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Fantino receives summons Outside Crown sought

Barbara Brown
The Hamilton Spectator

(Jan 21, 2010)

The activist who brought a private charge against Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino continues to press the government to appoint a prosecutor from outside the province.

Gary McHale claims to have further evidence to back up allegations that Fantino attempted to influence Haldimand County elected officials, but says he won't hand that material over unless Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley brings in an outside prosecutor.

Senior Crown counsel Milan Rupic accepted McHale's request to provide additional evidence, but told the private informant the Crown needed to receive that disclosure no later than yesterday.

"How does the Attorney General honestly expect the public to believe there is no conflict of interest when he never wanted the charge laid in the first place?" McHale said.

McHale, founder of Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality, said he faxed a 10-page letter last night outlining the reasons the minister has a conflict of interest in this case.

Fantino, who was served yesterday with a summons to appear in Cayuga court on Feb. 3, said he would make no comments until the charge was resolved in court.

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

Fantino was issued with a summons and not a warrant for his arrest, which means Ontario's top cop is not required to be fingerprinted and photographed.

A justice of the peace initially refused to issue the summons but was later compelled to lay the charge after McHale overcame opposition from the Crown to get a writ of mandamus (a court order compelling a subordinate court, body or official to do something it was duty-bound to do) from a Superior Court judge.

The charge arises from a strongly worded e-mail Fantino sent to Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer and council in April 2007. In the letter, he warned the politicians of potentially dire consequences should they show support for the public rallies led by McHale.

Fantino specifically took issue with comments attributed to Councillor Craig Grice, which the commissioner saw as encouraging McHale's activism in Caledonia. McHale led several rallies to protest what he saw as a two-tiered system of policing, alleging the OPP had demonstrated a willingness to tolerate almost any level of violence or lawlessness by native protesters pressing historic land claims.

The Fantino letter stated Grice's comments had the potential "of further inflaming an already volatile situation for the police."

The commissioner warned that if any OPP officer was injured as a result of McHale's forays into Caledonia, he would hold Grice, council and McHale accountable. Fantino said he would support any injured officer who filed a lawsuit, pass additional policing costs on to council and "strongly recommend to (his) Minister that the OPP contract with Haldimand County not be renewed once the current contract expires."