Caledonia cruiser target of talk

By Marissa Nelson
The Hamilton Spectator(Apr 13, 2007)

People in Caledonia -- both native and non-native -- were surprised this week when they went past the former Douglas Creek Estates property and didn't see an OPP cruiser parked near the front gate.

The cruiser, which has become part of the landscape, hasn't been there since Wednesday.

Clyde Powless, one of the spokespeople for the natives, called the move a "de-escalation" and an "evolution."

Powless said while he doesn't tell the OPP where to park, the "de-escalation" was by mutual consent.

The change surprised some native and non-native people in the area, especially given the timing.

OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino threatened to leave Caledonia after seeing what he believed was a county councillor supporting Gary McHale, a Richmond Hill man police have described as an outside agitator.

While that news percolated around town, OPP Sergeant Dave Rektor said the decision not to have a cruiser stationed at the front gate was an operational decision. Instead of being parked on the side of the road, the cruiser is now patrolling the area, including Argyle Street and the front of the former Douglas Creek Estates, he said. There are still police by the abutting subdivision.

"This has nothing to do with anyone pulling out of anywhere," he said, adding that the deployment levels in Caledonia haven't changed.

But the disappearance of the cruiser concerned some, who feared the OPP had just walked away. A cruiser has been posted at the front gates since early 2006.

"I'm just wondering what's going on," native spokesperson Janie Jamieson said. "Are we left out in the cold again?"

Both the e-mail from Fantino and from the councillor were circulating on websites, message boards and blogs.

Local Tory MPP Toby Barrett wouldn't say Fantino's e-mail was offside but did decry a lack of provincial leadership.

"When no one is in charge, you get this kind of confusion," he said. "I'm just very concerned that (Premier) Dalton McGuinty has put everyone involved in a very difficult position."

He said there are many relationships which are strained and that the OPP are in an "untenable" situation.

"These relationships will continue to be strained as long as there's an occupation of that subdivision."

He said Monte Kwinter, minister of community safety -- which oversees the OPP -- should have visited the small town just outside Hamilton.

A spokesperson for Kwinter said he was aware of Fantino's correspondence but hadn't spoken to the commissioner about it so couldn't talk about the e-mail. Kwinter isn't considering pulling out the OPP since the contract doesn't expire until the fall of 2008.


E-mail excerpts

Here are excerpts from an e-mail Mayor Marie Trainer received, apparently from OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino, addressed to Haldimand council, on April 7 at 5:09 p.m.

"I have been made aware of a deeply disturbing communication posted at 11:40 a.m. this date on McHale's "Caledonia Wake Up Call" website ... Councillor Grice commends McHale on his efforts in Caledonia. In fact the comments are perceived to actually encourage McHale ... I am also concerned about the safety of my officers, many of whom have already been injured in their efforts to preserve the peace in a very volatile and dangerous environment ...

... In the event any of my officers are injured as a result of further forays into the community by McHale and his followers my position in response will be the following:

1) I will publicly hold accountable Councillor Grice AND Haldimand County along with McHale;

2) I will support any injured officer in the pursuit of civil redress;

3) I will forward the ensuing related costs of policing to Haldimand County, and

4) I will strongly recommend to my Minister that the OPP contract with Haldimand County NOT be renewed once the current contract expires ...

... Comments such as those attributed to Councillor Grice are gravely detrimental to the morale and safety of my officers and much more ... it is now up to you as a Council to deal with the fallout." The following are excerpts from Councillor Craig Grice's e-mail that prompted Fantino's response: "I have never once stopped Mr. McHale from coming to Caledonia. I have never spoken to Council about not letting Gary come to town, in fact the opposite is true. I do believe Gary brings media attention to our situation and I do support his stance on two tier justice ... I know of people who are the most affected by this who want nothing to do with (McHale), and countless others who leave town, send their children away and simply pray that no one gets hurt.

Do I commend Gary for some of actions and standing up? Yes I do. Do I have concerns on how Caledonia is seen and how others I represent feel when he comes town? Yes I do ... If Mr McHale wants to give up that will be his choice not mine."