Photographs taken with Hells Angels members have come back to haunt Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell, a member of Surrey’s newly-struck Police Board.
The pictures – from a two-year-old Facebook post, and brought to the attention of news outlets this week – show Chappell with two full-patch members of the White Rock Hells Angels chapter.
The presumed association has led some opposed to the transition of Surrey’s policing from the RCMP to a municipal force to question whether Chappell’s appointment to the board might be tainted by connections to the club.
But in a statement to media, including Peace Arch News, Chappell denied “relationship or association with the Hells Angel club in any way.”
He noted that it has been “well-documented and disclosed” that his father, Philip, was a former member of the club, until 1992.
“He left the club when I was a child, and I have never been associated to the club in any way,” Chappell said.
Surrey Coun. Jack Hundial – a former RCMP staff sergeant and outspoken critic of Surrey’s ongoing transition from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service – said the fact that Chappell is the son of a former Hells Angel raises questions about how thoroughly provincial appointments to the new board were vetted by B.C. public safety minister and solicitor general Mike Farnworth.
“What was the vetting process put into place?” he said.
“That’s a good question not only for Farnworth but I think also for (new SPS chief) Norm Lipinski because he’s now the man that has to work with the police board.”
Chappell said the pictures, originally shared on Facebook in 2018, were taken in August of that year at the funeral of Carla Newman, who he described as “the mother of a childhood friend.”
In the pictures, Chappell is seen standing with four other men, two of whom have been identified as White Rock Hells Angels Brent Milne and Douglas Riddoch. Newman has been described as a relative of former White Rock chapter member David Newman.
In his statement, Chappell said “any photos of me were with my father’s friends from his past.”
On his father’s birthday, in November of last year, Chappell posted a Facebook tribute to Philip that included an old photo of his father wearing his Hells Angels vest and colours.
“I have never denied or had any reason to deny my father’s history, nor does this impact my personal values or ethics as a First Nation leader or a Surrey Police Board member,” Chappell commented.
Hundial stopped short of saying he thinks Chappell should resign from the police board.
“I think there needs to be some clear transparency around it,” he said.
“It was a rushed process. When you’re responsible for having input not just for leadership in your local community like on the reserve, but for all of Surrey, I think it requires a higher level of scrutiny not just for Harley but for everyone on the police board.”
Chappell also noted that he feels his childhood experiences don’t define him as an adult.
“I have moved forward in positive and progressive ways to better my community both of Semiahmoo First Nation and the larger community,” he said.
“I have used my life experiences to become the person I am today; a father, a husband, a community leader.”
Surrey police board chair Melissa Granum was not available for comment as of Thursday afternoon.
– with files from Tom Zytaruk