For immediate release:
May 1, 2008

Barrett calls for Solicitor General’s resignation

Queen’s Park – Since the start of the Caledonia land disputes two years ago, the McGuinty Liberals have been clear that they do not direct the OPP on operational matters. A Dunnville Chronicle newspaper article printed yesterday suggests the Minister of Community, Safety and Correctional Services (Solicitor General) Rick Bartolucci has done otherwise.

Prior to Question Period today, Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett spotted the article which read: Over the weekend, Six Nations band chief Bill Montour told Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant that the blockade was not a criminal activity and said this could become something all parties did not want it to be. He gave credit to Bryant for talking to the Solicitor General who reportedly told the OPP to stand down.

Back in December, the Minister of Community, Safety and Correctional Services said in response to one of Barrett’s questions: “If the member is suggesting that the Solicitor General or any other minister or member should interfere with the operation of the OPP, he’s wrong. He’s dead wrong.”

Given the report that Bartolucci allegedly asked the OPP to “stand down” Barrett then formally asked in the Ontario Legislature, “Given your previous statements, are you prepared to resign?”

“That allegation is ridiculous, and, no, I will not resign because I won’t interfere with policing operations,” Bartolucci said. “We’ve learned from past history that you don’t interfere as government with policing operations.”

Barrett also asked the Minister why arrests were made in Deseronto/Tyendinaga for lawless behaviour over the weekend, but not in Caledonia. The Minister refused to answer the question but congratulated the OPP on their handling of the situation.

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      Native land disputes

Mr. Toby Barrett: To the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Minister, on April 25, OPP Commissioner Fantino was clear in a news release concerning problems at Tyendinaga and Deseronto: “This violent criminal activity occurred outside of any legitimate protest and will not be tolerated.” It was not tolerated because people were arrested.

Back in Caledonia, criminal activity was allowed to occur all weekend. Not over a land claim, but in support of Tyendinaga. To my knowledge, no arrests were made on the weekend in Caledonia. Why does the OPP crack down at Deseronto, but will not crack down at Caledonia? ... no arrests were made on the weekend in Caledonia. Minister, why does the OPP crack down at Deseronto, but will not crack down at Caledonia?

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Minister of community safety.

Hon. Rick Bartolucci: This gives me a great opportunity to congratulate Commissioner  Fantino, the incident commanders, senior officers and front-line officers for the remarkable job they’re doing.

Listen, we appreciate that the OPP is handling these situations in a very, very professional manner, understanding that, at the end of the day, public safety is paramount. Congratulations to Commissioner Fantino. Congratulations to the OPP.

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Supplementary.

Mr. Toby Barrett: They did a good job at Deseronto. Minister, on December 4th last year, I questioned you in the House and you said: “If the member is suggesting that the Solicitor General or any other minister or member should interfere with the operation of the OPP, he's wrong.”

Now, in this week’s Dunnville Chronicle, there’s an article written by Karen Best—she’s a reporter known for her accuracy and thoroughness—and I quote the article, in part:

“Over the weekend, Six Nations band Chief Bill Montour told Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant that the blockade was not a criminal activity,” and, further, “He gave credit to Bryant for talking to the Solicitor General, who, reportedly told the OPP to stand down.”

Speaker, we have a report before this House referring to the Solicitor General, who reportedly told the OPP to stand down. Minister, given your previous statements, are you prepared to resign?

Hon. Rick Bartolucci: That allegation is ridiculous, and, no, I will not resign because I won’t interfere with policing operations. We’ve learned from past history that you don’t interfere as government with policing operations.

But, what we can do, what we should do, what I’m asking him to do, and that side to do, is to ensure that we ask the federal government to come to the table with our First Nations communities to settle these land claims. The OPP is doing a remarkable job at ensuring that public safety is the top priority, but there are two other partners here that have to come to the table. The federal government has a responsibility to come to the table, to settle these land claims, so that everyone can get along the way we want to get along in Ontario—

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): New question. The member from Trinity–Spadina.