For immediate release:
May 16, 2008

More on the Caledonia Cover-Up

NATIVE LAND DISPUTE

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: My question is to the Deputy Premier regarding Six Nations Chief Montour's letter of April 29, thanking the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs for intervening with the OPP in Caledonia.

Today in the Hamilton Spectator, Chief Montour is quoted as saying, "I asked Minister Bryant if he had any influence on his fellow cabinet colleagues to look at ways we could relieve the situation." He was referring to the blockade in Caledonia.

Montour quotes Minister Bryant as saying, "Look Chief, you know I can't act directly with anyone, but I'll see who I can talk to and see if something can be done."< /p>

The minister said he would get involved, and the chief was left with the distinct impression that as a result of the minister's intervention, the OPP stood down.

Deputy Premier, will your government investigate what are clearly serious allegations?

Hon. George Smitherman: Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

Hon. Michael Bryant: Chief Montour certainly didn't refer to any serious allegations. He referred to the efforts of the official opposition as a "witch hunt." Chief Montour is of the view that in fact there was a peaceful ending, that it was positive, that there were open lines of communication between the OPP and Six Nations leadership. Commissioner Fantino has indicated that everything proceeded exactly as it should and that he has never been a part of or associated with interference in any fashion.

I would repeat again what Commissioner Fantino said: "At no time during this event, or in relation to any police operation, did anyone in government or elsewhere tell the OPP to stand down or direct the operations of the OPP."

I'm sure that the member will accept the commissioner's word.

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: There's no question it is a hunt, but it's a hunt for the truth, and we're certainly not getting it from this government.

I have to say it's unbelievably inappropriate, when allegations are being made about a minister, in terms of his conduct, by a very credible individual in this province, that the question is referred to the individual in question. That is terribly, terribly inappropriate. How are we going to get a straight answer with respect to whether or not there was interference with police decisions in this situation if the minister in question is having the questions referred to him? It boggles the mind.

Will the minister stand up and tell us who he did speak to, what was discussed, what else we are going to do? That's your position-you're referring everything to him. Get up and start answering some questions. Who did you talk to? What was discussed? Will you give us an independent investigation?

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Hon. Michael Bryant: The leader of the official opposition refers to Chief Montour as a very respected individual, and of course that's absolutely true, that's absolutely right, and I absolutely agree with him. I speak to Chief Montour on a very regular basis. I exchanged messages last night with him with respect to the new relationship fund that was established today, a very important fund that will allow the levelling of the playing field in discussions between governments and First Nations.

This very credible individual has referred to the efforts of the member, today and otherwise, in this House with respect to this issue as a witch hunt. So I would ask the member to take the word of the highly respected individual, Chief Montour, to take the word of the highly respected individual, Commissioner Fantino, and accept that everything happened exactly the way it ought to happen, and that at the end of the day, there was a peaceful resolution-

The Speaker (Hon. Steve Peters): Thank you. Final supplementary?

Mr. Robert W. Runciman: Not surprisingly, the minister again refused to answer the specific questions, and the questions raised by the chief in his letter. He assured the chief that he would get involved, he'd make some calls, he'd see if something could be done. We've asked him today to explain that, to explain what he said to the chief. He says the chief is a credible individual, and he's making some credible claims here that you have a responsibility to respond to. These are serious, serious allegations.

How many other times did the minister make a call to see if something could be done? Is that why we have had such lawlessness in Caledonia for the past two years?

If this government fails to commence an immediate and independent investigation into this matter, from here on, everything this government and the OPP do with respect to Caledonia is going to continue to fall under a cloud of suspicion. Will he call in an independent body to conduct an investigation and do it now?

Hon. Michael Bryant: Well, there we go. I think everybody heard loud and clear what the concern here is. It's not, in fact, that there were discussions between the government and the OPP, which did not take place; it's that somehow there have been peaceful results. It's that at the end of the weekend, as the member for Haldimand says, "There were no arrests in Caledonia. There were in Deseronto, but none in Caledonia."

There's been an independent investigation all right: It's called the Ipperwash inquiry. In the Ipperwash inquiry, there were findings and there were recommendations. Obviously one of the recommendations is that the police be independent. The Leader of the Opposition is absolutely wrong when he suggests that there has been any inappropriate contact between the government and the OPP. And who do I cite in support? I cite Chief Commissioner Julian Fantino, who says that at no time has there ever been interference. I will accept the word of Commissioner Fantino.