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Fantino vows to defend himself against influence allegations

January 09, 2010 Toronto Star

Jesse McLean

Ontario's top cop Julian Fantino says he will defend himself against an allegation he illegally influenced elected officials during the long-running aboriginal occupation in Caledonia, Ont.

On Friday, the Ministry of the Attorney General issued a summons against the Ontario Provincial Police commissioner on one count of influencing or attempting to influence municipal officials, stemming from email Fantino allegedly sent to the community's mayor and councillors.

The issuing process is a standard legal step required before charges can be officially laid.

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

He said he was proud of the OPP's efforts to keep the peace during the complex and "often volatile land claims dispute."

He added, "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."

Activist Gary McHale has been pushing to have him charged after Fantino allegedly sent an email telling the Caledonia's mayor and councillors not to attend McHale's rallies.

McHale has organized several protests against what he called two-tier justice in the policing of the land occupation.

Influencing, or attempting to influence municipal officials, is a Criminal Code offence 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.

In a letter from the Attorney General, released to the media by McHale, it says a special prosecutor will be assigned from the Justice Prosecutions Unit. That unit was formed to handle cases involving police or other justice officials.