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Caledonia and Mr Law and Order

October 27, 2010 Western Standard

When Stephen Harper first presented himself as a national figure, he consciously projected the image of a conservative reformer, someone who would fight to overturn Canada's growing position as a "northern European welfare state."

After four years in government, and two years of record budget deficits, Stephen Harper has forfeited the name of fiscal and economic conservative. His focusing of law enforcement energies on Canada's own version of the Drug Wars, rather than on genuine criminals, has tarnished his law and order credentials.

With Prime Minister Harper's support, former OPP commissioner Julian Fantino has been nominated as the Conservative candidate in Vaughn. The riding has been held by long-time Liberal back bencher Maurizio Bevilacqua since 1988. Bevilacqua resigned his seat in September to run for mayor of Vaughn. This has given the Conservatives their first opportunity in decades to recapture the riding, while at the same time expanding their bridgehead in the Liberal dominated GTA. To this end Julian Fantino seems an ideal candidate.

As former head of Canada's second and third largest police forces, Fantino carries an enormous prestige and is seen by the party as a star candidate. For the Tories, Julian Fantino is Mr Law and Order, exactly the sort of figure who can appeal to crime worried suburban voters. In his four years as Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), a term which ended this summer, Fantino has been front and center in the ongoing Caledonia land dispute.

To evaluate Fantino's fitness for political office and, if rumours are correct the cabinet table, it is important to look into his conduct during the Caledonia crisis. Assuming command of the OPP in October of 2006, seven months after the initial occupation of the Douglas Creek Estate, the majority of the nearly five year long saga has taken place during Fantino's watch. 

The Caledonia crisis represents the longest single breach of the peace in modern Ontario's history. Millions of dollars in vandalism have taken place, ordinary residents and journalists have been threatened and physically assaulted. A large swath of Canadian soil has been effectively annexed by a gang of thugs who regard themselves as a sovereign power. During this long running and dramatic series of illegal and violent acts, what has been the response of Julian Fantino, Ontario's top police officer?

While some individual criminals have been charged, and some of those brought to justice, very little has been done to stop the general lawlessness of Caledonia. Very little has been done to stop the organized conspiracy which clearly exists to subvert the Queen's peace in this part of rural Ontario. The same force which occupied the Douglas Creek Estates in 2006 remains in place, periodically blockading public roads and menacing local residents.

When local residents organized to protest these illegal acts and to demand protection from the police, as is their legal right as Canadians, the OPP responded by charging and arresting organizers of these protests. When the local Mayor was seen as giving support to the protestors, Commissioner Fantino placed pressure on the mayor to desist. 

To properly understand the Caledonia Crisis, and the role of Julian Fantino, some historical context is needed. In the aftermath of the American War of Independence, some of Britain's aboriginal allies, former members of the Iroquois Confederacy, had their land in what is now upper New York state ceded to the new American Republic. In compensation the military governor of Quebec (which included most of modern Southern Ontario), Frederick Haldimand, purchased a track of land along the Grand River from the Mississauga. Shortly thereafter he granted it to tribes who had allied themselves with the Crown.

While the colonial government initially prevented the aboriginals from selling or leasing land to Europeans, at the insistence of the tribal authorities - especially Joseph Brant - this was eventually allowed. Over the next half century the vast Haldimand track was whittled down through land sales to European settlers. In 1840 the then Province of Canada created a reserve of some 8000 hectares, later increased to 19,000 hectares, a tiny fraction of the original grant. Through out the 1840s the remainder of the Haldimand track was surrendered by the various tribal governments. In 2005 Henco Industries announced its development of what was to be called the Douglas Creek Estates, a property adjacent to the Six Nations Reserve.

Elements within the Six Nations dispute the legitimacy of the 1840s surrender, saying that the aboriginal signatories were not authorized, or their acts were later repudiated by the tribal governments. Therefore Henco's land title from the Ontario government was invalid, the land being legally that of the Six Nations. In October of 2005, Six Nations Chief David General issued a written warning to Henco about developing the Douglas Creek Estates area. 

In late February of 2006, elements from the Six Nations of the Grand River Reserve, near Brantford, Ontario, occupied the Douglas Creek Estate. Justice Marshall issued a series of injunctions, and two contempt orders against the occupiers, in March. The OPP arrested 21 of the occupiers on April 20th. Later that same day hundreds of aboriginals, likely from the nearby Six Nations Reserve, reoccupied the site, drove away the OPP officers assigned to the Douglas Creek Estate, established a road block and burned down a bridge. Local firefighters refused to respond for fear of being attacked.

In May a nearby Hydro substation was destroyed by vandals, likely connected to the occupiers, causing over a million dollars in damages. Repeated calls by local residents for the OPP, provincial and federal governments to act were ignored. In June two local journalists were attacked and video footage stolen from them by members of the occupying force.

Through out this period scores of minor assaults, thefts and acts of vandalism are committed, with a limited response from the OPP. On June 16th the provincial government announced the purchase of the Douglas Creek Estate from its developer, Henco Industries. When further efforts were made to enforce the March injunctions, the Ontario Government obtained a stay of the original order by Justice Marshall. The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in late August 2006 that:

The province owns Douglas Creek Estates. It does not claim that the protesters are on its property unlawfully. It does not seek a court order removing them. It is content to let them remain. We see no reason why it should not be permitted to do so.

In order words, with the purchase of the Estates, the province had converted trespassers into guests of Her Majesty's Government in Right of Ontario. From that time forward there has been little change in the status of the Douglas Creek land claim. There is still an aboriginal occupying force on what is now Ontario government land. This was the status which Julian Fantino inherited in October of 2006, when he assumed command of the OPP.

Had only the land claim been at stake, it's unlikely the residents would have been much disturbed. Instead a wave of terror was initiated in Caledonia against its non-aboriginal citizens. During this wave of terror Julian Fantino, likely bowing to political pressure from Queen's Park, failed in his duty as an officer of the law.

His failure became the failure of the OPP forces station in Caledonia, leaving Canadian citizens at the mercy of a lawless mob obviously contemptuous of our laws and government. These were not protestors seeking to defy an unjust law, but violent criminals seeking to impose their will on private persons and property. A Six Nations "development institute" went so far as to demand "a development tax," an arrogant presumption of sovereignty.

Among the crimes committed, but largely unpunished, at Caledonia during the Fantino era:

In September 2007 Sam Gualtieri, a construction worker, was beaten unconscious at a home he was building for his daughter. Earlier in the day he had taken down an aboriginal flag from the building. 

David Brown and Dana Chatwell lived within the occupied zone. Frantic calls to 911 were ignored. Gangs of thugs regularly threatened the family and Brown slept with a shotgun. He was arrested by the OPP one evening while returning home. His crime? Having violated a curfew imposed by the aboriginal occupiers. The OPP was, in effect, enforcing the edicts of an illegal power, while refusing to uphold the laws of Canada. The occupiers issued "passports" to the local residents. The family moved out of Caledonia only when a settlement was reached with the province. 

Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer supported local residents who rallied for police protection, and demanded the equal enforcement of Canadian laws. In September 2007 Mayor Trainer received what she regarded as a threatening e-mail from Commissioner Fantino. The OPP head suggested that he might not renew the county's policing contract the following year. Fantino complained that Trainer's support for activist Gary McHale might escalate the situation with the aboriginal occupiers.

Gary McHale pursued a private charge against Fantino for influencing municipal officials, an extremely rare and difficult legal maneuver, over the e-mail. The Crown withdrew the charge in February 2010. McHale has vowed to take the matter to the Superior Court. 

In December 2006 McHale was arrested for breach of the peace, during an attempted raising of Canadian flags, across the road from where aboriginal flags had been placed. McHale, and associate Mark Vandermaas, had made the attempt to highlight the two-tier enforcement approach by the OPP. Vandermaas, a former Canadian soldier, had the Maple Leaf ripped from his hands by police while being arrested.

For his efforts McHale became a target of the OPP and in particular of Julian Fantino. During a December 2007 protest:

OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino encouraged his officers to lay charges against a protester — before there was any evidence the man had committed a crime — during a clash between natives and residents of Caledonia, Ont., in late 2007, according to emails made public this week in a court case.

"At some point McHale has to go," Fantino wrote Deputy Commissioner Chris Lewis, a half hour after a protest began on Dec. 1, 2007, referring to Gary McHale of Richmond Hill, Ont., who was leading a campaign to hold the OPP accountable for its policing decisions.

    [...]

Goodall told Fantino police could get McHale with an obscure charge for counselling mischief, not committed. Police also wanted charges against Clyde Powless for assaulting a police officer and assaulting McHale.

Powless [an aboriginal protestor] was never charged with assaulting a police officer.

The charge of "counselling mischief not committed" was laid, with absurd bail conditions, but eventually stayed after further legal efforts by McHale. The main purpose of the charge seem to have been to find a legal pretext for keeping McHale away from the area. All while Julian Fantino exercised ultimate authority over the Caledonia situation. This is the man Stephen Harper wants to represent the people of Vaughn in Parliament? A likely minister of the Crown? This is Mr Law and Order?

In his four years in power the Prime Minister has sold Canadian conservatives a false bill of goods. He has promised us greater freedom from the state, a fight against crime and a strong defence of Canadian sovereignty. In supporting Julian Fantino for Parliament he has again failed to live up to his promises.

Despite the disgraceful neglect of the Caledonia Crisis by the mainstream media, there is a wealth of resources available online:

Gary McHale has an exhaustive website on the crisis: CaledoniaWakeUpCall

Mark Vandermaas' own website (which also covers Middle East issues) is here.

The Caledonia Victims Project (also run by Mark) resource page is here.

The formidable Christie Blatchford will soon be out with a book on Caledonia: Helpless

Blatchford traces McHale's legal maneuvering here.

Gary McHale and Mark Vandermaas have put together a ConservativesAgainstFantino site, in which they exhaustively explore the former commissioner's conduct in Caledonia.

This CBC story from early in 2010 documents McHale and Vandermaas' remarkable fight. 

The CBC's timeline of the Caledonia land claim. A timeline of the occupation until Fantino's assumption as OPP Commissioner. The Wikipedia entry.