Minister knew about OPP obstruction allegations in 2008

UPDATED 1308 March 19/10 — Nearly two years before yesterday’s issuance of Obstructing Justice charges against OPP Deputy Commissioner Chris Lewis and Superintendent Ron Gentle, the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Rick Bartolucci was informed  that serious allegations of possible criminal conduct were being made against the OPP in connection with their investigation of the Dec 01/07 Caledonia protest and the resulting charge against Gary McHale.

On May 30/08, on behalf of Gary McHale, Jeff Parkinson and myself, I sent a 71 page complaint under the Police Services Act to the Minister which summarized evidence alleging that Julian Fantino may have committed three criminal offences  — Obstructing Justice, Influencing Municipal Official and Breach of Trust — and asked that the RCMP be called in to investigate.

Although I/we did not, at that time, have the damning OPP emails that have now resulted in charges against Lewis and Gentle the minister was supplied with an extraordinary amount of detailed information that should have had him ringing alarm bells at RCMP HQ. Clearly, he should have been concerned: a Superior Court judge believed there was evidence to charge Fantino with Influencing Municipal Officials and now, a justice of the peace has issued process for Obstructing Justice charges against Lewis and Gentle for their involvement in the Dec 01/07 investigation.

Not only did Bartolucci refuse to call in the RCMP to investigate he didn’t bother to ask for supporting documents before dismissing the complaint out of hand. Despite a follow-up letter from me, he did not even address part 3 of the complaint which alleged Fantino may have committed a Breach of Trust by lying to the public about McHale and me.

The original PSA complaint, ministerial correspondence and a copy of a subsequent defamation action vs. Fantino can be found at these links:

Attorney General uses Police Services Act complaint vs. Fantino to attack credibilty of witness/informant in criminal case

Even more insulting, my Police Services Act complaint was used – inappropriately I believe – in court by the Attorney General’s office in a futile attempt to impugn the character and motives of CANACE founder Jeff Parkinson who was ultimately successful – thanks to Justice Marshall of the Superior Court – in having two OPP officers charged with Mischief for helping native protesters build a barricade to keep the legal owner out of his Hagersville property.

Deputy Minister and Fantino were discussing the McHale charge

Had Minister Bartolucci taken my May 30/08 complaint seriously, there is no doubt that the RCMP could have easily found the evidence which has now led to criminal charges against three members of the senior leadership of the OPP. In actual fact, it was Deputy Minister Deborah Newman who informed me that the minister had no intention of investigating my complaint. You can read more of our correspondence at the link above.

  • Deputy-Minister Deborah Newman letter to Mark Vandermaas, July 18/08: Dismissal of Fantino complaint [PDF]

Perhaps one of the reasons Newman and Bartolucci didn’t want to call in the RCMP was because the Deputy Minister was being kept informed all along about the charge against McHale.  The latest evidence obtained by McHale shows that the DM and Fantino were discussing the plan to charge McHale. Here are two OPP emails which mention the Deputy Minister. Keep in mind that both were turned over to McHale because they were deemed as being relevant to his charge. See also, ‘The evidence’ section in this article for the chronological history of the Obstruction charges vs. Lewis and Gentle:

  • Dec 03/07, 6:45 am: Fantino email to Deputy Commissioner Chris Lewis and others re meeting with Deputy Minister:

Hi all: Would like to meet in the boardroom @ 9am if at all possible to discuss Caledonia issues. I have a phone call with the D/M @ 9:30am and want to get up to speed before I speak with her. JF

  • Dec 07/07, 11:41 am: Deputy Commissioner Chris Lewis emails Superintendent Ron Gentle and others about the “political perceptions” and the importance of ‘Info Flow’ regarding the “McHale investigation” so Fantino can keep the Deputy Minister informed. Perceptively, he acknowledges that all this intense communication may cause “disclosure issues” in the future. (emphasis mine):

Hi Guys. This past week has been a challenge for all of us and even more so for our people, given the concerns  and sensitivity around the McHale investigation. Our people have done a great job of getting the facts straight, gathering evidence and filling gaps and that is much appreciated. We’ve put extraordinary pressure on them to do what is right as quickly as possible, due to the political and public perception issues. Appropriate charges have been laid and the judicial system will run its course. I firmly believe that having CIB lead these investigations, both proactively and post event was the proper decision.

Where we need to tighten up our efforts is in the timely communication of progress and significant investigative and media release issues, with the Commissioner. That’s not an easy task when we’re dealing with issues that transverse CIB, the Detachment/Region Commanders, local/regional CSO’s and Corporate Communications, but we need to pull it together in a more efficient way.

The Commissioner and the Provincial Commanders need to know what is happening in a timely way and the Commissioner wants input on press releases well in advance. When he has to reach out for an update and then doesn’t get a reply, that’s not a good thing. Then he asks questions of various commanders and gets conflicting info, which further frustrated him and hampers his ability to keep the DM properly apprised, or he runs the risk of getting caught off-guard by a direct call from a media contact. I realize that there may be disclosure issues as a result of such communications, but we’ll deal with those hurdles as they arise.

Plase put your heads together and tighten up the processes so that we don’t fall into similar traps in the future.

Thanks for everything.

Chris D. Lewis
Deputy Commissioner
Field Operations

Gary McHale has submitted a request for disclosure of all emails between the OPP and Deputy Minister Newman related to his charge and the investigation. As of March 18/10 the Crown has not yet responded to that request.

Bartolucci supports Fantino/OPP despite criminal charges and allegations


In 2007 the former Minister of Community Safety refused to act on complaints against Fantino’s intimidation of Haldimand Council. [LINK]

In 2008 the present Minister refused to act against allegations of criminal behaviour against Fantino. [LINK]

In 2009 the Attorney General dropped charges of Mischief against two OPP officers charged with aiding native protesters in building a barricade to keep the legal owner out of his Hagersville property which were ordered by Superior Court Justice Marshall. See Caledonia Lawsuits, B2.

On Dec 31/09 a Justice in the Superior Court ordered that Fantino face a charge of Influencing Municial Official. On Feb 04/10 the Attorney General, who refused to call in an outside prosecutor to handle the case, dropped the charge. [LINK]

On Feb 10/10 MPP Toby Barrett forwarded VoC a copy of Rick Bartolucci’s response to a request for an inquiry into the OPP’s handling of the Caledonia crisis.

[…] In the decisions made and actions taken, I believe that the Commissioner and the OPP have taken all reasonable measures to keep the peace. I do not believe Commissioner Fantino has acted inappropriately with his handling of the land dispute in Caledonia. Further, I do not believe that a public inquiry is necessary.

VoC Comment

The McGuinty Liberals can never say they didn’t know what the OPP were doing in Caledonia. Minister Bartolucci and his predecessor have turned blind eyes toward alleged OPP misconduct for four years. In response to the complaints and charges brought by non-natives, they have made it clear that there is no limit to what the OPP will be permitted to do to silence opposition to racial policing. No doubt, the Attorney General will be dropping the charges against Lewis and Gentle. Just how many criminal charges and allegations against OPP officers is the minister prepared to overlook in order to prop up the government’s racial policing ideology?

These outrages against justice brought about by politically-influenced policing based on race cannot continue to be swept under the carpet. No good can come from the Liberals’ willingness to subvert human and civil rights of non-native citizens; it most certainly will never have the effect of bringing about healing and reconciliation. Moreover, it also victimizes native people as well.

I do hope to see you this coming Sunday at the Caledonia Lions Hall at 2pm when CANACE will be holding an its Anti-Racism rally. Gary McHale will be speaking in Caledonia for the first time in two years.

Disclosure: Mark Vandermaas was an original founding member of Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality.  He left CANACE on Feb 22/10 to focus on research and educational activities in connection with the issue of racial policing during land claim disputes. 

Mark Vandermaas, Editor