Link to Original Story

It’s time for an inquiry

Toby Barrett, Queen’s Park
Published on Feb 20, 2009

The Sachem

By now, many will have heard about the petition that calls for an inquiry into justice issues surrounding the Caledonia land dispute.

Caledonia resident Ken Hewitt began distributing the petition before Christmas -both online and in hard-copy.

At time of writing, the petition has garnered over 5,000 signatures – one of them being my own.

This is not the first time I have joined a call for an inquiry into the unanswered questions plaguing our area over the past few years.

It was June of 2006 that John Tory presented an Opposition Day motion that was passed by the Legislature calling for a commission to be set up to, “inquire into and report on how absence of communication and lack of leadership by Premier McGuinty and his Liberal government allowed the Caledonia situation to escalate to a full-blown standoff and subsequently a public security crisis.”

More than two years later, we are still waiting.

It was November 2003, when Dalton McGuinty set out the mandate of the Ipperwash Inquiry – “1. to inquiry [sic] into and report on events surrounding the death of Dudley George; and, 2. to make recommendations directed to the avoidance of violence in similar circumstances.”

And for those of you reading this newspaper column you will now know that I intend to introduce legislation to the Parliament of Ontario also calling for a commission to conduct an inquiry. The purpose of this inquiry, subject to further advice, will be:

1. to determine the truth with respect to allegations of political influence in the court’s administration of justice and the police enforcement of the law with respect to activities in Six Nations, Haldimand County, Brant County and the City of Brantford;

2. to determine the truth with respect to the ownership of land within the boundaries of the former Haldimand Tract; and

3. to make recommendations directed to preventing similar chaotic confrontations when dealing with future land dispute issues in the province, including recommendations with respect to ways in which we can improve dispute resolution in this area and enhance respect for the courts and the rule of law; and

4. to grant the commission powers under the Public Inquiries Act.

I propose the title of the bill to be the Truth about Caledonia Inquiry Act.

As the impacts of the ongoing land disputes continue unabated, the need for an inquiry grows more urgent by the day. Just as the Ontario Liberals previously sought answers through three private members bills -and finally government legislation -creating the Ipperwash Inquiry, so too we need answers through a Caledonia inquiry.

As with Ipperwash, an inquiry would be a way to ‘find out what happened – to look back’, as well as to ‘look forward’, and ‘propose policy reform’…all the while conducted in public view and with the participation of the public.

Further, the Ipperwash report contends that the inquiry, “was established to meet both of those objectives – to conduct an investigation and to examine policy.” I hope to meet those same objectives through an inquiry into area land disputes.

The report goes on to say that an inquiry, “…provides a forum for citizens and groups to participate in the resolution of issues and the development of future policies.”

We need to get to the bottom of this, to consider all evidence, and to establish the truth.