Caledonia resident lodging complaint against OPP commissioner over e-mail

Canadian Press - Posted Brandon Sun
April 17, 2007

TORONTO (CP) - A resident frustrated with the year-long aboriginal occupation in his southern Ontario town is lodging a formal complaint with the province over an e-mail sent by Ontario police commissioner Julian Fantino.

Fantino sent an e-mail several weeks ago to members of Haldimand council - along with top-ranking bureaucrats in the premier's office - which suggested local politicians were encouraging divisive rallies against the policing of ongoing Six Nations occupation in Caledonia, Ont.

Fantino implied that if any of his officers are hurt as a result, he won't support a renewal of the force's contract to police the area and will back any officer's lawsuit brought against the town.

Merlyn Kinrade, who has lived in Caledonia since 1946, said he is lodging a police services complaint with Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter because he doesn't want his local councillor intimidated by the commissioner.

"The very heart of democracy is under attack when the head of a 7,500-member police force is permitted to believe that he has the right and authority to silence democratically elected people," Kinrade said.

"Any person who has ever ran for office should be outraged to think that they too may one day be targeted."

The e-mail was totally inappropriate and Premier Dalton McGuinty should ask for Fantino's resignation, Kinrade said.

"Until Mr. Fantino is removed as OPP commissioner, there will always be a cloud of suspicion that my elected council member's vote is influenced because of Mr. Fantino's threats," said Kinrade, adding Ontario's "top cop" should not be allowed to intimidate publicly elected people.

"I didn't see the commissioner's name on the ballot when I cast my vote," he said in his formal complaint to the province.

Since the e-mail became public last week, Fantino has refused to comment through a spokesperson, saying the correspondence was private.

Liberal government ministers, including the premier, have repeatedly refused to comment on Fantino's correspondence although McGuinty's chief of staff and press secretary were both copied on the e-mail.

McGuinty refused to comment on the appropriateness of Fantino's correspondence Tuesday, saying the commissioner can "speak for himself."

"As far as I'm concerned, the Ontario provincial police have been doing an excellent job in very difficult circumstances to manage ongoing security issues in the community of Caledonia," McGuinty said.

Six Nations protesters have occupied a former housing development site in Caledonia for almost 14 months. The occupation has been marred by clashes between town residents and protesters. The two sides have often had to be kept apart by a line of police.

Aboriginal protesters say the land was stolen from them over 200 years ago and say they won't leave the land until it is returned to them.