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OPP chief facing prosecution


Daniel Nolan
The Hamilton Spectator

(Jan 9, 2010)

A summons has been issued for OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino over allegations he illegally influenced Haldimand County officials by means of threats stemming from the ongoing native dispute in Caledonia.

Activist Gary McHale, who launched a private prosecution of Fantino over a contentious e-mail he sent to Haldimand council, said last night he has been told by Cayuga court the commissioner has been summoned to court for Feb. 3.

The Ministry of the Attorney General confirmed Justice of the Peace David Brown "issued process" against Fantino on one count of influencing or attempting to influencing municipal officials. An OPP spokesperson said it had been done late yesterday afternoon, but that Fantino had not yet received it.

Brown was ordered to issue the summons after his August ruling dismissing the charge was overturned on the last day of 2009 by Ontario Superior Court Justice David Crane.

The ministry has also informed McHale it will take over the prosecution of Fantino, saying the offence is an indictable offence and it is obliged to assume the prosecution. It will assign a Crown from within the Justice Prosecutions Unit of the Crown Law.

McHale had been seeking for the ministry to bring in a Crown from outside the province because of, among various points, Fantino was acting as an agent of the government. He also says the Crown Act says it must exercise discretion in taking over private prosecutions.

McHale said the late Justice David Marshall ruled last year the ministry's interpretation was too broad. An appeal on his ruling is set to be heard by the Court of Appeal in Toronto next Thursday.

McHale admits ultimately he cannot stop the ministry from taking over the prosecution, but warns he won't hesitate to seek a judicial review if the Crown stays or withdraws the charge and does not "prosecute it to the best of their ability."

"I think it's a serious thing when the highest ranking officer in the province threatens municipal leaders," he said.

McHale has led a number of rallies to protest what he has called two-tier justice in Caledonia. He says police have been lenient on natives breaking the law, compared to non-natives, since natives occupied a housing site in 2006 over a land claims dispute.

Fantino sent an e-mail to Haldimand council in April 2007 stating he would recommend the OPP contract with the county not be renewed if his officers were hurt policing a McHale rally. This was in response to comments by Caledonia Councillor Craig Grice to a resident where he commended McHale. Fantino described that as encouraging the activist.

Haldimand council in December approved a new five-year contract with the OPP.