After the City of Surrey denied them a booth at Monday’s Canada Day event, a pro-RCMP group showed up anyway — clipboards and pens in hand.
Ivan Scott led members of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign past security and onto the grounds at the Bill Reid Amphitheatre in Cloverdale, passing out petitions that demand the city halt its transition to a civic police force.
At the celebration Monday, Scott and his cohorts were told they couldn’t bring in their signs, but the group soldiered on despite the warning.
WATCH: (Aired June 28) Surrey man fights city hall over Canada Day booth
In Scott’s eyes, the group was doing nothing wrong.
“If you’re a peaceful organization with good aims and you have a support that is a support base … it’s something you should be looking at on a day like Canada Day,” he said.
Like many residents, Scott has problems with the way the city has handled the police transition, claiming Mayor Doug McCallum and his majority on city council haven’t been transparent enough about the benefits.
Scott’s son is also an RCMP officer and is worried about whether his job is at stake.
Scott has already collected more than 4,000 written signatures asking the city to reverse course. An online version directed at Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has another 7,000.
The written petition was meant to be set up at a booth inside the amphitheatre, but Scott was told on Thursday it “wouldn’t be appropriate” for the family-friendly event.
In a statement Friday, the city said it is dedicated to “creating an inclusive, political-free environment where all residents of Surrey can celebrate their national pride on Canada Day.”
“The booths and activities on site focus on family activities and community celebrations, and as such, the City of Surrey currently does not include any booths with political messaging or canvassing of event attendees on site,” Surrey’s parks and recreation manager Laurie Cavan said.
WATCH: (Aired June 3) Surrey residents get first chance to comment on city police force
The city set up a “rally/political speech area” on the sidewalk along 64 Avenue and 177B Street instead.
But Scott insists the group he co-ordinates is not a protest or political movement.
“We’re just giving the people the opportunity to express themselves if they so choose,” he said. “If people walking past here say, ‘No thank you, I’m for the other side,’ that’s fine.”
The city declined to comment further on Monday.
But at the site, councillors Jack Hundial and Brenda Locke assured Scott that staff and security would back off, telling him they had conversations ahead of the group’s arrival.
Hundial is a member of McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition, while Locke recently became the second councillor to leave the party and sit as an independent.
McCallum and councillors with the Safe Surrey Coalition have defended the rollout of the police transition, pointing to dozens of public engagement events held over the past two months.
Scott says he’s not going to stop until everyone gets the chance to hear his arguments, whether or not they agree.
“Everyone says, you know, ‘I hope it makes a difference,'” he said. “I tell them that I’m not here to lose.”
—With files from Grace Ke, Janet Brown and Jon Azpiri