How an injury claim led to a public mischief charge against the mayor of B.C.'s fastest-growing city

·5 min read
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum is seen at a press conference last October. The mayor is set to go to trial on a charge of public mischief in the fall. A search warrant details the investigation that led to the charge. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum is seen at a press conference last October. The mayor is set to go to trial on a charge of public mischief in the fall. A search warrant details the investigation that led to the charge. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

When Debi Johnstone learned that Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum had claimed she ran over his foot with her car, she made a joke.

Hours later — according to a police search warrant — the 65-year-old relayed the quip to an RCMP investigator to show she was being "completely honest" about her recollection of the incident.

"Johnstone told [her friend] that if she was going to run over McCallum, she would just take him out," the warrant says.

"Johnstone advised that she was joking when she said this."

Differing versions of events

The details of the investigation that led to a public mischief charge against McCallum are contained in the search warrant, which was unsealed after an application from Global News several weeks ago.

The CBC has obtained a copy after a separate application for the document which was sworn to justify a warrant to examine McCallum's shoes and to obtain shopping records.

Submitted by Debi Johnstone
Submitted by Debi Johnstone

The information provides insight into a case which many fear will overshadow other issues in the lead-up to Surrey's next municipal election — which is set for mid-October, just two weeks before McCallum's trial.

The mayor has hired B.C. legal ace Richard Peck to represent him; McCallum recently stepped aside as head of Surrey's police board — a decision he claims had nothing to do with the criminal case or political controversies.

The search warrant tracks the path of an investigation into the truth of an encounter between McCallum and Johnstone in the parking lot of a Save-On-Foods location, where opponents to his plans for a municipal police force gathered on the morning of Sept. 4, 2021.

Both McCallum and Johnstone agreed that they crossed paths while he was standing and she was in her vehicle. But that's where their statements diverged.

The mayor claimed Johnstone yelled profanities at him; she claimed she told him to "resign."

McCallum said she pulled her car "so tight to him that she pinned him between their two vehicles" before running over his foot as she went to "tear out."

But Johnstone said it was McCallum who approached her vehicle, and that he "didn't say anything as she drove away indicating that she ran over his toe."

'Had to also have hit his stomach'

Camera footage from Save-On-Foods allegedly supports Johnstone's version of events.

"The video surveillance shows that McCallum was not pinned up against a vehicle," the warrant says at one point.

"In the video surveillance McCallum walks ... in the same manner that he was walking prior to the incident with Johnstone with no overt signs of injury."

Jason Proctor/CBC
Jason Proctor/CBC

According to the search warrant, a "small shrub" obscures McCallum's legs from the knee down in the video.

"As the [vehicle] was pulled away, McCallum began to angle his body away from the [vehicle]," the document says.

"McCallum does make a very small movement with his left leg, but due to the angle of the shrub, it is unclear what was the cause or purpose of this movement."

Johnstone also told police about an observation she made.

"Johnstone noticed McCallum's side profile and noted that McCallum's belly stuck out past his toes," the warrant says.

"Johnstone felt that if she had run over his toe, she would also have had to also have hit his stomach."

'Not the store [McCallum] usually attended'

In the days after a B.C. Supreme Court judge unsealed the warrant, Johnstone identified herself as "the victim that Mr. McCallum falsely accused" and said she remained "steadfast in my original statement of innocence."

The Surrey woman is a member of Keep The RCMP in Surrey group, and is also one of seven people McCallum banned from council meetings within days of the parking lot incident.

Keep the RCMP in Surrey/Facebook
Keep the RCMP in Surrey/Facebook

In his statement to police, McCallum allegedly claimed he "didn't know that the 'Keep The RCMP in Surrey' movement was going to be at that location until he got there and saw them."

Police spoke with Keep The RCMP in Surrey founder Ivan Scott, who claimed McCallum approached him, and told him he didn't have permission to campaign outside Save-On-Foods — which Scott disputed.

"Scott then asked McCallum what he was doing there, McCallum said he was there to do his grocery shopping, which Scott didn't believe as McCallum doesn't live in that area," the document reads.

As part of their investigation, RCMP reviewed footage of McCallum doing his grocery shopping and "regularly consulting a piece of paper, possibly a shopping list."

They also spoke with a Save-On-Foods employee who claimed the location where the incident happened "was not the store [McCallum] usually attended."

A trail of Save-On-Foods rewards points?

According to the warrant, police were seeking confirmation of the mayor's shopping habits from his Save-On-Foods Rewards card records, which track his grocery purchases.

The mayor signed his consent for RCMP to access medical records, including X-rays of his foot taken after the incident.

According to the warrant, the records showed "he suffered from some soft tissue damage on the top of the foot, but no broken bones."

The mayor also handed RCMP the Adidas runners he was wearing at the time of his alleged injury, but they needed the warrant to examine them for "tread marks, damage or any foreign trace material which will corroborate or refute the version of events provided by McCallum."

None of the charges against the mayor have been proven in court.

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