by Bill Jackson - The Regional
November 3, 2010
Haldimand-Norfolk Conservative MP Diane Finley has declined comment in the wake of her party acclaiming former OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino as a candidate for an upcoming bi-election in the riding of Vaughan.
Fantino has been at the centre of controversy in Caledonia during the past four years for his handling of the Douglas Creek Estates native occupation and the criminality that ensued.
In a recently released book entitled Helpless: Caledonia's Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy and How the Law Failed All of Us, author and Globe and Mail reporter Christie Blatchford describes the "lawless conduct that occurred under the noses of the Ontario Provincial Police, who, often against their best instincts, stood by and watched."
As Blatchford wrote in her Author's Note, "the front-line officers of the OPP were sold down the river too, by their senior ranks, in particular by two commissioners of the force, Gwen Boniface and Julian Fantino, who either subjugated themselves to government will, held their tongues or respectively dreamed up the disastrous operational plan for Caledonia and then stubbornly held on to it for dear life."
When asked to speak to Fantino's candidacy and provide feedback on widespread reaction to the new book that hit the shelves last week, Finley's Press Secretary Michelle Bakos said "We're going to decline comment."
"We're just going to decline comment."
The local Conservative association's primary contact Janice Butts did not return a call last week from The Regional News.
Fantino's candidacy has spurred harsh backlash from across Ontario and Canada according to Mark Vandermaas,, a prominent 'non-native' activist in Caledonia during the past few years.
Vandermaas has been a card-carrying Conservative and said that many insiders and sources within the party are divided on the issue. Some say that Fantino was just following orders during the dispute; others are extremely distressed.
The Conservatives have remained "squeaky clean" throughout, he contends.
On the public record Finley, when questioned about issues facing Caledonia and Haldimand County, has continuously stated that the province and police are responsible for upholding the law. The federal Conservatives, on the other hand, are negotiating native land claims, as Finley repeatedly uttered.
"I have been a member (of the Conservatives) for years," stated Bill Dietz, a retired RCMP Sergeant from Caledonia, in a letter to Finley.
"I always believed that WE stood for something above the others... this (Fantino nomination) is a completely and absolutely unacceptable 'middle finder' to every citizen who wished for decency and the Rule of Law and Order.
"I know that you and your husband (Senator Doug Finley) have the ear of the Prime Minister and I challenge you to speak to him and relate the anguish and anger this man has caused in Haldimand County over the past four years."
During a visit to Vaughan last month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the Toronto Sun that he was honoured to have Fantino, calling the former police commissioner "a highly respected figure throughout the GTA and throughout Ontario [who] obviously demonstrates the deep support that our government has throughout the law enforcement community."
The Prime Minister's Office also did not return a call that posed questions from The Regional News.
If Fantino becomes part of the government, Dietz said that he will hold his nose and vote Liberal in the next federal election.
As will many others, said Vandermaas, who recently started www.conservativesagainstfantino.ca.
Union representatives of the OPP and Toronto police and many others from across Canada have spoken out against Fantino and are saying that they won't vote Conservative anymore he added.
"What more does the party need to wake up?"
Local Liberal candidate and former MP Bob Speller will be challenging Finley once again in the next federal election.
"It's just beyond me," he said. "People are just furious... People felt abandoned. Not only then, but police officers themselves."
The federal seat in Vaughan was held by former Liberal Maurizio Bevilacqua, who was recently elected as the city's next mayor. The Liberals and leader Michael Ignatieff have vowed to defend the riding.
The bi-election will be held Nov. 29.