Fantino targeted -- but no one's home

Caledonia protesters picket OPP boss' house -- while he's visiting their turf

By SARAH GREEN AND JACK BOLAND, SUN MEDIA
Toronto Sun

As Caledonia protesters made speeches outside Julian Fantino's front door in Woodbridge, the OPP commissioner was in their backyard to meet local police and shake hands with residents yesterday.

Fantino met officers at the newly renovated OPP detachment in nearby Cayuga -- the detachment has doubled in size to 130 officers since the native protest began two years ago -- then stopped for coffee at a Caledonia Tim Hortons, just metres from the disputed land. Fantino said his Caledonia stop was a previously planned visit and he would not be intimidated by the actions of about 20 protesters outside his house.

"Why people would think that their actions today -- their very personal actions today -- would deter me or the OPP from doing our job. That shows a certain amount of desperation," Fantino told the Sun in Caledonia.

"They don't represent the overwhelming majority of law-abiding citizens who are concerned, yes, but they're not resorting to these kinds of tactics." Residents of Caledonia, like police, are frustrated by the prolonged dispute which marked its second anniversary last Thursday, Fantino said.

But the OPP has power only to keep the peace in Caledonia, where tensions have erupted in violence at times and the dispute must be settled by the province, which now owns the 40 hectares of land, and the Six Nations, he said.

"The people who say we're not doing our job, that there's a two-tier justice system, I think that's just a way of expressing their own biases and frustrations and I don't accept that," Fantino said. "The reality is we have been doing our job. We can't make magic, we can't invent new authorities and we can't co-opt agendas that are not within our power."

The protest has cost the OPP about $30 million and it has seen 46 officers injured, 54 people "from all sides" arrested and more than 100 criminal charges laid, Fantino said. "I encourage all parties to get on with it, find solutions so we can, at the end of the day, let the community carry on," he said. "They're well entitled to put this behind them. Enough is enough."

About noon yesterday, 20 protesters carrying placards and Canadian flags walked down Fantino's street in Woodbridge hoping to confront the OPP's top boss at his home. Christine McHale said the group gathered to voice their displeasure with Fantino not coming to Caledonia to speak with the residents affected by the native protest.

"He needs to hear them out and hear their concerns," said McHale. "I mean, the people down there want to be able to get up every morning and feel concerned that if they phone the police whether they will or won't show up."

Merlyn Kinrade, 76, who has lived in Caledonia since 1947, sported a sign that read, "Rule of Law NOT Rule of Thugs," as he stood at the bottom of Fantino's driveway and loudly asking for him to come out and speak with them.

"We need you out here, Mr. Fantino, if you are home. Love to talk to you," said Kinrade. "You promised to talk and you haven't so far."

Ray Robitaille, a resident of Caledonia for 37 years, said after the protest wound down that they had learned that Fantino was in Caledonia.

"If in fact Mr. Fantino has come out there to talk to residents of our community, then perhaps I feel we've made a small win," Robitaille said. "It may be only a small step."