UPDATE 0243 EST Jan 19/07: VoC is pleased to report that excerpts from this story have been posted – with permission – by Elliot Lake News & Views on Jan 17/07 in a story called, “O.P.P. Commissioner Needs to Explain Himself.” They also included a link to, “13 Reasons why you need to be in Caledonia, Ontario on January 20/07. Thanks for the help, ELN&V! We appreciate it.
The following is an open letter from VoiceofCanada.ca to Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Commissioner, Julian Fantino, requesting an apology for his insulting remarks to all those Canadians who have come – peacefully – to the defence of the citizens of Caledonia.
Mr. Julian Fantino, Commissioner
Ontario Provincial Police
Lincoln M. Alexander Building
777 Memorial Avenue
Orillia, Ontario L3V 7V3
Dear Commissioner Fantino:
During the past few days you have made a number of statements regarding the activities of people from outside Caledonia. While you have only mentioned Mr. Gary McHale by name it is clear from the context of your comments that you are including me in your accusations since I was arrested with Mr. McHale on December 16/06 and have actively supported his efforts through VoiceofCanada.ca.
It is also my belief that your comments are insulting to every other Canadian who chooses to peacefully protest with us. It is my wish to draw attention to the inaccuracies contained in your comments, and give you the opportunity to apologize for them.
On or about January 08, 2007, you made the following remarks during a conversation with Jamie West on 900 CHML radio:
1. “People coming into the community to stir things up are not helpful.”
“We’re trying to keep people from escalating the situation into what some people wish it would become – a violent confrontation.”
2. “We’ve incurred a great deal of added impact on our resources when we have people coming into the community to basically stir things up. That’s very unhelpful. It’s caused a great deal of added anxiety about the potential escalation of the situation while we’re trying to keep things peaceful and allow these people to negotiate.”
Jamie West: “Should anyone be arrested for putting up a Canadian flag?
3. “I don’t want to get into the merits of discretionary authority given to and used by our police officers. They were quite well empowered to prevent a breach of the peace or anything that in fact was escalating potential violence.”
Today, January 10/07, you are quoted as making the following statements in an interview with Marissa Nelson of the Hamilton Spectator called ‘Five questions for Julian Fantino’:
Marissa Nelson: “What about Gary McHale’s plan to hold a protest in Caledonia and what are you doing to prepare for Jan. 20?
4. “It is totally unhelpful. It’s agitating the community. It’s creating the potential for confrontation and violence. It’s totally unnecessary and unhelpful and what makes me very suspicious is that it’s done in the shroud of the Canadian flag and support for our men and women in the Canadian military – the whole notion of patriotism…
5. “People have to see it for what this is – it’s mischief-making and there’s another agenda here. We’ve been the target of this nonsense, just as the community has… The right to demonstrate peace-fully is not a problem. The right to incite a breach of the peace or spew hate and commit offences, that’s not a right, it’s an abuse of your rights… It’s like entering a darkened room where there’s a gas leak and looking for it with a match.”
REBUTTAL TO YOUR COMMENTS:
Comment 1: “some people wish it would become – a violent confrontation”
Do you have any evidence whatsoever that either Gary McHale and I wish that Caledonia would become a violent confrontation? Nothing is further from the truth, and you would know that if you took even a few minutes to read any of the numerous postings on VoiceofCanada.ca and CaledoniaWakeUpCall.com. Both of us have repeatedly called for a return to the Rule of Law, and our protests have been peaceful.
I would appreciate very much if you would provide any evidence you have to the contrary.
Comment 2: “added impact on our resources when we have people coming into the community to basically stir things up”
I did not come to Caledonia to ‘stir things up’ – I came to defend the Rule of Law and equality before that law, and – in the absence of evidence to the contrary – you have no reason to impugn my motives.
It was not Gary McHale and me who made the decision to pay hundreds of officers to guard a hydro pole against law abiding citizens who wanted only to erect a Canadian flag. That decision was yours. The added expenses incurred to the taxpayers as a result of lawful protests cannot be blamed on us, and I believe that it is highly inappropriate that you should do so – especially in public.
Comment 3: “They [OPP officers] were quite well empowered to prevent a breach of the peace or anything that in fact was escalating potential violence.”
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that citizens have the right to place objects on hydro poles. I refer you to Ramsden v. Peterborough (City),  2 S.C.R. 1084. The court agreed with the argument that stopping someone from placing objects on hydro poles infringes on person’s guaranteed freedom of expression under the Charter of Rights.
If, according to the Supreme Court, erecting a flag on a hydro pole is within our rights as citizens, then you and your officers are not justified in arresting us because we are not attempting to breach the peace. In short, if the activity is legal there can be no potential breach of the peace. [photo by Jeff Parkinson: “Girls With Guts”]
As the Commissioner of a police force actively arresting peaceful citizens for trying to erect Canadian flags on utility poles, you knew or ought to have known about this decision prior to making your comments.
Instead of vilifying law abiding citizens and denying them their Charter rights, I would expect you to defend those rights, and protect citizens who choose to exercise them.
Comment 4 (part 1): Re McHale’s planned protest on January 20/07 – “It is totally unhelpful. It’s agitating the community. It’s creating the potential for confrontation and violence.”
Mr. Fantino, it was not Gary McHale or Mark Vandermaas who used force to occupy land that was deeded to another citizen; assault your officers; destroy a power station; burn down a bridge; dig up and/or block highways (while your officers watched!); assault old people; assault a camera crew; destroy a resident’s home and paint ‘RACIST GO HOME’ on the walls, etc. [Reader’s note: click on the photo to enlarge – you can see what appears to be an OPP car at the far end of the bridge.]
You have no reason to believe that we were involved in those activities, just as you know or ought to know that we have never encouraged violence in Caledonia. Your statements imply otherwise. They also imply that any violence that does arise – no matter who commits it – will be my/our fault. I believe it is outrageous for the leader of a law enforcement agency to imply such a thing about law abiding people who have engaged in peaceful protest. I will not give up my rights simply because you refuse to defend them, or because you are unable or unwilling to protect me from those who would harm me as I exercise them.
I would ask that you provide any evidence you have that we are promoting, encouraging or provoking violence in Caledonia. If there are violent criminals on the occupied Douglas Creek Estates that are so dangerous and so well-armed and so volatile that hundreds of your armed officers could not protect us and/or the citizens of Caledonia from violence during the erection of a Canadian flag then I urge you to bring that fact to the attention of the media, the government and the citizens of this province.
I promise you, Commissioner, that if you were to issue such a statement AND it included a statement explaining that you had asked for ‘aid to a civil power’ from the military AND were refused that help, I will be the first to focus my attentions on the government(s) responsible for denying you the resources needed. Until you issue such a statement, however, it is you and your officers who must be held accountable for not enforcing the law equally despite your Oath to do so.
Comment 4 (part 2): It’s totally unnecessary and unhelpful and what makes me very suspicious is that it’s done in the shroud of the Canadian flag and support for our men and women in the Canadian military – the whole notion of patriotism…”
You knew or ought to have known at the time you made this remark that Gary McHale and I have never called for people to protest in order to support our military. Other people inside Caledonia may have done so, but we have not. I would ask that you provide any evidence you have to the contrary.
Gary McHale and I have – indeed – made known that our patriotism and duty to our fellow citizens are the reasons we protest in Caledonia in order to defend the values the flag represents. It is our right to do so, and I find it distressing that you find it necessary to publicly question our motives in the absence of any evidence to the contrary.
Comment 5 (part 1): “People have to see it for what this is – it’s mischief-making and there’s another agenda here. We’ve been the target of this nonsense, just as the community has… The right to demonstrate peace-fully is not a problem.”
What evidence do you have that Mr. McHale or I have been ‘mischief making?’ I would ask that you please provide any evidence you have that I/we have ‘another agenda’ and explain exactly what you believe that agenda is.
You know or ought to know that since Mr. McHale began organizing his March for Freedom events there has not been a single violent incident in connection with those protests. Since his demonstrations have been peaceful, why are you implying otherwise in light of your observation that demonstrating peacefully “is not a problem”?
Comment 5 (part 2): “The right to incite a breach of the peace or spew hate and commit offences, that’s not a right, it’s an abuse of your rights… It’s like entering a darkened room where there’s a gas leak and looking for it with a match.”
As noted earlier, the placing of objects on a public utility pole is a right upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada. Therefore, inviting other citizens to erect a flag on such a pole cannot be a potential Breach of the Peace because the act is not illegal.
What evidence do you have that Gary McHale or I have been ‘spewing hate’ and ‘committing offences?’ Your comments are disgusting in their inaccuracy and show a reckless disregard for the truth. Hate has definitely been ‘spewed’ and offences have been committed, but not by us. [reader’s note: photo is of a Caledonia resident’s home vandalized by cowards in the night. For the record – it was not done by Gary McHale or Mark Vandermaas.]
What evidence do you have that Gary McHale or I have been abusing anyone’s rights?
With respect to your ‘gas leak’ analogy: as noted above in Comment 4 (Part 1), if there is a “gas leak” in Caledonia, then I suggest you tell the media and the citizens of Ontario who it was that opened the gas valve and the danger they pose to law abiding citizens and your officers instead of slandering Gary McHale and the people who support him in his peaceful protests.
You must be surely aware that in the week following our arrests, editorials from the St. Catharines Standard (Dec 19/06) and the Toronto Star (Dec 21/06) were quoted by John Tory in the Ontario Legislature. These editorials have utterly and completely vindicated our consistent position that Two Tier Justice exists in Ontario and that the Rule of Law needs to be restored. These editorials say, in part:
“There cannot be different classes of law for different classes of people. That undermines the very equality that we strive for and cherish in Canada. The rule of law is paramount in Canada’s society and must be upheld.”
How is it that you feel justified in making spurious allegations against the motives of Gary McHale, myself and others on January 8-10 when the leader of the Conservative Party of Ontario and two of the largest newspapers in the Golden Horseshoe have clearly, forcefully and publicly vindicated our position just two weeks before?
May I also remind you that MPP Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant) appeared as a guest speaker at the original March for Freedom that took place October 15/06, and was present when Quinton (Bo) Chausse was arrested for trying to erect a Canadian flag. When you insult me/us with your comments you insult him, too.
I find it distressing that you have – in my opinion – resorted to defaming loyal and – yes – patriotic citizens who are prepared to defend Canadian values in order to deflect attention from your refusal to offer a straight-forward explanation for the Two Tier Justice system your organization has perpetrated upon the people of Caledonia and Ipperwash.
Mr. Fantino, you owe me, Gary McHale and every other Canadian citizen who came to Caledonia in defence of equality and the Rule of Law a sincere and public apology for your comments.
I look forward to meeting you and your officers again on January 20th when I – once again – try to exercise my constitutional right to erect a Canadian flag on a Canadian hydro pole. In the meantime, I look forward to your apology, and I will be delighted to publish it or any other comments you may wish to offer within this post. My email address is below for your convenience.
Mark Vandermaas, Editor
Voice of Canada
Box 210-1326 Huron Street
London, Ontario N5V 2E2