Comment - Behaviour unbecoming

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

January 13, 2010

Three years later the mainstream media has picked up on the fact that OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino perhaps attempted to influence municipal officials, but what most people don't know is that the alleged threats he made in a letter to Haldimand Council were essentially empty, begging the question: What did he hope to accomplish by writing it?

That Fantino influenced Haldimand Council is suspect and is a notion that some councillors adamantly deny.

Shortly after Fantino sent the letter to council, threatening to sue the municipality and recommend that the province not renew Haldimand's contract with the OPP, the county's Corporate Services GM Karen General explained that it wouldn't be possible for the OPP to desert the area.

In Ontario, municipalities can choose to create their own police force or engage in a contract with another police force such as the OPP. But if a municipality is ever without policing for one reason or another, the OPP is bound to provide services under Section 5 of the Police Services Act.

Prior to Fantino's letter, council also knew that the province promised, in writing, not to bill Haldimand for policing costs related to Caledonia and the Douglas Creek Estates occupation.

As Coun. Craig Grice told The Regional News earlier this week, legal opinion on Fantino's letter to council in which the commissioner said he would hold Grice and other council members publically responsible for any issues resulting from a flag raising march, simply weren't plausible.

In an election year, you probably won't get a councillor to admit that they were influenced by Fantino's rant. But proving the commissioner's intent is an entirely different matter, and according to a Superior Court Justice, that's all that's needed to prove the charge against him.

According to a statement issued last week, Fantino has expressed his intent to strongly defend against the allegation brought forward concerning his e-mail correspondence.

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

Fantino also strongly defended the OPP;s efforts to keep the peace and protect the public in Caledonia during the often volatile land claim dispute. but in the same statement he claims the OPP "acted in accordance with legislated responsibilities and exercised police discretion appropriately, fairly and equally" in Caledonia.

Did Julian Fantino not understand that a police commissioner or government ministry couldn't leave a community without policing? Did he not know the province was on the hook for for the cost of policing Caledonia during the DCE occupation?

Regardless of whether Fantino is guilty of threatening municipal officials and trying to influence them, his scruples and knowledge of laws pertaining to provincial policing is obviously lacking, and his behaviour is unbecoming of the organization he leads.

In the end, Fantino's letter is just another example of a provincial official trying to influence and muzzle free speech and liberty in Caledonia and Haldimand County, and that should be taken very seriously.

Let's face it, it's not the first time people have suspected police and government interference intended to restrict free speech and stifle the will of county council.

Local residents cried "Blood Money" when Haldimand developed its "Recovery Plan" at the direction of government officials who hoped to keep elected officials quiet about obvious injustices in the hopes of securing infrastructure funding.

There have been several reports of direct government interference when it comes to policing in Caledonia.

More recently the province reached a settlement with Dave Brown and Dana Chatwell, but won't disclose the amount of money it cost, despite the fact that taxpayers will ultimately be on the hook for their problems that the government helped create.

According to Chatwell, she isn't allowed to "Bash" the government. This just adds to a long list of examples where the police and government have tried to cover up the truth in order to prevent bad publicity.

The mainstream media has been informed of Fantino's conduct in the past and is even going one step further and reporting recently. That's maybe the biggest victory of late.