Bryant’s attack on VoC’s Human Rights complaint

UPDATE 1922 EST April 14/08: New category added – ‘Human Rights complaints’

UPDATE 1956 EST April 11/08: Caledonia resident takes on Aboriginal Affairs Minister over anti-Human Rights comments

t-shirt_free-caledonia-now_sep22-07.jpg“Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant said the human rights complaint doesn’t help resolve a complex situation dating back hundreds of years. Most people don’t have much sympathy for Vandermaas or McHale after their tense rallies in the divided town, he said.

“Their activity, generally-speaking, is extremely harmful and, as far as I can tell, unwelcome by everybody,” Bryant said. “I know a lot of people in Caledonia feel that they’re individuals who are just trying to get attention for themselves and are, in fact, stirring it up.””

Toronto Star/Canadian Press, April 07/08: Fantino asked to attend rights mediation [PDF reprint included in this doc]

Background to our complaints to the Ontario Human Rights Commission

picture-worth-a-thousand-words.jpgThe struggle against race-based policing has been a long, exhausting, frustrating, exhilarating (sometimes!) process. After the arrest of Gary McHale and me on Dec 16/06 during a protest to support Caledonia resident Bo Chausse – arrested for trying to raise a Canadian flag on Dec 02/06 – we did everything possible to expose these outrageous violations of basic Charter rights by the OPP.

Along with residents upset with Fantino’s infamous threatening email to Haldimand Council, we complained to the former Solicitor General. Merlyn Kinrade, Gary McHale and I each had meetings with Rod McLeod, a lawyer and former Deputy Minister. We got the feeling that, for the first time, someone in the government was actually trying to understand our position. I guess the government was afraid of that because the SG dismissed all complaints against Fantino before McLeod had even finished his report.

girls-with-guts.jpgA police officer advised me to complain to the OPP via the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services. The OPP rejected our complaints. We appealed for a review by OCCPS, but they rubber-stamped the OPP’s position. The OCCPS, as we discovered, is a non-transparent process. No reasons given. No opportunity to respond to questions. Just a rejection letter. 

mark-in-police-car-dec-16-06.jpgMPP Toby Barrett advised that people should contact the Ombudsman with their concerns about what was going on in Caledonia. We had meetings with two high level officials regarding the process by which our complaints were summarily dismissed by the Solicitor General. They made it clear they would like to help, but their mandate prevented them from getting involved in police issues. They did however, advise that since our complaints involved allegations that we were treated differently from native protesters because of our race we should contact the OHRC.

Our complaints to OHRC are accepted and submitted

One doesn’t just ‘send in’ a complaint to the OHRC; you must first go through a screening process. Both Gary McHale and I were screened and then permitted to submit a summary of our complaint. Mine is dated July 18/07. One of the things the OHRC asks in their complaint form is what you’ve done to resolve the gary_hospital-dec01-07-small.jpgissue on your own. The list takes up an entire page, including inviting Fantino to a townhall meeting: letters to Fantino; lawsuits; phone calls to the OPPA; complaints to OPP/OCCPS, complaints to the Solicitor General, etc. In short, we have done everything humanly possible to get the OPP leadership to treat us as they do native protesters: meet, listen to us and respect our rights. Despite this, Fantino has persisted in defaming us, even falsely blaming us for the violence on Dec 1/07 that was actually perpetrated by native smokeshack thugs.

Two years into the Caledonia dispute, and the Commissioner of the OPP refuses to hold an open meeting with non-native protesters/residents. His and his force’s treatment, at every turn, of native vs. non-native protesters could not contrast more starkly. 

The OHRC schedules mediation session with Fantino and arresting officers

In March/08 I received a package advising me that the OHRC had scheduled a mediation meeting between Fantino and the officers who arrested me for Oct 01/08. They asked me to return a form agreeing to the mediation, and they asked me to submit supporting documentation and a list of witnesses by April 01/08. Although I had already sent them copies of my OCCPS complaints, we had vital additional evidence to include such as ‘The Barrett Proclamation‘ and the list of 22 ‘smoking gun’ questions [see items 17a & b] allegedly asked by the OPPA of OPP brass in August 2006. (One of those questions asks why officers are being asked the race of suspects and being told to ‘stand down’ or ‘release’ if they are non-white or First Nations!) Gary McHale and I worked hard to assemble the new evidence and get it to the OHRC by the deadline.

Gary posted the evidence on and notifed his media contacts. Chinta Puxley, Queen’s Park reporter for the Canadian Press (news syndicator for media across the country) interviewed me on Monday April 7/08. I told her I felt that this was a significant development because for the first time ever, we will be able to sit down with Fantino and discuss the evidence with an agency that has the power to dismantle race-based policing in Ontario. Fantino can refuse to attend the mediation, but the OHRC then goes into ‘fact-finding’ mode to investigate the complaint.

Now, thanks to the OHRC, we have the first opportunity to hold the OPP accountable – before trained Human Rights investigators – for the systemic race-based policing practices in Caledonia that led to our complaints. 

Were our previous complaints a ‘waste of time?’

Hardly! The OPP did do several ‘investigations’ into our complaints. Their reports provided invaluable evidence that the OPP, including Commissioner Fantino himself, had targeted non-native protesters well in advance of our arrests. They also show that the OPP held Gary McHale overnight in jail even though they knew they had no right to do so. These reports were submitted to the OHRC on April 04/08 to be used as evidence (see items 1b, 1c, 7, 11) in the event my scheduled mediation (Oct 01/08) is unsuccessful or if Fantino refuses to appear. They will also be used in Gary’s OHRC complaint as well.

My 3 complaints to the OPP via OCCPS (arrest, civil rights violations, defamation), along with the extensive supporting evidence they contained have also been submitted to the OHRC.

Michael Bryant attacks me and my OHRC complaint

Chinta Puxley’s report on my scheduled mediation session with Fantino was published on April 07/08 in various publications including the Toronto Star. Their version included outrageous comments by Michael Bryant, Minister  of Aboriginal Affairs, about me, my complaint, and co-complainant Gary McHale:

“Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant said the human rights complaint doesn’t help resolve a complex situation dating back hundreds of years. Most people don’t have much sympathy for Vandermaas or McHale after their tense rallies in the divided town, he said.

“Their activity, generally-speaking, is extremely harmful and, as far as I can tell, unwelcome by everybody,” Bryant said. “I know a lot of people in Caledonia feel that they’re individuals who are just trying to get attention for themselves and are, in fact, stirring it up.””\

Toronto Star/Canadian Press, April 07/08: Fantino asked to attend rights mediation [PDF reprint included in this doc]

As you can imagine, I…we were stunned that an Ontario Cabinet Minister in 2008 would resort to disparaging a citizen for submitting a complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. After 18+ months that have included threats and physical assaults by natives, extreme financial pressures, scurrilous attacks on our reputations and arrests for trying to put up a Canadian flag, I really thought we’d reached the bottom of the barrel when it came to attacks on non-natives speaking out against the ongoing injustices in Caledonia, but Bryant’s comments made me realize there was no bottom in the barrel.

Not only did the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs attack me and my complaint personally with a reckless disregard for the truth, his remarks clearly convey his apparent belief that non-natives are acting maliciously when they complain about human rights violations during land claims. The anti-democratic nature of the Minister’s remarks are nothing short of breathtaking in their ramifications for past and present victims of landlcaim lawlessness. 

On a personal note, I was almost amused at Bryant’s observation that, based on the people he’s talked to, our activities are ‘extremely harmful’ and have no support. This from a guy who got his ass kicked by residents Merlyn Kinrade and Lisa Parent who produced the now-famous YouTube parodies of Bryant’s scripted video messages about Caledonia to dramatize his refusal to communicate directly with non-native residents. This from a guy who went to Caledonia with great fanfare for a closed-door meeting on Nov 26/07 that excluded the area’s MPP, Toby Barrett. This from a guy who promised to meet with residents (some who do support us, Michael! Really.) and Gary McHale, but never has.

Mr. Bryant, if you only meet with native extremists who support the use of violence and crime to get what they want, and with appeasement-minded politicians cowed into silence who are more interested in – as Caledonia resident Merlyn Kinrade so aptly called it – ‘blood money’ from your government than in fundamental justice and human rights, then it’s no wonder you don’t know anyone who supports our protests.

Our response to Michael Bryant’s attack

First of all, I’d like to thank all of you who have written in to support me/us and to hold Minister Bryant accountable for his outlandish attack on us and our collective rights to use lawful remedies for our grievances, including the Human Rights Commission. 

April 09/08: My first step was to immediately write to the OHRC to get my concerns on the record. Although I have a high level of confidence in the integrity of the OHRC for taking on my case in the first place, I am concerned about the possibility that the outcome of my complaint could be unduly influenced by Bryant, now or in the future. [copy included in document below]

I then wrote to my local MPP Deborah Matthews to ask for her help in obtaining an apology from Bryant. Given the OPP and government’s refusal to meet with non-native protesters, and given the Minister’s wild accusations I asked to meet with her so we could discuss the Minister’s remarks and to answer any questions she might have about me/us and our activities in Caledonia. I cc’d the letter to Bryant and the Premier. [PDF – includes letter to OHRC, Toronto Star article, London Free Press article]

Gary McHale wrote a terrific editorial-letter to Premier McGuinty asking that Bryant apologize for his remarks after pointing out the obvious, that no person with any degree of integrity should belittle, denounce or discredit anyone’s attempt to hold on to their human rights. He astutely reminded the Premier that respect for and the protection of human rights should transcend politics. Gary’s letter received a number of compliments from readers. One said that it ‘was the best thing’ he’d ever written. I agree. [PDF]

April 10/08: I sent a letter to Minister Bryant seeking a meeting to discuss both his remarks and the misinformation given to him about us that obviously led to them. This letter was cc’d to the Premier. [PDF]

What’s next?

I hope that Michael Bryant, in retrospect, realizes that his comments were way, way out of line and will do the right thing by apologizing.

 If not, I will ask the OHRC for permission to submit a complaint against Bryant for ‘retaliation’ and for attacking me and my complaint on the basis of my race. Given the government’s recent history of petitioning the court not to jail native protesters and offering $200,000 to help pay their legal bills, combined with the reality that Bryant has never – to the best of our knowledge – ever criticized or singled out native protesters for ridicule, it shouldn’t be hard to convince the OHRC that race played a role in how I was treated by the Minister. If the government tries to ignore the issue, a lawsuit could be a distinct possibility.

I would much prefer, however, that the Minister simply do the right thing by agreeing to meet with us and apologize. Perhaps we could even talk about how to move forward to meaningful healing and reconciliation with native people by focusing on truth, equality and justice for all of Ontario’s citizens.

Experience, however, tells me that the OPP and Liberals aren’t going to go down the right road without being dragged kicking and screaming.

How you can help

Michael Bryant’s remarks should be sounding alarm bells across the province. It is clear that he truly believes that a citizens’ right to pursue justice depends on their popularity, their race and geographical location with respect to an aboriginal land claim. Please take a few minutes to read Gary McHale’s awesome editorial below, then contact your MPP and encourage them to demand that Bryant apologize for his comments. 

  • Click here for MPP contact info listed by name.
  • If you’re not sure who your MPP is, click here to find your electoral district using your postal code, then click here to find your MPP listed by district.

P.S. Are you wondering why the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs would lower himself to viciously attack a Human Rights complainant who has not committed a single crime in Caledonia while the government goes out of its way to assist native protesters convicted of crimes? If so, have a look at these items:

  • Brown/Chatwell statement of claim, page 47, paras 113 to 123: allegations of ‘Misfeasance in Public Office’ by Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and the Attorney General. Guess who the Attorney General was who approved deals not to prosecute native criminals and not to call in the military to protect Caledonia? 
  • VoiceofCanada, March 04/08: ‘Ipperwash legacy’ flyer for Ontario PC convention Guess who was the Attorney General who announced the Ipperwash Inquiry after the Liberals beat Mike Harris? Guess who is now using recommendations from an Inquiry that completely excluded non-native Ipperwash residents to justify the government’s treatment of non-natives in Caledonia?

If I were Michael Bryant I wouldn’t want Vandermaas or McHale exposing stuff like this either. 

Mark Vandermaas, Editor


4 responses to “Bryant’s attack on VoC’s Human Rights complaint

  1. Dear Mark,

    I sincerely hope that Michael Bryant does apologize for these crass, untruthful, arrogant remarks against you.

    Who would have ever believed the Commissioner of the OPP and the former Attorney General would stoop so low as to maliciously attack members of this Province, who have committed no crimes or caused violence to erupt towards others???

    We live in a shameful time, nurtured and encouraged by no other than those elected to make and enforce laws for the benefit of ALL of us. The Liberals have chosen, libel, slander, appeasement and rewarding of crime. How can we say we live in a Democracy???

    Bryant should be fired immediately for compromising the Human Rights Mediation just as Fantino compromised the events of Dec.1st by stating the guilt of the non-native protestors without the investigation being started. Ontarians deserve fair and equitable representation, which these two clowns are not willing to extend.

    It is unconscionable to use innocent residents of Ontario as scapegoats for government and OPP stupidity and discriminatory practices.


  2. After all the waste of time and bullshit this government and Fantino has done, not only to the Caledonia residents but to all Canadians, I think it’s time to get rid of the political correctness ,and get DOWN to what’s right for AND IN THE mind OF MOST Canadians. End this SHIT NOW. Call in the army, get rid of Bryant and the goof ball Fantino. Get a petition going for ousting out McGuinty or let’s talk to the BIKER GANGS, MAFIA OR SOMEONE WITH BALLS.The people being taxed for this crap HAVE HAD ENOUGH. The lies have got to stop and Fantino has got to go as well as the other elected money grabbing bullshit waste of flesh cowards on Caledonia,s town council.

    VoC REPLY: Thanks so much for the comment. Oh yes…the lies definitely have to stop, but we have to do it peacefully in the best traditions of past civil rights movements through non-violent confrontation. Petitions are a waste of time. We must embarass them in the media by allowing them to violate our rights without retaliating with violence; our retaliation will be with public opinion, the courts, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, etc.

    Instead of calling in the bikers or mafia, how about doing this instead:

    1. When the next March for Freedom takes place at Queen’s Park on April 20/08 , BE THERE and bring your family. Oh yes…and bring a sign that says something like, ‘End race-based policing in Caledonia’ or ‘Bryant resign – we have human rights, too!’

    2. Go to this link and send an email to the 6 Opposition MPPs listed and ask that they rise in the Legislature and demand an apology from Bryant for attacking non-native Human Rights.

    3. Write a letter to the newspaper, especially the Toronto Star and ask where is the outcry against a blatant attack on the rights of non-natives to file a human rights complaint.

    4. Call the Caledonia Chamber of Commerce and ask why they are silent on the evil attacking their town.

    5. Call business/wealthy people you know and organize a presentation for them to help them understand the issues. The people working on this full-time have almost zero income and desperately need financial support.

    I share your frustration, but Martin Luther King Jr. showed us that violence is not the way to end injustice in a democracy.

    We also have to make sure no provincial government can never put us on the road to the brink of anarchy ever again. Among other things, there should be an ammendment to the Criminal Code to make it a Federal crime (as it is in the U.S.) to violate someone’s Charter rights. We should seriously consider pursuing an ammendment to the Constitution to give the Federal government the power to intervene when a provincial government is allowing systemic abuses of civil rights.

    Thanks again for writing. Regards, Mark.

  3. WL Mackenzie Redux

    Mark: So glad to see your time off from blogging was productive and well spent in lighting fires under the fat rumps of smug malfeasant snivel servants.

    I’m elated that Bryant finally realizes his pal McSkidmark appointed him official government outhouse custodian as the minister of renegade affairs.

    I watched the shameless self promoting Bryant in his “Tim Horton’s” stage managed video productions. Ya know, the thing the camera really captured…the thing that camera caught that Bryant couldn’t hide? His revealing body language and facial expression…he had the slump of a flogged man and the look of a deer in the headlights…like that instantaneous too-late-to-do-anything look of stark realization a man or a doomed animal gets when its fate is sealed.

    Gone was the cocky arrogant posturing of the ambitious climber who took the justice ministry as a stepping stone to the premier’s office or to federal politics. No, this was the hunched defensive posture and body language of a craven political strumpet who realized the boss kicked him to the curb to be crushed under the weight of a no-win political white elephant.

    He realizes he and Fantino are the fatted lambs McGuinty staked out as bait and decoy for the vengeful public lion when it realizes it’s been robbed and lied to. He sees that it is inevitable for the Caledonia debacle to blow up in his face…it can’t be contained by lies and posturing any more. It’s just a matter of when and he knows that this will take his political career with it…he will be scandal flotsam and the Fed-Lib machine wants candidates who don’t carry scandal luggage. He realizes that he won’t go any farther provincially because McSkidmark stomped him as a rival by sticking him with this multi-million dollar SN extortion crap-storm.

    Frankly I don’t think any politician or senior snivel service careerist negotiating with these extortionists will survive…this will be their last feed at the public teat, because you just can’t hide from a con job this big that extorts so much revenues and private property. When the costs and land fraud and government malfeasance of the whole fiasco cannot be contained any longer behind closed door negotiations, this government will become non functional as all its energies will be devoted to avoiding prosecutions.

    Bryant’s face telegraphed this message…watch for yourself.

    VoC REPLY: Thanks for the astute YouTube observations on Bryant, WL. Very interesting. I think his outrageous attack on my Human Rights complaint is also a sign of desperation. Sooner or later, the courts and/or the media are going to catch up to his resume: his role in the Ipperwhitewash Inquiry and his interference with the OPP in Caledonia by approving those repugnant deals not to prosecute native criminals and not to call in the military to protect residents. Thanks for writing, Mark

  4. Pingback: Political interference with Caledonia policing by McGuinty government | Caledonia Victims Project