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Ontario's top cop vows to fight influence allegations

Saturday, January 9th, 2010 | 10:40 am


Canwest News Service

TORONTO – Ontario's top police officer says he will defend himself against allegations that he tried to influence municipal officials during a long-running aboriginal land dispute in the province.

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

Fantino is facing a charge of attempting to influence elected officials, after a justice of the peace on Friday signed a summons requiring the former Toronto police chief to appear before a criminal court.

The summons comes after a Dec. 31 Ontario Superior Court order demanding a formal charge be laid in relation to allegations against Fantino brought forward by a private complainant, Gary McHale, who has long been at odds with the commissioner over his handling of the aboriginal protests in Caledonia, Ont.

In the statement, Fantino said he stands by police action during the dispute.

He also strongly defended the provincial police force's efforts to keep the peace and protect the public in Caledonia during an often-volatile land dispute that has created tensions between various groups.

"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," he 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."

At the centre of the current dispute is Fantino's April 7, 2007 e-mail to Haldimand County's mayor and councillors, which warned the politicians not to support anti-occupation protests.

The commissioner wrote that he would hold the county directly accountable for any injuries suffered by OPP officers during protests by a contentious group known as "Caledonia Wake Up Call," led by McHale. He also warned that he would advise the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services not to renew the OPP's contract with Haldimand County for policing once it expired if councillors supported the protest group.

Fantino could appear in criminal court as early as Feb. 3.