The ongoing fight between supporters of a Surrey city police department and those wanting to retain the RCMP took an unusual turn last week.
On August 18, a lawyer for the Surrey Police Service accused a citizen of unlawfully distributing information that the department had released in response to a freedom-of-information request.
In a letter stamped "Private + Confidential" on Roper Greyell LLP letterhead, Keri L. Bennett stated that her firm has been retained by the Surrey Police Service.
The letter was addressed to Hilary Thomas and Merle Scott, two women who support the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign.
Bennett maintained that Thomas, either on her own or on behalf of a group called Keep the RCMP in Surrey, unlawfully used and distributed the email address of SPS Chief Constable Norm Lipinksi on social-media platforms.
In addition, the lawyer claimed that there were "material misrepresentations to the public regarding SPS and Chief Cst. Lipinski".
That's followed by several demands from Bennett. She wants, among other things, a list revealing to whom this personal information was dislosed to. Moreover, Thomas and Scott must cease and desist from making "unauthorized and unlawful disclosure of Chief Cst. Lipinski's or other SPS employees' personal information".
Failure to do so could lead to the commencement of a civil action, Bennett warned.
Bennett also revealed in the letter that the Surrey Police Service "is in the process of preparing an amended response to the applicable freedom of information request that will be provided to Ms. Thomas in which the personal information will be appropriately redacted".
Under section 22 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the head of a public body must refuse to disclose personal information if this would be an unreasonable invasion of a third party's personal privacy.
Meanwhile, a member of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey Campaign has accused the Surrey Police Force of engaging in "intimidation" with the letter. As a result, Ivan Michael Scott feels that the chair of the board, Mayor Doug McCallum, and Chief Lipinski should resign.
"It is asserted that the two ladies illegally published information obtained absolutely legally by way of a Freedom Of Information request answered by the self-same SPS," Scott stated in a letter to the media. "They have threatened to begin civil proceedings against these two seniors whilst being paid by Surrey taxpayer money. Incredulous!"
Bennett's letter also revealed that the Keep the RCMP in Surrey Twitter account was "temporarily locked and the offending post removed" because it violated the social-media company's rules.
"Effective the time of this letter, the information still appears on the KTRIS account in modified form," Bennett stated in the letter.
She alleged that this was in violation of the Personal Information and Protection Act and the Privacy Act.
"Further, be advised that the Unlawful Conduct may be considered and, if necessary, brought to the attention to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia should any further freedom of information requests be made by Ms. Thomas and/or KTRIS in the future," Bennett added.