Pubdate: Mon, 31 May 2004
Source: Surrey Now (CN BC)
Copyright: 2004 Lower Mainland Publishing Group Inc., A Canwest Company
Authors: Tom Zytaruk and Corry Anderson-Fennell
Bookmark: (Cocaine)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


Big city politician.

Cocaine addict.

And now, crime victim.

Former Surrey city councillor Gary Robinson, 48, has sustained second- and 
third-degree burns to 25 per cent of his body after someone doused him with 
rubbing alcohol and set him on fire while he was sleeping in a Newton 
apartment on May 15.

Surrey RCMP are investigating the attack as drug-related but haven't 
arrested any suspects.

Having slipped out of the public eye in 1999, Robinson resurfaced in 
hospital this week, lying in a room bereft of cards, agitated, occasionally 
rasping for breath, and trying desperately to get comfortable after skin 
graft surgery just hours earlier.

Groggy and medicated, he mumbled that he's lucky to be alive.

And then the old politician came out.

"Surrey's too much of an important and valuable jewel to lose because 
people don't see the big picture," he murmured.

Robinson sat on Surrey council for 12 years, elected in a byelection in 
1987. The father-of-two was the youngest member of council ever.

He admitted a cocaine addiction in 1998 and didn't seek re-election in 
1999, despite an earlier announcement he'd take a run at the mayor's chair. 
He's avoided public life since then.

Robinson's wife Susan Sanderson, from whom he is separated, said yesterday 
her husband's tale is particularly disturbing because he'd recently sought 
treatment for his addiction but a lack of space forced him onto a wait-list 
for three weeks.

"This is a tragic example of what can happen when somebody who is ready for 
help, is asking for help but due to the cutbacks in social services is 
unable to make it happen," said Sanderson.

Sanderson acknowledged Robinson bears ultimate blame for his addiction, 
however, recovery programs are in short supply.

"Surrey desperately needs detox beds for youth and adults, treatment 
centres and transitional housing. I believe that the SET majority should be 
less concerned about getting shopping carts off our streets and more 
concerned about how they can follow Vancouver's lead by adopting a more 
proactive approach to drug addiction and homelessness."

Robinson's descent is well-documented. A veteran of arguably the most 
raucous years of Surrey civic politics, he served when the right-wing 
Surrey Electors Team held the majority of seats but not the mayor's chair, 
when major projects were usually won or lost on a five-four vote, when 
personal invectives and in-house lawsuits flew freely, and finally, when 
SET held all but two seats.

A councillor throughout the 1990s, Robinson joined city-sponsored trade 
missions to China and Japan and worked hard to preserve Surrey Bend. A 
recreational hockey player and coach, he also saw ice rinks built in North 
Surrey and Fleetwood. At one time, he was chairman of Surrey's police 
committee and a member of the environmental advisory committee. He also 
fought to keep Campbell Heights rural.

In 1997, Robinson found himself under police protection, with armed 
undercover officers watching over him at civic events, after trying to 
prevent a racist musical group from performing at a community hall. His 
stand resulted in rocks being hurled through his living room window.

Robinson's political Waterloo arrived in 1998, when he publicly admitted he 
had a cocaine problem. He said at the time that someone had tried to 
blackmail him and threatened to expose his drug addiction if he didn't pay 

The embattled councillor then ran into more difficulty for his sporadic 
council attendance and for racking up an Olympian-sized cellphone bill. For 
a spell, he intended to run against Mayor Doug McCallum on a platform of 
helping addicts kick their habits by increasing resources here.

In the end, he didn't seek office and soon slipped into obscurity.

The assault happened at the CedarTree Village apartments on Hall Road. 
Surrey RCMP Cpl. Tim Shields declined to identify the victim, but confirmed 
that a 48-year-old man was "assaulted and set on fire by unknown people. 
The victim was burned on his head, torso and right arm."

The man was attacked in a "scummy little bedroom," he added.

"We definitely found a small amount of drugs - crack cocaine and 
paraphernalia - in the room.

"He (the victim) had been sleeping in the bedroom in his bed when people 
arrived at the residence. We are confident that a number of people pushed 
their way into the suite."

Shields said the attackers gained access to the apartment through a patio. 
The victim apparently yelled "stop," he said, and then there was some kind 
of fight.

After the attackers fled, a woman walked in and found the victim on the 
bed, burned by fire and screaming, "call 911."

"Twenty five per cent of his body is burned," Shields said. "He was 
assaulted, doused with rubbing alcohol and set on fire.

"We don't know the motive for the attack. The woman who was there at the 
time was not co-operative."
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