Fantino should quit, NDP critic says

OPP chief's e-mail 'beyond bullying'

Lee Greenberg, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2007

TORONTO - Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino continued his stubborn silence yesterday, even as calls for his resignation mounted following what critics say is an attempt to bully elected officials in Caledonia, site of an ongoing native blockade.

"Fantino can call it whatever he wants, but the message is very, very clear: He is threatening to effectively withdraw police services (from Caledonia)," said New Democratic House leader Peter Kormos.

"His efforts to intimidate elected officials in Caledonia go far beyond bullying. They are a direct attack on politicians, their responsibilities and their role. He has crossed the line, big time."

Earlier this month, Commissioner Fantino sent an e-mail warning the Haldimand County mayor and councillors that he would hold them responsible for violence resulting from future anti-occupation protests by a group known as "Caledonia Wake Up Call."

The group has criticized the OPP's handling of a 14-month standoff with natives occupying a 40-hectare tract of land they claim is theirs.

Commissioner Fantino's angry e-mail is apparently sparked by one councillor's comments supporting the leader of that group, Gary McHale, whom he calls "a lightning rod for confrontation and potential violence."

The e-mail goes on to say that if further violence results from a McHale-led protest, Commissioner Fantino would support any lawsuits filed by officers, will pass on the ensuing policing costs to the county and will recommend that the OPP not renew its contract with the county when it expires in September 2008.

Yesterday, Solicitor General Monte Kwinter, who hand-picked the former Toronto police chief for the OPP job, said he is investigating three complaints lodged against Commissioner Fantino.

"I'm not going to comment on what I thought of (the e-mail)," Mr. Kwinter told reporters. "I have confidence in the commissioner."

But Mr. Kormos said that wasn't enough.

"I think, at this point, the government has to call for Fantino to withdraw as OPP commissioner," he said in an interview. "His conduct -- this e-mail -- is a very, very serious matter. It's police interference with discourse by elected politicians. That isn't supposed to happen in democratic countries."