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Additional charges laid against OPP, activist says

Caledonia Protests

Kenyon Wallace,  National Post 

March 17, 2010

Just two months after he brought a criminal charge against Ontario Provincial Police commissioner Julian Fantino, Caledonia anti-occupation protester Gary McHale says he has successfully laid more charges against two other senior members of the force.

The charges of attempting to obstruct justice against OPP Deputy Commissioner Chris Lewis and Superintendent Ron Gentle were laid by a justice of the peace in a Cayuga courtroom late yesterday --an occurrence observers are calling "unprecedented."

"The strength of our system is that the individual does have the right to bring forward a prosecution," said Steve Skurka, a partner at Toronto law firm Skurka & Spina LLP. "This is a serious matter and it will be taken seriously by these two men."

The charges, which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, stem from emails between the two officers referring to video footage of a Dec. 1, 2007, protest in Caledonia that turned violent.

Mr. McHale argues that two days after the protest, Supt. Gentle sent an email to Deputy Comm. Lewis in which he says Mr. McHale should be arrested even though police did not have enough evidence to prove that the longtime protest organizer had committed an offence.

(A native protester had claimed at the time that Mr. McHale assaulted her during the protest. She was later charged with mischief.)

"What these emails show is that when [the officers] are comparing evidence, there's virtually no evidence to support a charge against me," Mr. McHale said last night.

In the email, which Mr. McHale obtained from the OPP and provided to the National Post, Supt. Gentle discusses his desire to arrest a Native protester by the name of Clyde Powless, also known as "Bullet," on assault and mischief charges.

"Unfortunately, the alleged assault committed by McHale, to this point, is not on video," wrote Supt. Gentle on Dec. 3, 2007. "We want to ensure when we arrest and charge Bullet we do the same with McHale to eliminate any of the usual issues."

Mr. McHale said he believes the "usual issues" referred to by Supt. Gentle are angry encounters with Native occupiers.

"They knew that if they didn't charge me, there would be a backlash," he said.

OPP spokesman Dave Ross said he could not comment because the force had not received any information about or confirmation of the charges yesterday.

The conflict in Caledonia, about 20 kilometres southwest of Hamilton, has been ongoing since 2006 when members of the Six Nations of the Grand River began demonstrating to raise awareness about land-claim issues in Ontario. They have been in control of a disputed parcel of land since then, resulting in clashes between native protesters, residents and police.

In January, Mr. McHale successfully brought a charge of attempting to influence a municipal official against Comm. Fantino. Last month, the Crown withdrew the charge on the basis that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.