April 18 2007
TORONTO — An e-mail sent by the province's police commissioner to small-town politicians living with a year-long aboriginal occupation was inappropriate and should cost Julian Fantino his job, New Democrat Peter Kormos said Wednesday.
Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter is currently investigating the e-mail after it was called "threatening'' by the town's mayor and prompted three official complaints to Kwinter's office.
The e-mail from Fantino -- which was copied to senior bureaucrats and staff in the premier's office -- suggested the town of Caledonia, Ont., is encouraging divisive rallies against the policing of the ongoing aboriginal occupation.
Fantino also suggested if any of his officers were injured as a result, he would back any lawsuit they brought against the town and would not recommend the Ontario Provincial Police renew its contract to police the town.
"This is entirely inappropriate,'' Kormos said.
"Fantino has crossed the line in a big way. This isn't an inadvertent slip of the tongue... (this is) some pretty heavy-handed stuff. That's not the function of police.''
Kwinter has "little choice but to ask Fantino to step down,'' Kormos added.
But Premier Dalton McGuinty said he continues to have confidence in Fantino "and in his ability to manage a very difficult situation.''
"Given the circumstances, I think he and the OPP have been doing a very commendable job,'' he said.
Although he's read the e-mail, Kwinter wouldn't say whether he thinks it was threatening or inappropriate.
"That's part of what I'm reviewing and that's a matter of opinion,'' he said.
Many of his senior staff were copied on Fantino's e-mail so a ministry investigation might present a conflict of interest, Kwinter said. Once he receives legal advice, Kwinter said it shouldn't take long to complete the investigation.
"It's not going to be months. It's going to be days,'' said Kwinter, adding he is unsure what kind of sanctions Fantino might face if the e-mail is found to be inappropriate.
Fantino has been unavailable for comment on both the original e-mail and the subsequent investigation.
Insp. Dave Ross said Fantino is letting "the process take its due course.''
"The commissioner is very supportive of his officers and has stated he won't be deterred from his duty to protect and defend his officers from unwanted criticism,'' Ross said.
But given the e-mail was sent to both McGuinty's chief of staff and senior bureaucrats in Kwinter's office, Conservative Tim Hudak said both the premier and Kwinter have a lot of explaining to do.
"I'd like to know what the minister knew about the e-mail, when he knew it, what he did about it and did he agree with it,'' he said. "The minister needs to come clean.''
While Hudak said Fantino's e-mail was "very unhelpful to say the least,'' he said the Liberals have been ducking the continuing tense situation in Caledonia arising from the ongoing Six Nation occupation.
"The premier may as well make his bed and put it underneath his desk,'' Hudak said. "When it comes to Caledonia, that's where you can usually find him.''
Six Nations protesters have occupied a former housing development site in Caledonia since February, 2006. During the occupation, there have been violent clashes between residents and protesters while provincial police have been heavily criticized for treating aboriginal protesters differently than town residents.