For immediate release:
Apr 28, 2008

MCGUINTY LIBERALS MUST SUSPEND NEGOTIATIONS UNTIL BLOCKADES COME DOWN

Runciman repeats call for government to put an end to lawlessness in Ontario

(Queen’s Park) Opposition Leader Bob Runciman today repeated his Party’s call for the McGuinty Liberals to restore the rule of law in Ontario and suspend all negotiations with Six Nations until the blockades in Caledonia come down.

“Over the past two years, the McGuinty Liberals have made concession after concession to lawbreakers in Caledonia, Deseronto and beyond,” said Runciman. “This government has failed and continues to fail to uphold the rule of law in Ontario.”

Runciman referred to reports that the Ontario Provincial Police have removed a roadblock set up by aboriginal protesters on a rural Eastern Ontario road north of Deseronto while a Southern Ontario highway near Caledonia remains blocked by Six Nations protesters. Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Leader John Tory today demanded that the government suspend negotiations with Six Nations until the blockades come down.

“While the blockade in Deseronto has come down, the one in Caledonia is still up,” said Runciman. “The McGuinty government is negotiating with people illegally occupying land and treating what could be defined as extortion as ho-hum even as it handicaps economic development in communities such as Brantford and ignores an illegal smoke shop operating on government land within metres of a school.”

Added Runciman, “The Premier is encouraging lawlessness with his laissez-faire approach to upholding the rule of law.”
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HANSARD
(Mr. Robert W. Runciman)
and again today in Caledonia, the ongoing issue with what many construe as extortion with new development in the Brantford area. Over the past two years your government has made concession after concession to lawbreakers in Caledonia and beyond. You’ve failed and continue to fail to uphold the rule of law. Premier, do you accept any responsibility whatsoever for the growth of lawlessness that we’re seeing across this province?

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Hon. Dalton McGuinty: The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.
Hon. Michael Bryant: As the member knows, the dispute that’s taking place in Caledonia is a 180-year-old dispute between the federal government and Six Nations. The province of Ontario is participating in negotiations with the federal government. With respect to the claim in Deseronto, the province is not a party in the negotiations; it’s a negotiation exclusively between the federal government and the First Nation. I would also say that we really must give a lot of credit to Ontario Provincial Police who over the weekend did keep the peace and did a great job and, as they said, will continue to put their priority of public safety first and foremost.

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: I think the OPP is operating very well in difficult circumstances that in many ways this government has placed them in. As Commissioner Fantino might say, you’ve made them the meat in the sandwich. You’re negotiating with people illegally occupying land; you’re treating what could be defined as extortion under the Criminal Code as ho-hum, even as it handicaps economic development in Brantford; you’re ignoring the illegal smoke shacks, even when they’re operating on government land within metres of a school.

Minister, what kind of message do you think your laissez-faire approach is having on people inclined to break the law? Do you recognize you’re encouraging lawlessness?

Hon. Michael Bryant: I wouldn’t want people watching at home or in this Legislature to imagine that Commissioner Fantino said what was attributed to him over the weekend. In fact, what he said, just to be clear was, “Our priority is to maintain order and preserve the peace.”

As previously stated, he said the priority was and continues to be the safety of the public and the reopening of the public highways. With respect to Deseronto, he goes on to say, “ ... that were taken over by people who do not have the support of the Tyendinaga Band Council in relation to these roadblocks.” Commissioner Fantino went on to talk about what he referred to as misinformation spreading through communities. Again, I want to say how much we all in this Legislature support the OPP and thank people in those communities for their patience.

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: People who might be inclined to break the law simply have to watch question period or read a newspaper to know that this government is a soft touch when it comes to upholding the rule of law. When the official opposition raises concern about an illegal smoke shop operating on provincial government property, selling cigarettes to kids, your minister declines to answer. When developers in Brantford are confronted with demands for cash or face blockades of their developments, you tut-tut and do nothing about it. We all know about Caledonia, where you continue to negotiate with people illegally occupying what is now government property.

Again, Minister, do you recognize the damage you are doing, the messages you are sending out and the encouragement you are providing to individuals inclined to break the law? Do you recognize what you’re doing?

Hon. Michael Bryant: Nobody knows better than the police and the OPP that keeping the peace and upholding the law can be a very careful balancing act. The chief commissioner encouraged that we attain a resolution quickly and peacefully. But I remind the member, as well, that the only one who has made an explicit call for a violation of the law is a member of his own caucus, the member for Lanark, who said in January 2006, “If you’re doing the right thing and you’re breaking the law, the law is wrong.”

With all due respect to the leader of the official opposition, I think it’s very important that we recognize that this is a tense situation. The police are doing an excellent job and we will continue to pursue the path of resolving this. At the end of the day, we have to find a resolution and this is the path to a resolution.