Flag raising event fulfils mandate of organizers

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

May 27, 2009

A Canadian flag raising event in Caledonia last Sunday was successful according to organizers who managed to get the names and numbers of approximately 25 officers who refused to let them march down Argyle Street and hang Canadian flags across from the Douglas Creek Estates property.

Merlyn Kinrade, Mark Vandermaas and members of the group Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality - a federally incorporated organization headed by well-known activist Gary McHale - plan to privately prosecute the officers for common nuisance and for obstructing their rights as Canadian citizens.

"Are we actually promoting violence as some people have said?" asked Mark Vandermaas in front of more than 50 people who gathered outside the Lions Hall at 1:30 p.m.

Vandermaas reiterated that the right to hang a Canadian flag is supported by a Supreme Court decision, however up until that point three people had been arrested in Caledonia while attempting to do so.

Randy Fleming, a 48-year-old resident of Townsend was the fourth to be arrested at approximately 2:30 p.m. He was charged with obstructing police.

"After being warned by OPP officers that his actions could jeopardize public peace and safety, Fleming disregarded police instruction and proceeded to put public safety at risk by entering Douglas Creek Estates," according to an OPP press release.

According to bystanders, Fleming and his flag were tackled by approximately nine OPP officers toward the south-east end of the native occupation.

The OPP had struck a deal with Kinrade earlier in the day that would have allowed him and possibly up to eight other individuals to hang a Canadian flag on Argyle street with a police escort.

Kinrade was later told that the deal was broken because one of his group's members was arrested, but he argued that Fleming was not a member of his group.

Randy Fleming's brother, Doug Fleming was standing with Kinrade and about 30 others who were behind police lines that formed on the shoulders of Argyle Street South, adjacent to Canadian Tire and Body Waves Fitness. OPP Staff Sgt. Phil Carter said he assumed that the brothers had communicated beforehand.

Traffic was still permitted to travel in both directions on Argyle Street South with the assistance of a traffic cop.

Approximately 100 people gathered on Douglas Creek Estates. Some gathered on the opposite side of Argyle Street where the flag raising was supposed to take place.

Throngs of police officers wee staked out in vans behind Body Waves Fitness and both sides of Argyle Street. A helicopter flew overhead. Word had it that more than 150 lunch combos were sent from a local business to Oneida Central School on the Fourth Line earlier in the day.

Kinrade asked more that 25 officers the same question: "Will you allow me through to hang a Canadian Flag?" When they refused, he asked for their badge number and name.

Prior to the event, Kinrade said that that was the whole point. Calling himself a "feeble old fart," he couldn't fathom that he was considered a threat to public safety.

But as one man on his side of the police line stated: "There are natives on both sides of a road that we can't use."

Earlier, OPP spokesperson Cst. Paula Wright said that raising a Canadian Flag was not the issue for the OPP. But she said that the event wouldn't be permitted due to concerns for public safety and public peace. That sentiment was reiterated to Kinrade by OPP Sgt. Dan Michaud, prior to the march taking place from the Lions Hall.

Kinrade said that both Haldimand and Six Nations have been harmed by a criminal element during the past few years. Instead of enforcing the law, police choose to keep the peace by punishing people who aren't committing a crime, he contends.

"That's like locking up children because pedophiles run free."

Kinrade criticized politicians for a lack of leadership and recognized their absence at Sunday's event.

Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett had another obligation last Sunday, but admitted that he probably wouldn't have come to the flag raising anyway. He said he was unsure if it was a good idea or not.

Barrett realizes that people are frustrated with Warrior flags on DCE and admits that it reflects poorly on the owner of the site - the Province of Ontario.

"I'm not sure who I would meet down there on behalf of the Warriors," he said. "I guess the Warriors are in charge. Their flag is out front, whether they're called Men's Fire or whatever they want to call themselves... I have had discussions with Warriors and I found it was getting to be a waste of time. That's going back three years ago."

At a council meeting this past Monday, several councillors were critical of the Canadian flag raisers.

Coun. Craig Grice said that most people would probably agree that two tier policing is evident in Caledonia, but he questions what a flag raising accomplishes for the town and local businesses with the tourist season on its way. People outside the community see Caledonia in the media for all the wrong reasons, he believes.

Grice said he lives close to Douglas Creek Estates on a quiet corner. Kids play on the street and it's a "fun little community," he said.

"I didn't have fun on Sunday.,"

Coun. Buck Sloat said the flag raisers have a blatant disregard for what the Canadian flag means. There are soldiers coming home dead and some individuals in Caledonia use and abuse the Canadian flag for their own means, he said.

Coun. Lorne Boyko wondered if the message could be conveyed to event organizers in writing.

"The residents of Caledonia have gone on with their lives except for a hardcore handful."

When given the opportunity to respond, Kinrade said he believes that what he's doing is right and what councillors are doing is wrong.

"They bad mouth me, but the people responsible for killing this town go on their merry way," he said.

"Instead of throwing road blocks in front of me, councillors should do what they're supposed to and sue the province for all the development that's been lost."

Mayor Marie Trainer told The Regional News that people have a right to protest and freedom of speech.

"The point flag raisers are making is that they have just as much right to raise a flag as Six Nations does," she said.

"I just think they're trying to prove their point that again they were arrested for raising a Canadian flag in Caledonia.