Sitting up and taking notice

by Gary McHale - The Regional

November 17, 2010

The interloping outsider from Toronto, Christie Blatchford, has been touring across Canada telling Canadians about the injustice that took place in Caledonia has now had to face the radicals who scream out calling her a racist, a Nazi, anti-native and attempting to link her to white supremacy in Ontario.

Leading the attack on Blatchford is Tom Keefer and his group called First Nations Solidarity Working Group. They have sent out press releases calling for protests to stop Blatchford from speaking in public. Last week a protest group showed up and shutdown Blatchford's presentation at the University of Waterloo.

The media response so far is the condemnation of the University for not removing these protesters and expressing outrage because in Canada we claim to have free speech.

Ironically, when Keefer and his group bussed people to Cayuga in 2009 it was the media that presented Keefer and his group as reasonable people and re-printed their slanderous statements against Doug Fleming, Merlyn Kinrade, Mark Vandermaas and myself.

The local media (Sachem, Chronicle, Spectator, Expositor) didn't inform the public just how radical this group was as they were too busy printing Keefer's attack upon us.

I doubt the same media outlets will be so quick to label Blatchford the same way nor will the OPP or anyone in the media attempt to smear Blatchford by claiming she is inciting violence or hatred.

Blatchford's book and her repeated message - she has now done about 70 interviews since the release of her book - has caused many in the media to rethink their approach to Caledonia.

Her book is now listed in the Bestseller list at Chapters and Amazon and she informs me that she believes she signed 1000 books at the book signing event at the Regional News.

On Oct. 27, the day after Blatchford's book was released, Peter Worthington of the Toronto Sun stated, "I avoided comment on events there, because I wasn’t sure of the relationship between lawlessness and aboriginal rights. I was uneasy about confusing one with the other. That’s my excuse. Since reading Helpless by Christie Blatchford, a new book detailing the controversy, I don’t have that excuse any more... And now Julian Fantino wants to be a federal MP and cabinet minister. Shame on him for Caledonia, and for his failure to lead."

Just a few days ago Worthington published a story titled "Caledonia crisis of facts" based on the two part series that Vandermaas and I published in the Regional News regarding the flaws in the Ipperwash Inquiry. Worthington credited the Regional News as 'virtually the only media' to report the story.

This willingness of the Toronto Sun to now print the facts about Caledonia and Ipperwash is particularly important since Blatchford's book points out that one of the key reasons I got involved in Caledonia was the failure of the Toronto media. Prior to me getting involved in Caledonia I reviewed 3 months of the Toronto Sun to see what photos they had used and found only one - a picture of a Native Chief shaking the hand of a resident.

Blatchford, in researching her book, had the Toronto Sun, the Star and the Globe reviewed and found that it wasn't just the Sun that didn't report the facts or show any photos of the fires etc. When these media outlets did report on Caledonia she was struck by how often the townspeople were referred to as an "angry mob," making their "concerns seem almost cartoonish".

What many people don't realize is how hard it has been to get the media - both local and national - to stop using negative terms to describe residents and to start reporting the facts. In 2008 CANACE (Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality) decided we would have a zero tolerance toward any media calling us Nazis or implying that we are members of some white supremacy group. Since then we have had to file over 20 lawsuits.

The media was more than willing to go along with Mr. Fantino's repeated attempts at attacking our characters but amazing how things change once one of their own (Blatchford) presents the same facts.

It isn't just the media that is doing some soul searching. OPP officers themselves are attempting to come to terms with the fact that they enforced racist policies in Caledonia.

Karl Walsh, president of the OPP Association, is quoted many times in Blatchford's book including saying, "I can't forgive them [OPP Brass] for a lot of the approaches they took to this..."

The day Blatchford's book was released I was sitting in Burlington being questioned by Karl Walsh's lawyer because I am still being sued by the OPP for $7.1 million for publishing the view that OPP officers failed to do their duty and disobeyed their oath of office. Vandermaas was questioned the next day.

While Walsh repeatedly exposed the truth in Blatchford's book, he also in 2007 played a role in attempting to defame those who took a stand against this injustice.

Two days before our rally on Jan. 20, 2007 Walsh did an OPPA press release stating, "The people behind these protests are not from the area. They are, however, acting on a sustained basis to push an aggressive political agenda that includes promoting hatred, flaunting the justice system and inciting violence."

I guess in 2007 standing up for law and order was an aggressive political agenda.

With the release of Blatchford's book and her ongoing tour across Canada the timing couldn't be worse for Fantino to run as a Conservative candidate in Vaughan. Conservatives Against Fantino (CAF) was formed to ensure the public and thus the political parties cannot forget how the OPP and McGuinty handled Caledonia.

In less than a week CAF has had more media coverage than all the candidates running in the election combined. Our message has been reported in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Ontario via the radio, TV and newspaper interviews.

On Monday on CFRB Jim Richards stated, "after reading Blatchford's book I cannot see how anyone could vote for Fantino... I endorse everything the group Conservatives Against Fantino is saying."

The media is just starting to take Caledonia seriously but we'll see whether they continue to do so.