Fantino: Vigorous Defence or Special Treatment?

by Gary McHale - The Regional

January 13, 2010

On Friday Jan. 7 Justice David Brown signed the information sheet thereby charging Commissioner Fantino with illegally influencing or attempting to influence municipal officials contrary to section 123(2) of the Criminal Code. This is an indictable offence and carries a maximum of five years in jail.

A summons was issued by Justice Brown to compel Mr. Fantino to appear on Feb. 3 to answer to the charge. It is common to have a legal representative appear on behalf of the accused so I am sure Mr. Fantino will not personally be at the courthouse on Feb. 3.

Over the past weekend Mr. Fantino issued a release to the media. "I intend to vigorously defend myself and the OPP against this allegation and have the utmost confidence in the judicial system", he stated.

I would be the first to say that every person charged with an offense is innocent until proven guilty. However, Mr. Fantino should realize that it is him who is charged with an offence not the OPP. There is no need to defend the OPP against this allegation since there is no allegation against the OPP.

Furthermore, I too have utmost confidence in the judicial system which is why after two years and repeated delays by various agents of the McGuinty Government the Commissioner is facing criminal charges.

The Commissioner also stated, "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... 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."

Mr. Fantino appears to be confused because the OPP are not facing a charge. I doubt he is about to claim that his legislated responsibilities and the exercise of his police discretion includes threatening elected officials - what kind of police state does he believe Ontario has become?

Whether the OPP, by exercising its discretion, abandoned the people of Caledonia will be a matter for another court to decide. This charge is simply that Mr. Fantino, the person, threatened the members of Haldimand Council. This threat was issued while Mr. Fantino acted as the agent for the McGuinty Government. Considering that Mr. McGuinty publicly supported Mr. Fantino after the threatening email became public then one could believe that the threat was issued on behalf of the government.

What remains to be seen is whether Mr. Fantino will have to defend himself at all. The McGuinty Government already cleared him of any wrong doing in 2007 after a bogus investigation. Now we are to believe the same Government will prosecute Mr. Fantino in the same manner they would if some average person was faced with the same charge?

I received a fax from the Attorney General's office stating the following:

"The offence of attempting to influence municipal officials is an indictable offence. Accordingly, s. 11(b) of the Crown Attorney Act obliges the Crown to intervene and assume carriage of this prosecution once process is issued... With respect to who is assigned to this matter, as the accused is a police officer, the case will be assigned to a Crown within the Justice Prosecutions Unit of the Crown Law Office - Criminal."

I had formally requested that the Attorney General bring in a prosecutor from outside of Ontario, as they did with the prosecution of Michael Bryant, but it appears they will not do that this time.

Clearly there is a conflict of interest within the Attorney General’s office and not just because Mr. Fantino is the Commissioner of the OPP or because the McGuinty government already cleared Mr. Fantino back in 2007 of any wrong doing.

The clear conflict of interest exists because the Attorney General already presented the argument before Judge Crane that, in the view of the Attorney General, the charge against Mr. Fantino should not be issued. When Judge Crane ruled that the charge was to be issued he, in effect, ruled against the Attorney General of Ontario.

This Thursday I am before the Ontario Appeals Court because the Crown is attempting to overturn a July 2, 2009 ruling by Judge Marshall. Judge Marshall had ruled the Crown did not have the authority to stop citizens from presenting evidence of a crime before a Justice of the Peace or to stop the Justice from deciding whether to issue a charge or not.

In the Factum submitted by the Crown to the Appeals Court they imply that charges filed against OPP officers and Government officials are an abuse of process because of the Henco ruling in 2006. It appears the Crown believes that during aboriginal land claims OPP officers and government officials are automatically exempt from the Criminal Code of Canada – a view I am sure the court will reject.

The Crown believes it didn’t even need to see the evidence to decide that the charge was an abuse of process. Because of this stated view how can the Attorney General honestly be independent when reviewing whether to stay or withdraw the charge against Mr. Fantino?

This view by the Crown has already been rejected in at least four Superior Court rulings. However, the Crown continues to believe that any charge against a police officer or government official is an abuse of process.

This makes it impossible for the Attorney General now to come out and say they will review the evidence with a truly independent view.

Just as this story was going to press the Attorney General's office issued a statement saying that they were intervening and had already rescheduled Mr. Fantino's first appearance to this Friday, Jan. 15, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.

This sudden intervention strongly suggests that the Attorney General plans to stay or withdraw the charge in order to stem the current media storm against Mr. Fantino and thus, against the McGuinty government.

As we have seen for the past four years this government has had little interest in the Equal Rights of all the people of Ontario. It has stood by and watched the victimization of the residents of Haldimand County while claiming to be involved in a peacekeeping mission.

Peacekeeping missions occur in fallen states not in healthy democracies. Ontario must be based on the Rule of Law not on the Rule of Thugs.

Of course, we will stand against this and file a Judicial Review of the Crown's action. This would force another year's worth of commitment and paperwork.

If you too are sick and tired of this government's abuse of the Rule of Law then you can help by providing the financial support needed to stand up against this abuse. Over the past year we have incurred over $24,000 in court fees and costs - most of this still remains an outstanding debt. The Government has endless taxpayers' funds to fight and to delay these cases but in the end we can and will win.

Make donations at any Scotia Bank into CANACE account: 30882-0019216 or send cheques to CANACE, 106 Donald Bell Dr., Binbrook, ON L0R 1C0.