OPP boss's e-mail upsets Caledonia-area politicians politicians

Wednesday, April 18, 2007
SARNIA OBSERVER

The Ontario government will investigate an e-mail concerning a contentious aboriginal occupation that was sent by the province's top cop to small-town officials.

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino sent an e-mail several weeks ago to members of Haldimand council.

In it, he suggested local politicians were encouraging divisive rallies against the policing of an 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 town and will back any officer's lawsuit brought against the town.

The e-mail sparked outrage among local politicians and residents who said they felt threatened.

It has also prompted the first formal complaint Ontario Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter says he's had against a police commissioner in his three-and-a-half years on the job.

``I have the discretion to deal with it as I see fit, Kwinter said Tuesday. ``Someone is going to have to decide as to the validity of the complaint and the appropriate way of dealing with it.

Kwinter wouldn't say what kind of discipline Fantino might face if the e-mail is found to be inappropriate.

``I can't speculate on that because I don't know the nature of the complaint, he said.

Merlyn Kinrade, who has lived in Caledonia since 1946, said he is lodging the complaint because the e-mail was threatening and 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.

Since the e-mail became public last week, Fantino has refused to comment.

Police spokesman Insp. Dave Ross called the official complaint ``unfortunate.

``We do take our policing responsibilities seriously and are still committed to the contractual relationship with Haldimand County, Ross said. ``Our primary role in the land dispute is keeping the peace and upholding the law.

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.