Mayor Hewitt: Talk is cheap so when do you take action?

by Gary McHale - The Regional - Opinion

December 14, 2011

Many people believed Citizen Hewitt when he talked tough demanding an inquiry and fighting to end Race Based Policing in Caledonia. He even went to Queen's Park with Toby Barrett and did a speech in the media room about standing against the injustice. He lead many to believe he was going to take tough action when he got into office.

Apart from whining about how he can't do anything about almost every issue in the county, what exactly was he planning to do if he won the election. It has been almost a year since he was elected and outside of betraying a large segment of the community because of his secret endorsement of Samsung, what has he done to enforce by-laws, close down illegal smoke shacks, end Race Based Policing or stop the county from doing favours for the good-old-boys?

The county has directly disobeyed repeated court orders regarding their duties on DCE. For several months in 2006 Judge Marshall repeatedly ordered the county to remove barricades and maintain roads on DCE. As we learned last week the county supported the OPP lawyers and native lawyers in opposing the Hennings and Judge Marshall's orders. The county even supported the OPP before the Court of Appeal against Judge Marshall. It was clear from the county's presentation before the Court that they supported McGuinty's approach to law and order and not judge Marshall's approach that laws should be enforced.

The county, even to this day, refuses to document any by-law violations that occur on DCE. The county's refusal to document by-law violations allowed the court to be mislead and thus aided in judge Marshall's ruling being overturned. The Court of Appeal stated, "there is no evidence that either the OPP or the Crown has exercised its discretion improperly or in bad faith... As a property owner [Ontario government] it has the right to use its own land as it sees fit, as long as it complies with municipal by-laws and the laws concerning nuisance and public safety. Ontario has complied with its legal obligations. The record does not show that by permitting the protestors to remain, the government has breached any municipal requirements, created a nuisance or adversely affected public safety."

Hewitt wasn't the mayor at the time but he is now. Hewitt may not have been aware that the county owns 16.5 acres of DCE (much of that is at the front) but he is aware now. Hewitt may not have realized that much of the illegal activity on DCE, much of the harassment of residents living near DCE and much of the trash and barricade material is on county property. While I will accept Hewitt didn't know these things before, it is true he does know now. No longer can he blame McGuinty nor say he cannot do anything about by-law violations on provincially owned land because it is the county's problem not McGuinty's.

Two weeks ago Ernest Palmer filed a lawsuit against Haldimand County and the Haldimand Police Service Board. In 2009 the county, with full knowledge the OPP were refusing to help Palmer, charged and prosecuted Palmer because Native protesters illegally built a smoke shack on his property. Palmer signed statements with the OPP demanding the OPP remove Steve Powless and the other protesters but the OPP refused.

The county, which has done nothing about other native smoke shacks, quickly prosecuted Palmer. In a letter from the county they told Palmer to seek help from the OPP. One has to wonder where county officials have been since 2006 that they remotely thought the OPP would help Palmer.

While Palmer attempted to maintain a good face in the media at the time - out of fear, the paper trail demonstrates he repeatedly asked the OPP for help but received none. Even after the OPP finally arrested Powless and the court set bail conditions that he could not be on Palmer's property the OPP did nothing for the 17 days that Powless continued to live on Palmer's property in direct violation of his bail conditions. Meanwhile, the county which refuses to enforce by-laws against any Native protesters targeted Palmer.

There is little doubt that Haldimand County, from day one of the occupation of DCE, was and continues to be in full support of OPP Race Based Policing. They supported the OPP in court and have done nothing to enforce by-laws against Natives.

After 5.5 years of numerous residents phoning 911 and demanding the OPP arrest Native trespassers the OPP can suddenly illegally arrest non-Natives claiming they were trespassing.  Several companies were forced by the OPP to get expensive injunctions before the OPP would enforce trespassing laws. In most cases the OPP simply disregarded these court injunctions, as they did with Marshall's orders, and threatened to arrest non-Native property owners instead of the trespassers.

In Cayuga in 2008 OPP Officer Dan Michaud was videotaped telling me that the Ontario Land Title Deed system wasn't sufficient to enable the OPP to know who owned property. He clearly stated that until the Land Claims are resolved the OPP cannot take sides. However, Superior Court Justice Ramsay rejected Officer Michaud's views when he ruled (regarding the Cayuga property) that "The police have the right to use their discretion in the enforcement of the law and private property rights. A blanket refusal to assist a property owner or a class of property owners, however, would be an abuse of that right."

Not only did the court reject the OPP view but the court also ruled it was illegal for the OPP to threaten non-Native property owners with arrests if property owners exercised their rights under the criminal code which allows them to remove trespassers. The court stated, "The same

government that advises the plaintiff not to pay extra-governmental development fees [to HDI]  refuses to enforce its property rights and threatens to arrest its agents if they try to enforce these rights on their own."

For over 5 years the OPP have refused to help residents but have always been willing to arrest them. Now with the illegal arrest of the Caledonia 8 the OPP demonstrates little has changed.