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OPP chief served summons in Caledonia dispute

Last Updated: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 | 6:37 PM ET

The Canadian Press - posted on CBC

Ontario's top police officer was served with a summons Wednesday over allegations he illegally influenced municipal officials in a town grappling with an aboriginal land occupation.

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino confirmed in a release that he has received the summons and said he intends to defend himself and the force.

"My intent, as I have previously made known, is to vigorously defend myself and the OPP against this vexatious allegation," Fantino said. "I have absolute confidence in the ultimate outcome of this process."

Activist Gary McHale has been trying to have Fantino charged after the commissioner allegedly sent an email in 2007 telling the mayor and councillors in Caledonia, Ont., not to attend McHale's rallies.

A justice of the peace who heard McHale's complaint last year refused to issue a summons or warrant for Fantino. But Superior Court Justice David Crane, who reviewed the case, ordered the justice of the peace to issue such an order, saying it was his duty to do so.

McHale has led a number of rallies in the community south of Hamilton to protest what he called two-tier justice in the policing of an aboriginal land occupation of a former housing development.

The case was put over earlier this month until Feb. 3 after the Crown asked the court in Cayuga for more time to review new evidence relating to the allegation.

A charge of influencing or attempting to influence municipal officials is a Criminal Code offence that carries up to a five-year prison term.

The attorney general's office has said a special prosecutor will be assigned from the justice prosecutions unit, which was set up to handle cases involving police or other justice officials and is made up of senior Crown counsels with extensive experience in criminal cases.

The Opposition has said nothing short of an outside prosecutor is needed to ensure justice is done.