Comment - Build it and the OPP won't come

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

June 17, 2009

The liability of a landowner will probably be used as a loophole so that police won't have to shut down a smoke shack that appeared uninvited on his private property in Caledonia last week.

If a property owner has a structure that doesn't conform to bylaws, the municipality and police usually won't come on the land and tear it down. The legal route is taken, which means a warning and a possible lawsuit if the property owner doesn't abide by the rules. (Just ask the people who have dealt with the Dunnville Autodrome the last four years, a matter now before the OMB).

It's also a rarity that police would arrest trespassers on a person's premises if they aren't asked to. That is, unless there's a disturbance, or some sort of illegal act being committed.

It is the latter that police should be addressing without question, even though a local landowner has asked the OPP to let him deal with a smoke shack and its proprietors all by himself. But judging from the state of affairs on Highway 6 these days, that's not likely to happen.

Smoke shacks have been built on land in trust to Six Nations on the west side of Highway 6 and on a provincial piece of property at the south end of Argyle Street. Regardless of where they're built, laws pertaining to tobacco and entranceways off provincial highways should be enforced. Instead they continue to be flouted openly and the smoke shacks remain as a danger to public health and safety.

Provincial police put the problem of tobacco enforcement on the lap of the federal government (at least when it comes to native smoke shacks) and disorder is allowed to continue.

People slow down traffic on a posted 80 km route. People weave in and out of traffic. Non-Natives and teenagers buy cigarettes and other tobacco products tax free.

That the Ontario Provincial Police force is unable to address the root problems of lawlessness in Caledonia is not news anymore. That its leaders call out "agitators" instead of dealing with assailants is also well known. So last Monday at Haldimand Council meeting, when Inspector Dave McLean said there were no reports of intimidation from the landowner dealing with the smoke shack, and again accused Canadian flag raisers of causing disturbances, all while taking jabs at the media, it didn't surprise me much.

The Regional News spoke with the landowner coping with the smoke shack on Monday and it was clear that he'd rather the smoke shack and its owners weren't there. He told the newspaper that he doesn't allow them on his land and that he didn't invite them.

He also said: "What is the police going to do?"

Police have been incapable of handling trespassers committing illegal acts in the past and it's no wonder that a senior citizen doesn't want to inflame the situation on his property, even though he's liable for their deeds.

Every landowner living near the Highway 6 corridor should be concerned and people who don't care should put themselves in the shoes of a person who one day woke up to find a native smoke shack at the end of his driveway.

What if this was you? What if it was your father or grandfather who worked his whole life to build a home?

The so-called "Caledonia Militia" is a result of a lack of policing and law enforcement and while it doesn't pretend to be a solution to problems, it could serve as a last resort for some people according to Doug Fleming.

For this the OPP has no one to blame but its own policies and policing of the last three-and-a-half years here in Haldimand.

It is true that there are agitators who, like it or not, have perhaps inflamed the situation in Caledonia, but only to address root problems that continue to fester and affect individuals who have absolutely nowhere to run, nowhere to hide and nowhere to turn.

Some areas and residents are still without policing, and people are fed up.