by Gary McHale - April 27, 2011 for The Regional
While it is true this election is about many issues, Haldimand County is in a unique position on having to decide whether to vote for Julian Fantino or not? This would not be true if it hadn't been for Prime Minister Harper's willingness to overlook what has happened in Haldimand in order to handpick Fantino to be his star candidate for Vaughan.
The Conservative Party claims to be the Law & Order party, cares for the victims of crime and is willing to get tough on criminals. Why then has Harper refused to visit Caledonia and the party remains silent towards all the lawlessness that occurred?
On Oct. 20, 2010 Peter Worthington of the Toronto Sun reported, "It is a horror story for ordinary people who were the victims of thuggery. But it’s a greater horror story for the OPP which behaved with negligence, dereliction of duty and, yes, cowardice. Officers on the job turned a blind eye to people being beaten, homes threatened, curfews imposed, road blocks established. On occasion, the OPP even refused to come to the aid of a fellow officer being beaten. And now Julian Fantino wants to be a federal MP and cabinet minister. Shame on him for Caledonia, and for his failure to lead."
On Feb. 28, 2011 Christie Blatchford titled her Globe and Mail story, "For sheer abuse of state power nothing touches Caledonia" in which she describes how numerous residents were victimized by Native Protesters as well as by the OPP.
In Oct. 2010 Bill Jackson wrote, "Yet it’s easy to understand how people have lost their faith in government, especially when someone like Julian Fantino gets nominated as a candidate for the federal Conservatives. After years of lawlessness and two-tiered justice in Caledonia under his watch, countless letters and phone calls pleading with upper levels of government to do something to protect local residents, and Conservatives themselves saying that the province needed to uphold the law, it’s bloody disgraceful. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the entire federal Conservative Party should be ashamed. There’s simply no way around it.”
Caledonia resident Bill Dietz, Sgt. R.C.M.P. (Retired), stated “What is going on in OUR party? You know as well as I do, that Julian Fantino was a complete joke as far as law and order in Caledonia and Haldimand County was concerned over the last 3 or 4 years. I see by the news reports that our party and the Prime Minister have welcomed him with open arms. I have been a member for many years, starting with the Reform Party, and I have been a faithful donor. I always believed that WE stood for something above the others - this is a complete and absolutely unacceptable “middle finger” to every citizen who wishes for decency and the Rule of Law and Order.”
Karl Walsh, President of the OPP Association, is reported in Blatchford's book Helpless as saying, "I can't forgive them [OPP Brass] for a lot of the approaches they took to this and I think numerous officers got unnecessarily injured, I think people from the general public got unnecessarily injured, I think everybody that was involved in this suffered injuries that could have been avoided had they just stuck to their training, stuck to their policies and stuck to the law. You know, the law doesn't discern colour of skin or ethnic background, and it's not supposed to. Justice is supposed to be blind."
As you read this an ongoing trial for the past three weeks has been occurring in Cayuga against those accused of attacking Sam Gaultieri. Forty months after being injured the case is now before the courts. The Gaultieri family is a symbol of the violence that occurred and the abuse of power on the part of the OPP. Dave Brown and Dana Chatwell are also symbols of how families were seriously harmed as officers followed orders from above.
In my view, Mr. Fantino is the single greatest symbol of government abuse of power and government failure to fulfill their duty to the public. As a life-long conservative it sickens me that our Prime Minister cares so little about Law & Order and the people of Haldimand County that he handpicked Julian Fantino to be a Conservative MP for Vaughan. I understand the desire to be in power and to have a majority at any cost but you cannot sell your principles so quickly then expect to regain them later.
Now the public has an opportunity to voice its opinion on the seriousness of the issues. There is little doubt that a vote for Diane Finley will be interpreted by the Conservative Party as an endorsement of their power-at-any-cost view.
The various political parties, both federal and provincial, will watch to see whether even the residents of Haldimand care enough to change their vote. If Haldimand doesn't care then why should anyone in Canada care.
If the people in Haldimand are willing to turn a blind eye to the injustice, to the violations of the Charter, the failure by government to deal with the issues, the refusal of Harper and McGuinty even to visit the area and the willingness to forget so quickly the victims and their families then why should any politician in Canada care the next time such injustice occurs?
Haldimand residents have written hundreds, if not thousands of letters, phoned their elected officials demanding action only to be given the 'political finger' to their suffering.
Do we really want our elected officials to listen to us? If so, now is the time to voice your opinion by how you cast your vote.
In a democracy we truly get the government we deserve. You cannot whine about how the government refuses to listen if you are willing to vote them back in.
Haldimand, in many ways is a symbol of the Canadian voter - do Canadians really care about these issues?
For Haldimand a vote for Diane Finley is a direct vote for Julian Fantino and a vote against justice, equality and a vote that states we don't care how many families were harmed.
As a conservative I can tell you my vote will be greatly influenced by these facts.