Premier Dalton McGuinty is rejecting NDP pressure to ask Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino to step down over allegations the veteran cop tried to influence municipal officials regarding the aboriginal occupation of Caledonia.
"I continue to have confidence in Commissioner Fantino and that's all I'm going to say about this because it is before the courts," McGuinty told reporters Wednesday.
Gary McHale, an activist fighting the occupation, contends Fantino sent an email telling the mayor and councillors in the town not to attend rallies organized by McHale to protest what he called two-tier justice in policing the land dispute.
Under the Criminal Code of Canada, it is illegal to influence or attempt to influence municipal officials and convictions come with a prison term of up to five years.
McHale is pursuing the charge as a private citizen in a process known as a "private information," which will be heard in court this Friday, following a sworn statement made before a justice of the peace last week. Police have not laid any charges against Fantino.
The commissioner will "vigorously defend" himself but will not appear in court Friday and will not step aside from his post, said OPP Insp. Dave Ross.
"At this time, the commissioner has not seen that process or received any process requiring him to be in court," Ross told the Star. "His intent at this time is to continue to provide strong leadership to the men and women of the OPP."
Fantino's refusal to take temporary leave and McGuinty's refusal to force him to do so does not bode well for the "fair and unbiased" administration of justice in Ontario, said New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath.
"The thing I find most disconcerting is the premier is putting his loyalty to Mr. Fantino over and above the practical reality that it's becoming more and more difficult for Mr. Fantino to do his job while he's under this significant spotlight."
She added Fantino "should see that it's time for him to take a back seat for a while, at least until this is dealt with."
The Progressive Conservatives did not call for Fantino to step aside.