Flag fervour returns with skirmish in legislature

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

March 3, 2010

The Great Canadian Flag Debate returned to the Ontario Legislature last week and will likely make for a contentious prelude to a rally planned for March 21 in Caledonia.

Halton MPP and Conservative Critic Ted Chudleigh questioned Liberal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Dr. Eric Hoskins as to why a government solicitor recently referred to the flying of a Canadian flag as a provocative criminal act, while defending the province in a civil lawsuit.

"In 2006, a man was arrested for carrying the Canadian flag down the streets of Caledonia," he said, "but when someone walked down the same street... with a Mohawk Warrior flag, he got a police escort."

The question was referred to the Minister of Community Safety Rick Bartolucci who responded by highlighting "This is the problem we have: We have people who try to incite that type of inappropriate behaviour. I will always support the actions of the Ontario Provincial Police. I will never interfere in operational matters.

"This member and every other member in this House should support those types of actions that prevent violence. They should be supporting the OPP. That leader, that member and that side of the House should be ashamed of themselves."

Haldimand OPP Insp. John Periversoff has already been put on notice of an "anti-racism" rally later this month in Caledonia.

"The racism is the OPP policies where non-Natives are arrested for doing the very thing the OPP allow Natives to do," according to Gary McHale, founder of the Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality (CANACE).

"In a letter dated Feb. 25, McHale told Periversoff it's "easy to say to the public that there is no such thing as Two Tier Justice, but your actions will speak far louder than your words" and that "Once again the OPP have an opportunity to demonstrate that they apply the law equally to all people regardless of their race."

Last year, several non-Natives were permitted to hang a Canadian Flag across from the Douglas Creek Estates native occupation, but only after several attempts.

McHale pointed out that four people had already been arrested for carrying Canadian flags and charged with breach of the peace.

"Please understand we have never said Native Protesters do not have the right to assemble and protest, but simply that whatever standards the OPP use to allow them free speech then the OPP need to treat non-Natives the same," McHale told Periversoff. "It has been the OPP's position that carrying a Canadian Flag down Argyle St. is a breach of the peace."

In an interview with The Regional News, Chudleigh said he has been talking about the lawlessness and two-tiered justice in Caledonia at the forefront for some time, but that he wasn't being critical of the OPP.

"Only in Dalton McGuinty's Ontario is asking a question inciting, and the right to fly Canada's flag inappropriate behaviour. The man was in his own yard, flying a Canadian flag.

"Liberals used to believe that this was an act of expression protected by section 2(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms... But who else in Ontario should be on notice that flying the flag makes them a provocateur?"

Chudleigh has introduced a private member's bill for a Royal Commission into Caledonia affairs that has yet to be debated.

When asked if it was a government policy or a McGuinty Liberal policy to consider flying the Canadian flag an act of provocation, Hoskins responded by saying that we should all take every opportunity to show our pride and that he was proud of being a Canadian citizen and flying the Canadian flag.

"Again, we all stand for the principles which our flag represents, and those who represent the laws on which the flag stands stand for those principles as well," said Attorney General and Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Chris Bentley. "Whether they're the police, whether they're the crowns, whether they're the judicial officials, whether they're the lawyers, they all stand to discharge those duties, sometimes in very challenging and difficult circumstances, and sometimes their role is to make sure that they try to keep matters as calm as possible so that we can, as a society, get to a more peaceful, prosperous and fruitful resolution of very difficult and challenging issues."