Comment - Getting both sides of the story

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

June 24, 2009

It's nice to know that Haldimand OPP Insp. Dave McLean thinks that the media should get both sides of the story.

That's why last week, following a council meeting in Cayuga, I took it upon myself to talk face to face with a landowner who is dealing with the owners of a native smoke shack who set up shop on hs property.

But what he told me was somewhat different than what McLean told councillors who, after having no communication with the property owner in question, speculated as to what he may or may not be thinking while hearing what the police inspector had to say.

It is true, I found, and as McLean stated, that the property owner wanted to try and resolve the matter on his own.

The property owner and McLean both blamed the formation of the 'Caledonia Militia' by Doug Fleming as being detrimental to a coffee-talk resolution between the landowner and the smoke shack owners that would have resulted in the removal of the illegal business.

The words gullible and naive come to mind. But to say that the landowner wasn't intimidated, as McLean asserted, is assumptive.

The man, arguably, was not threatened with extortion, but does anyone think that having a native smoke shack at the end of their driveway wouldn't be a bit intimidating with what Haldimand has dealt with the past three-and-a-half years? Would it not be a little intimidating to be liable for an illegal business and be at risk of losing your insurance, while facing possible fines? Suffice it to say that the property owner probably wouldn't want a repeat of April 20, 2006 beside his home.

McLean also stated that the shack was placed on the man's property "with his agreement". But the property owner told me that he didn't allow the smoke shack on his property ad that he thought it was wrong.

McLean also accused the media for not getting two sides of the story relating to a flag raising march last month in Caledonia.

I don't think he was talking about this newspaper, because my report following that event included on the spot comments from three members of the OPP, including two sergeants and a spokesperson. It also contained comments from people, including politicians, who supported and opposed the event.

McLean said the media didn't report that the flag raising was disallowed because of unreasonable requests by organizers. Police were going to allow a person to hand one fag, but that request was increased to three people and then nine people by event organizers, he said.

This is perhaps true, but it wasn't why the flag raising was disallowed, according to Staff Sgt. Phil Carter, who told event organizers in front of reporters that the deal was off due to a suspected group member who was arrested up the street. If unreasonable requests were the reason for the flag raising being disallowed, Carter certainly didn't mention anything to that effect the day of the event.

Apparently we're also to blame for not assisting the OPP in getting out its messages about crime prevention that tell people to secure their property. Cst. Paula Wright sends out press releases, however the message isn't getting out as strong as the OPP would like, McLean says.

During the past few weeks, information was sent out about two isolated ATV thefts in Dunnville and Cayuga. Yet when something similar happens on Braemar Avenue in Caledonia involving several homes next to DCE, we don't hear a thing. We all know why.

This paper has had no problem printing press releases in the past that remind people to lock their car doors and remove valuables from the sight of burglars. But police should also have the courtesy to make people aware of areas that are being affected, so people can be extra vigilant and on the lookout.

Remember, as the provincial police say: "If you see something say something."

Of course, no one would know about the accident that occurred out in front of the new Highway 6 smoke shack last weekend if it wasn't for the information provided to the news paper by local residents.

Mayor Marie Trainer confirmed Monday that there was a collision involving three vehicles. According to her, one car was making a turn into the smoke shack when it was rear-ended by another.

The accident is the type of thing that people have seen coming ever since smoke shacks started popping up on the side of a provincial highway.

Motorists luckily sustained only minor injuries. Apparently.

Of course, all of this information is just hearsay and couldn't be confirmed because the spokesperson for the OPP is away this week. No one seems to be serving in her place.

As of press time Tuesday, we'd received no media releases about any reports that the OPP responded to last weekend.

That makes it hard to tell a story, let alone two sides.