UPDATED: Jan 03/07 1800 hrs
History has been made this week.
When Walter Conkrite expressed his doubts about the ability of the U.S. to win in Viet Nam, then President Johnson is said to have observed that, “If we’ve lost Walter Conkrite we’ve lost the country.”
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty must be wondering what else he’s going to lose now that the Toronto Star has joined the St. Catharines Standard in publishing an editorial calling for the province to uphold the rule of law in Caledonia. The Standard’s version appeared Dec 19th, and the Star ran a slightly revised version on Dec 21st.
In a stunning rebuke to McGuinty and his Aboriginal Affairs Minister, David Ramsay as well as the criminals who claim they are not subject to Canadian law, the Star has clearly staked out its position [PDF] on the side of the law-abiding citizens of Caledonia and Ipperwash in their fight against the thugs who have been terrorizing them.
The original St. Catharines Standard version didn’t leave the OPP unscathed, saying, “The reputation of the venerable OPP has been tarnished.”
I was advised today at 1440 by MPP Toby Barrett that Ontario Conservative Party leader, John Tory, had quoted the editorials today in the legislature as he pressed the Premier to account for his handling of the Caledonia crisis.
I have already contacted both the St. Catharines Standard and the Toronto Star to thank them for standing together on this issue. The St. Catharines Standard deserves our special gratitude for being the original authors of this historic editorial. Well done!
Many battles and skirmishes and negotiations remain to be fought until we can all rest easy knowing that our government and our police will never again abandon us to those who would use violence to achieve political ends, but THIS is the week that a growing group of activists will remember as the turning point.
Even the most cynical opponent of Gary McHale would have to admit that his crusade against Two Tier Justice is at least partly responsible for these historic editorials thanks to his uncanny ability to focus the media’s attention on the agony that is Caledonia.
In less than one year Gary and Christine McHale have dealt the McGuinty government and the OPP a serious blow against their respective roles in creating Ontario’s current Two Tier Justice system. The McHales didn’t do it alone, however. There were many others who played important roles – some I can identify, others I cannot, and still others I’ve never had the honour of meeting or knowing.
The Honourable Mr. Justice B. Matheson and the Honourable Mr. Justice T. Marshall (photo) – of the Ontario Superior Court. On March 03/06, Justice Matheson issued the original ‘interim’ order against the tresspassers occupying the Douglas Creek Estates. His order was made permanent by Justice Marsall on March 09/06. I do hope they take some comfort in knowing that the importance of the rule of law – to which both men have devoted their lives – has not gone unappreciated.
Mary-Lou LaPratte – of Ipperwash who spoke so eloquently during the first March for Freedom on October 15th. Her words both shamed and inspired me to step into the light and write VoC under my real name, as did…
AnnMarie VanSickle – the other amazing woman of courage who spoke of the terror she and her family had experienced at the hands of the Caledonia criminals. She will best be remembered for her observation that Dalton McGuinty was a “medical anomaly” because he was able to “stand without a spine.”
MPP Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant) – was the first speaker at the original March for Freedom on October 15/06. He spoke to the 2,000 people who came out to protest peacefully despite the scaremongering tactics of both the OPP and politicians at every level of government.
Quinton (Bo) Chausse – was arrested by the OPP on December 02/06 while attempting to erect a Canadian flag in Caledonia. So far as I am concerned, Bo Chausse was representing every right-thinking Canadian citizen that day, and defending his right to erect that flag was one of the key reasons I decided to answer Gary McHale’s call for a ‘flag-raising’ March for Freedom event Dec 16/06.
As for the Caledonians who worked so hard behind the scenes, some right from the beginning of the Caledonia outrage while I was still lying blissfully on the couch, happy in my naive belief that the police and government would do the right thing, you deserve so much credit. One day I hope to tell the citizens of Ontario and Caledonia who you are.
Last Saturday, I gave a short, unrehearsed speech to the crowd prior to being arrested during which I called the media to account for writing “meaningless” stories about Caledonia while ignoring the real story that Canadian citizens in both Ipperwash and Caledonia were being terrorized. I told them that I always believed that the media were the guardians of our democracy, and that they had been letting us down. Just 3 days later they responded – clearly and forcefully.
I’m not naive enough to believe that two great newspapers would join in publishing an historic slap in the face to our OPP and our government simply because of my words, but it sure does make me proud to have been there on December 16, 2006.
This week the forces who believe in democracy, equal justice and the rule of law have won an important and decisive victory. Let us savour it during our Christmas holidays and pick up the fight renewed in the new year. Let me wish you all a very Merry Christmas!
Here, then, is a reprint of the original editorial written by the St. Catharines Standard, followed by the email I received from MPP Toby Barrett. I hope the Standard will forgive me for the copyright infringement:
A CALEDONIA REALITY CHECK IS IN ORDER
St. Catharines Standard
December 19, 2006
Ontario’s government was quite pleased with itself after last week’s court ruling on the 10-month stand-off in Caledonia.
The Ontario Court of Appeal overturned an earlier decision which ruled the native occupation of a former proposed housing development was illegal and that negotiations with the protesters should cease until the site was vacated.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Ramsay called the ruling a “vindication” of the province’s approach to the occupation.
Perhaps Ramsay should venture outside the stone walls of Queen’s Park and have a look at what is happening on the ground in Caledonia.
This past weekend was another ugly one in the bedroom community South of Hamilton.
A Richmond Hill man protesting the protest was arrested – but not charged – for his attempts to muster a rally.
A house neighbouring the disputed site was ransacked early Sunday morning, with personal property damaged and remarks such as “Racist go home” spray-painted on the walls.
Natives are protesting the detention of 31-year-old Trevor Miller, whom they call a “political prisoner.” Miller was arrested in August for an assault on a television crew from Hamilton.
While land negotiations drag out in the backrooms, people on both sides of this dispute are living this reality every day – a reality of tension teetering on the brink of violence.
The reputation of the venerable OPP has been tarnished.
An entire town has been paralyzed.
It’s shameful that the province would be proud of this record, and feel vindicated that it is doing the right thing.
Ramsay is correct when he acknowledges a “long-standing injustice” towards natives in Canada and there is a need to rectify that.
But the line has to be drawn at enforcing the law. There cannot be different classes of law for different classes of people. That undermines the very equality we strive for and cherish in Canada.
But the occupiers of the site are openly flouting that.
Pat Houlley, a native protester from Six Nations in New York state, said Miller should never have been charged because, as a native, he isn’t subject to Canadian law.
That’s a scary prospect. Where does one draw the line?
The rule of law is a social contract which allows people in a civilized society to live in peace.
The people of Caledonia – and Six Nations for that matter – have every right to expect to live their daily lives without fear of vandalism, assault or worse.
It’s the rule of law which provides that freedom; it’s comfort in the knowledge that any transgressions on one’s personal well-being will be punished by the state.
It’s what allows a civilized society to function and offer its citizens such luxuries as public health care, a social safety net, elections and a charter of rights.
The rule of law is paramount in Canada’s society and must be upheld.
Message from MPP Toby Barrett received by VoC on
Friday, December 22/06
(John Tory quotes from the St. Catharines Standard/Toronto Star editorials while asking the government to account for its actions with respect to Caledonia.)
Merry Christmas everyone — Toby here:
John Tory’s last two questions of 2006, in the Ontario Legislature, focussed on Caledonia. (See the attached Hansard)
As Tory points out, Mr. McGuinty’s winter deadline has arrived.
Further, with respect to compensation, David Ramsay, in his answer, indicated that he has been consulting with the community at large. Does anyone know who he’s been talking to?
Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question is to the Premier. Today, Premier, the Toronto Star republished an editorial from the St. Catharines Standard entitled “Time for a Reality Check on Caledonia.” They suggested first of all, interestingly enough, that you and your minister need to get down to Caledonia, as I’ve done, to see the situation on the ground. They say that “people on both sides of this dispute are living … a reality of tension teetering on the brink of violence.”
They go on to say, “It’s shameful that the province would be proud” of their record. They say, “There cannot be different classes of law for different classes of people. That undermines the very equality we strive for and cherish in Canada.”
They go on to say, “The rule of law is paramount in Canada’s society and must be upheld.”
This is the very message we’ve been bringing to this House for months and months and months: one standard, one set of laws we all respect at all times.
Today is the first day of winter. That was the time beyond which you said it would be unacceptable for this occupation to continue. Do you maintain that view or have you changed your mind, as you’ve done on so many other things?
Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): To the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs.
Hon. David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs): When this occurrence happened and we were first getting questions in the House, I had asked for the assistance of all the members of the Legislature, as we thought this was obviously a province-wide concern and challenge. But we took an approach, and then of course we had a judicial action that questioned our approach. So we had to take a pause on that approach, and we appealed it. The appeal court of Ontario has basically supported the approach that we’ve taken and said that the approach is legitimate, that it’s lawful within the rule of law, and that we should proceed with that to try to settle this dispute. That’s what we’re doing.
Mr. Tory: In fact, it was the Premier of Ontario who said it would not be acceptable for these people to remain on the land past the first day of winter. He said it. He set that standard. He set that deadline — not us, not the courts, not anybody else — and now clearly he has changed his mind, as he does on just about everything. It’s no wonder that the people of Caledonia have no confidence left in this government. It’s no wonder that the occupiers of the disputed land feel no compunction to leave — not while the government says one thing on one day and another thing on another day.
Another example of this is the promise from your colleague the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing to provide compensation for homeowners. That was on June 16. At that time, he said he would ask an existing committee to look into it. Six months have passed and nothing has happened. The other day, we hear you, the minister of aboriginal affairs, saying, “It’s time for another committee to look into this.” We already had a committee looking into it six months ago. Maybe by spring you’ll have a subcommittee or a joint committee. Self-imposed deadlines come and go with this government.
I have sat and listened to these people, who, I can assure you, have genuinely suffered. When are you going to stop appointing committees and subcommittees and joint committees and actually do something for them? Get on with it.
Hon. Mr. Ramsay: I’ve been working with my colleague the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing on this. He and I are of the same mind: that we want to get this right. We’ve talked to the community at large, besides the specific homeowners who have been directly impacted by this, and decided that this is not just an issue for those immediately impacted homeowners but also an issue for the community as a whole. So, in working with the community, they want some input on this and to have a say on this. This is an approach consistent with what we’ve been doing with the federal government.
You have to remember that now the federal government has the lead role at the table. The federal government supports what we’ve been doing in our actions with them, so we have Minister Jim Prentice and Prime Minister Stephen Harper onside with this approach.