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Fantino disputes Caledonia allegations

Last Updated: Saturday, January 9, 2010 | 4:39 PM ET

CBC News

The Canadian Press

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino says he intends to strongly defend himself against an allegation that he illegally influenced elected officials in Caledonia, Ont., the site of a long-running aboriginal occupation.

"I intend to vigorously defend myself and the OPP against this allegation and have the utmost confidence in the judicial system," Fantino said in a statement Saturday.

A summons was issued Friday against Fantino on one count of influencing or attempting to influence municipal officials — a legal step required before charges could be officially laid and court dates set.

Gary McHale, an activist who led a number of rallies to protest what he called two-tier justice in the policing of the land occupation, has been pushing to have Fantino charged after he sent an email allegedly telling the mayor and councillors in Caledonia not to attend McHale's rallies.

In his statement, the commissioner also defended police efforts to keep the peace and protect the public in Caledonia during the land claims dispute.

"I am proud of the work that the men and women of the OPP have done in Caledonia over the years in a complex and, at times, extremely volatile environment," Fantino said.

"The OPP and its officers have taken a measured approach and acted in accordance with legislated responsibilities and exercised police discretion appropriately, fairly and equally," he added.

McHale released to the media Friday a copy of a letter he received from the Ministry of the Attorney General, which said the Crown will move immediately and assume prosecution of the case. 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.

McHale said Friday he was informed by the court in Cayuga, Ont., that a judge signed a summons on a charge of influencing or attempting to influence municipal officials, a Criminal Code offence which carries up to a five-year prison term.

In a decision released last week, Ontario Superior Court Justice David Crane ruled Fantino must face the allegations presented by McHale. A justice of the peace who heard McHale's complaint refused to issue a summons or warrant for Fantino, but Crane ordered the justice to issue the order.