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Julian Fantino vows pushback

January 10, 2010 Toronto Star

Jesse McLean

OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino is to appear in a Cayuga court Feb. 3, 2010, according to an activist who has been critical of the OPP's handling of the native dispute in Caledonia and who privately laid the charge.

Ontario's top cop Julian Fantino has vowed to fight an allegation that he illegally tried to influence elected officials during the ongoing native dispute in Caledonia.

The Ministry of the Attorney General has issued a summons against the Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner on one count of influencing or attempting to influence municipal officials, typically the step before charges are laid.

"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 news release.

As of Saturday afternoon, Fantino had not received the paperwork formally charging him, an OPP spokesperson said.

However, Gary McHale, the activist who privately laid the charge, said the commissioner is scheduled to appear in court in Cayuga, Ont., on Feb. 3.

McHale has been a vocal critic of how the OPP has handled the nearly four-year standoff on the site of a former subdivision, the Douglas Creek Estates.

The charge stems from an April 2007 email Fantino sent to Caledonia Mayor Marie Trainer and her councillors, warning that if they continued to support McHale or his rallies, the OPP would hold them responsible if any officers were hurt.

Fantino also warned he would support any injured officer who sued the town, bill the county for any additional policing cost and "strongly recommend" not renewing its policing contract with the county.

"He is threatening elected officials and it's a police-state mentality, that's how I read (the email)," McHale said.

Influencing or attempting to influence municipal officials is a Criminal Code offence and carries up to a five-year prison term on conviction.

The attorney general has told McHale that it will take over the case against Fantino and that it will assign a Crown attorney from its Justice Prosecutions Unit, the branch that handles cases involving police or other justice officials.

McHale had wanted the ministry to bring in a Crown prosecutor from outside the province because Fantino was acting as an agent for the government.

This isn't the first time McHale and Fantino have clashed in court.

The activist faces charges of counselling mischief.

Fantino testified during a preliminary hearing last April that he told subordinates he would gladly have arrested McHale himself for sparking unrest in Caledonia in December 2007.

Fantino has repeatedly called McHale a "lighting rod for confrontation" and potential violence.

The activist has led a number of rallies to protest what he calls race-based policing in Caledonia.

McHale says provincial police have had a lenient, kid-gloves approach to natives breaking the law compared to non-natives since aboriginal protesters began occupying the site in 2006 over a land claims dispute.

Fantino would not comment beyond his written statement, in which he praised OPP officers for their work during the 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," he said.