Historic Day: Native Protesters Watch Peacefully

by Gary McHale - The Regional

June 22, 2011

This past Father's Day has become a historic day in the struggle to restore the Rule of Law in Haldimand. For the first time the OPP didn't just admit non-Native's had certain fundamental rights but conducted themselves to ensure non-Natives could safely exercise those rights. It has taken 5 years with hundreds of baby steps on the part of the OPP to get to this point.

It took 3 years, 6 rallies and 4 arrests before the OPP was finally forced to accept that non-Natives have the right to raise a Canadian Flag near DCE. It only took 6 months, 3 rallies and 1 arrest before the OPP was forced to allow us to place our Truth and Reconciliation Monument at the entrance to DCE this past Sunday.

On Sunday we held a BBQ and then proceeded to DCE where we were met by dozens of very polite OPP officers that were there to ensure we could exercise our rights to peaceful assembly and free speech without being assaulted, harassed and set up for bogus criminal charges by both Native Protesters and the radicals bussed in by CUPE 3903 out of Toronto.

The OPP had brought in an abundance of extra police and OPP backup was seen stationed at various places in Caledonia. Throughout 2006-2008 such a presence was solely designed to intimidate and threaten us and our supporters from assembling in Caledonia. Now that presence was there to ensure our Rights.

Since 2009 the OPP have been publicly acknowledging non-Native people's rights to peaceful protest but have refused to accept their duty to ensure the safety of peaceful protesters. In our view this tactic by the OPP was merely to allow confrontations to exist in order to have the public united against us.

In the past 5 years I have held rallies in various places in Ontario that were policed by several different police forces (i.e. Fantino's home - York Regional Police, Queen's Park - Queen's Park Security Police, High Park in Toronto - Toronto Police Services). Prior to each of these rallies the various police forces sat down with us and helped in the planning of the whole event. In each case these police forces were absolutely clear about the fact that they would ensure our safety, protect our right to protest and ensure that no one would be permitted to directly confront us. In short, they would ensure no counter-protesters would be permitted to mingle within our group which would only increase tension and create false allegation of assaults.

At both our rallies on Feb. 27 and March 27 of this year in Caledonia the OPP allowed Natives to assault us along with various tactics of direct interference and setting us up for false charges. A set up for false charges occurs when a Native woman will approach one of us quietly and then suddenly scream out that they have been assaulted. This tactic has been very successful in the past because it allows a Native man to punch you in the head and claim he was just protecting a innocent Native woman. The other tactic is for people to approach you suddenly and scream at you within a few inches of you in order to get a reaction.

In response our group has been well trained never to respond with any physical touching, no swearing is allowed and no racial slurs. The best response to out-of-control swearing by a Native person who is demanding respect as they hurl countless racist slurs at you is to simply stand there quietly. Believe me the OPP had no problem arresting the non-Native who responded to such tactics.

For two years the OPP has refused to keep the two groups separated - a tactic used by every police force across Canada as demonstrated by our protests in jurisdictions not policed by the OPP.

There is little doubt the OPP spent hours last week speaking to Native Protesters and to the radicals bussed in by CUPE 3903 to ensure that we could walk right up and stand on the driveway of DCE without being attacked. It is also true the OPP had several meetings with us over the past two weeks including two 3 hour meetings at the local Tims. We must give credit where credit is due and this year has seen some major steps forward with a few steps backwards as well.

The OPP has not once threatened to arrest us nor made any claim that we were inciting violence or hatred. While the OPP have suggested alternatives to our planned events, they have not applied any pressure to get us to change a single thing. There has been no public attempt to demonize us other than a few coded (vague) statements by Commissioner Lewis to the Teka newspaper back in Feb. 2011.

Of course, the step backwards was my bogus arrest in March which I think created more division within the OPP than caused any problems for us. In fact, the dropping of this false charge by the Crown became the catalyst for various people from across Ontario to join us this past Sunday to see for themselves whether people's fundamental rights were under attack in Haldimand.

This may have contributed to the OPP's sudden change to ensure our safety because they knew various influential groups would be watching. The OPP was also aware that various news media were taking a renewed interest in Caledonia - i.e. MooseFM (13 radio stations across Ontario), CBC and the International Free Press Society.

I believe the greatest reason the OPP both acknowledged our Charter Rights and then protected them this past Sunday was because we have maintained a clear message of Equality under the Law for all people, that the Rule of Law demands all people obey the Law and that we have remained peaceful even in difficult situations.

Even the most brain washed OPP officer is forced to rethink his commitment to racist policing policies. While Sunday was a landmark event it is still not an apology from senior brass to the people of Haldimand.