervous about facing her council colleagues Monday night, she didn’t show it in front of the nearly 50-person strong crowd that had gathered in front of municipal hall just before the weekly meeting to protest actions of the district’s Public Safety Inspection Team (PSIT), and the controversial bylaw under which it operates.
The group moved inside council chambers as soon as the doors opened and applauded and cheered on Stevens as she made her way to the council table.
The vocal group refused to let council begin dealing with the business of the evening and chanted, “We will remember in November” until Stevens spoke.
You are exercising your democratic right by being here, she stated, and explained questions can be asked at the end during question period, but first, “tonight the seven of us here have a job to do. Will you exercise some patience and let us do our job?”
Slowly the crowd dissipated and the council meeting proceeded.
The rally was put together by a group of citizens unhappy with council’s actions in dealing with complaints about the PSIT, but what propelled the rally was when police seized Stevens’ computer and three from former councillor Ron Taylor last week, said Larry Nundal, one of the organizers.
“Nobody else [on council] had their computers taken,” he said.
“They seem to be playing games and the public got an awakening,” Nundal continued. “You have to be transparent and accessible.”
There are too many closed meetings, he stated.
Last week RCMP confirmed the actions were part of their investigation into a breach of trust and breach of the Community Charter complaint. The work is ongoing and no charges have been laid.
On May 17, a district press release confirmed council reported the suspected unauthorized release of information, but also pointed out council does not advise RCMP on how to conduct business. It is also the district’s policy not to comment on police investigations, it read.
Stevens, who is visually impaired and relies on her computer for communication, had her machine returned within 24 hours, but Taylor is still waiting for police to return his.
Taylor, who was also at the rally, said “it’s disgusting” how long it is taking. Police told him they were going to copy his hard drive, and according to Taylor, it’s a six-hour job on his largest machine.
The absence of his computers has affected his ability to earn a living and look after his health as he is battling cancer and there are a number of files to which he needs access.
“It’s all part of intimidation,” said Taylor who has been vocal against the district’s PSIT, which scans BC Hydro data and inspects homes with higher than average power consumption for a marijuana grow operation.
Mission residents who believe their rights were violated by the searches have launched a class-action lawsuit against the district, and are being supported by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.