By: Keith Leslie, THE CANADIAN PRESS
January 8, 2010 Posted Winnipeg Free Press
TORONTO - A summons was issued Friday against Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino on allegations that he illegally influenced elected officials in Caledonia, Ont., the site of a long-running aboriginal occupation.
Activist Gary McHale has been pressing to have Fantino charged after the commissioner sent an email allegedly telling the mayor and councillors in Caledonia not to attend McHale's rallies. McHale led a number of rallies to protest what he called two-tier justice in the policing of the land occupation in the town south of Hamilton.
The Ministry of the Attorney General confirmed a justice of the peace "issued process" against Fantino on one count of influencing or attempting to influence municipal officials. Issuing process was a legal step required before the charges could be officially laid and court dates set.
"I've been advised by the Ministry of the Attorney General that a process was issued late this afternoon by a justice of the peace," Insp. Dave Ross, a provincial police spokesman, said Friday evening. "At this particular time we haven't seen the process nor has the commissioner been served with any process."
The ministry said it had sent a letter to McHale, but refused to release the contents.
However, McHale sent the media copies of the letter, signed by lawyer Ken Campbell on behalf of Attorney General Chris Bentley, which said the Crown will move immediately and assume prosecution of the case.
It also assures McHale a special prosecutor will be assigned from the Justice Prosecutions Unit, which was set up to handle cases involving police or other justice officials and is made up of senior Crown counsels with extensive experience in criminal cases.
Ministry spokesman Brendan Crawley said when a private prosecution involves an indictable offence the Crown must intervene and assume the prosecution.
McHale said Friday he was informed by the court in Cayuga, Ont., that a judge signed a summons on the criminal charge of influencing or attempting to influence municipal officials.
Influencing or attempting to influence a municipal official in municipal activities is an offence under the Criminal Code and carries up to a five-year prison term if convicted.
In an email to The Canadian Press, McHale said Fantino is summoned to appear before criminal court in Cayuga on Feb. 3 at 10 a.m.
An Ontario Superior Court justice ruled last week that Fantino must face allegations brought forward by McHale.
A justice of the peace who heard McHale's complaint refused to issue a summons or warrant for Fantino but Superior Court Justice David Crane ordered the justice to issue the order.
The case is not the first time Fantino and McHale have squared off in court.
McHale faces charges of counselling mischief not committed and Fantino testified during a preliminary hearing earlier this year that he told subordinates he would have gladly arrested McHale himself for inciting civil unrest in Caledonia.
McHale is representing himself in that case as well and questioned Fantino on the witness stand.
During one exchange Fantino told McHale that his repeated visits to Caledonia, already tense over the lengthy aboriginal occupation, dangerously inflamed the situation.
The commissioner called McHale a "lightning rod to the conflict" during his testimony and added police saved McHale from "grievous bodily harm numerous times."