Comment - Land  claims don't commit crimes, people do

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

October 21, 2009

Leaving  the OPP detachment last Thursday I had a warm, fuzzy feeling for a brief moment. Then I took a knife and cut through the crap.

Certainly there's nothing wrong with the OPP's attempt to reach out to the community and improve relations. That's greatly needed and is arguably a positive step for any organization.

But poor relationships between police and citizens have nothing to do with a lack of community engagement in the past. One could argue that, during the last four years, the community has been engaged in policing more than ever before.

The relationship between police and people in Haldimand wasn't damaged by a lack of interest or attentiveness to the issues, but rather a lack of policing. This community has always been engaged, so much so that some people took it upon themselves to do the OPP's job for them.

The Chair of Haldimand's Police Services Board said last week that police officers are people we're taught to trust from a young age.

"Somewhere along the line we lost that and must get it back," he said.

In case Lorne Boyko doesn't remember, it was probably somewhere in Caledonia around the many police lines on Argyle Street. Criminal activity was going on right in front of police officers who stood by with their hands in their pockets. They watched while infrastructure was set ablaze. They also watched members of the media get robbed and assaulted. I was one of them.

To this day there's the issue of illegal smoke shacks and the possibility that another protest or road blockade could once again bring the same issues to the forefront.

I'd digress, but as long as people argue the contrary or seem vague, they should be reminded of the truth.

The present might seem promising, but history begs the question: Has anything really changed when it comes to OPP policies and procedures compared to the past few years?

It appears as if the OPP will at least uphold court injunctions these days. A group of protesters trying to stop garbage at the Edwards landfill site in Cayuga were told they'd be arrested if they continued to block the roadway into the site that has a valid certificate of approval to operate. A housing development in Hagersville has proceeded recently after an injunction was obtained by the developer and rightful landowner.

Regardless of whether you oppose the dump or development, this is good news if you believe in the rule of law in Canada.

Yet at last week's press conference, OPP Insp. John Periversoff blamed the federal government's inaction on land claims for the issues facing Haldimand and Six Nations, even though the majority of criminality occurring here during  the past four years has been in Caledonia., on or near a provincially owned piece of land that is not recognized as a valid land claim.

Fact, land claims don't commit crimes, people do. Police prevent crimes, they don't solve land claims. And the OPP isn't a public relations machine, it's a law enforcement organization.

The only way police can rebuild relationships with people in Haldimand is by doing their jobs in the future. Otherwise, any attempt to make nicey-nice will fall by the wayside.