‘Where are the Christians?’ A Donkey’s Search for God and Justice in Caledonia

These children—unoffending, innocent, and beautiful—were the victims of one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetrated against humanity.

And yet they died nobly. They are the martyred heroines of a holy crusade for freedom and human dignity. And so this afternoon in a real sense they have something to say to each of us in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows.

‘Where are the Christians when we need them!’

This was the closing lament in an email I received from someone who has invested a great deal of time trying to warn people about the dangers of Islamic extremism and the threat it poses to Western democracies. I have received many emails from him in the past on this topic, and he has been good enough to forward some of our messages on behalf of Caledonia’s victims to his contacts. Last night’s message (originally forwarded to him by a 3rd party) closed with the plaintive cry, “Where are the Christians when we need them!

spectator-jan-20-07-gary-mchale.jpgI have often asked that very question of Gary McHale, who is, as readers of Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, And How The Law Failed All of Us, know — a devout Christian who became one at a fairly young age after a ‘less-than Christian’ upbringing.   Gary attended a Baptist Seminary, has been a deacon of the church, and taught in various churches in Ontario. He has also authored several Christian books. His activism in Caledonia – inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was himself a Baptist minister – arises out of his deeply-held religious belief that Christians have a duty to speak out when they witness injustices that shock the conscience.

I wonder, with tears in my heart…

  • Why has one of my own relatives, who professes to be a pious Baptist, who has long known of my struggle for justice in Caledonia, and whose town I must pass every time I drive to and from Caledonia, made no effort to help me reach out to his church?
  • Why, in the early days, did one of my Christian friends (who has a daughter who looks uncannily like Pam ‘Dancer’ Dudych) angrily tell me “I don’t want to talk about it!” when I brought up the subject of how native occupiers had authorized the shooting of civilians and OPP officers? (I have not visited her since that day.)
  • Why the head of the Jewish students organization I met at two Holocaust Remembrance Week events in 2007 never responded when I asked her to help set up speaking engagements or introductions to other Jewish organizations after reading our Human Costs of Illegal Occupations report and telling me how awful it all was.CANACE report, Dec 2007: The Human Costs of Illegal Occupations
  • Why the Christian ministers in Caledonia and area have not seen fit to help us confront the injustices in their town? Why they have rebuffed repeated overtures to meet in private to discuss our work? Why did one church refuse to even allow McHale to join their congregation?
  • Why, in the aftermath of Helpless, has not one single religious leader sought out McHale with offers to help, or invitations to speak about Caledonia from a religious perspective? Is there not even one in Canada who wants to know how they can help us stop racial policing, not one who cares about the victims – native and non?
  • Why has a key official with a Christian teaching institution not responded to my Feb 02/11 plea for a meeting to discuss Caledonia, the role of Christians in speaking out, and the possibility of opening doors for us to churches wherein we could share our message of healing and reconciliation? My letter to him is below:

Feb 02/11, 5:14pm

Dear Mr. xxxxxxxx:     


I became a Christian on Dec 31/09 due solely to the inspiration and instruction of Christians who decided to speak out against the injustices of race-based policing in Caledonia. One of them is my partner Gary McHale, who once attended Central Baptist Seminary where he earned an award for leadership skills and for the highest marks in Theology.    

Gary and I have, since 2006, worked together as full time volunteers (with help from others) to document, expose and oppose systemic racial policing practices whereby the police outright refused to enforce the law against aboriginal militants & organized crime groups who terrorized innocents with violence, intimidation, extortion, vandalism, arson, and despicable vilification of their victims, and actively worked to suppress the voices of the victims.

HELPLESS: Caledonia's Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us, by Christie BlatchfordThe story of Caledonia and our work in opposing racial policing using Dr. King’s “non-violent direct action” methods was recently published by Globe & Mail reporter Christie Blatchford in a book entitled, HELPLESS: CALEDONIA’S NIGHTMARE OF FEAR AND ANARCHY, AND HOW THE LAW FAILED ALL OF US:


The evidence irrefutably shows that police in Caledonia were instructed to enforce the law differently depending on the race of the party, and that they followed those orders even though they knew they were wrong. As a former UN peacekeeper and the son of (non-Jewish) parents who lived through Nazi occupation in Holland and watched Jews being taken away (my father escaped from a Nazi work camp) you can imagine my alarm at this happening in my country.   

Blatchford devoted several pages of her book to share Gary’s strong Christian motivations, including his belief that he was called by God to go to Caledonia (p 213-215). Gary was the first Christian I have ever met personally who was willing to risk everything he had to pursue justice for people he didn’t even know. He has been vilified, physically assaulted and injured, threatened with death, jailed, and he lost his home as part of the price he was willing to pay in order to speak out for victims – native and non-native – few others seemed to care about.  

Blatchford also shares Gary’s belief in the strength of Dr. King’s non-violent approach of confronting injustice (p151-152) which we have very successfully employed to peacefully confront racial policing. The most remarkable test of his commitment to Dr. King’s teachings occurred on Dec 01/07 when he was repeatedly assaulted, punched, swarmed and kicked while on the ground without once retaliating with angry words or fists. You can see the iconic photo of him with blood on his face being led away by police in Helpless (opposite p 83). I, too, was assaulted without retaliating.  

I discovered that Gary not only was willing to put his Christian beliefs into action at great personal cost to himself (as opposed to the ‘Sunday Christians’ I have known), but he was exceptionally knowledgeable about theology and exceptionally gifted in explaining it. Over the course of several years he slowly answered my questions and objections to Christianity without ever once proselytizing.  

Another Christian, whose picture is also in the book, Caledonia resident Pat Woolley, loaned me copies of Lee Strobel’s books, The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith. Shortly after finishing them I bought my own copies, along with The Case for a Creator – the first Christian books I’d ever bought.    

I recall asking Gary once that I understood why God might call on him to go to Caledonia, but why was I – the non-believer – there working with him. He told me God could work through anyone or anything. He told me I was – to God – a ‘donkey’ and to understand what that meant I would have to read Numbers 22, which I did. For several years I joked with him about being a proud ‘donkey.’   [NOTE: the passage illustrates that God can work through anyone or anything, even a donkey]

I have seen the power of the sovereignty of God with my own eyes. How else, for example, can you explain a man with a reading and writing disability who – without any formal legal training or legal representative – can win at the Ontario Court of Appeal against the best legal minds our government can afford? I was there when he argued against 3 separate government lawyers before the Superior Court and won the original decision. It was something I will never forget.   

After years of this donkey watching and working and learning from the most Christ-like person I have ever met, and re-reading Strobel’s books I finally made the decision to follow Jesus on Dec 31/09.   One day I hope to write a book – possibly with Gary’s help – about our struggle in Caledonia to help people understand that there is a plan for their lives. The title will be A Donkey’s Search for God and Justice in Caledonia.  

How you can help  

Last year we were invited presenters at the 2010 New Directions in Aboriginal Policy forum at Mount Royal University in Calgary. My presentation was ‘Listening to Victims: A Fresh Approach to Healing & Reconciliation.’  

The International Free Press Society will be sponsoring presentations by Gary and me in both London and Toronto in 2011, and another organization has booked us to speak in Ottawa on March 22nd.   None of these presentations, however, addresses the topic of ‘Christianity and Caledonia.’ I wonder, therefore, if you would consider meeting with us with the aim of becoming comfortable enough with us and our work to consider sponsoring the first-ever such presentation at the college and/or an area church?  

Our ‘Caledonia CVs’ are available here:  

If you wish, I would also be happy to send a copy of Helpless to you.  I have attached a draft copy of our news release directed at churches for our February 27th Truth and Reconciliation Rally in Caledonia. It is a call to action that contains the Christian perspective on the importance of not merely speaking out, but taking action against injustice. Attached also is the explanatory ‘non-Christian’ release.  

Thank you so much for your time. Please feel free to call me any time, day or night at the number below.  

Respectfully, Mark  

Mark Vandermaas  519.457.0709 
Caledonia Victims Project  




Dr. King’s letter also had harsh words for the ministers who refused to get involved:

In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? l am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

King returned to this theme later in 1963 in his ‘Eulogy for the Martyred Children‘ – given at the service for three of the four black girls killed in a KKK bombing:

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.

So…where ARE the Christians?

I used to believe that Christian and Jewish leaders and their congregations did not know about, or perhaps, believe the full depth of Caledonia’s ‘nightmare of fear and anarchy’ and that if only I could educate them, to help them understand the injustices they would surely want to know more, and then they would help. Then I believed it was because they were afraid of us because of the OPP’s vicious campaign of defamation and abuses of the justice system intended to discredit and silence Gary McHale and his followers.

But I was wrong.

The reason Christians and Jews have turned blind eyes to Caledonia is not because they didn’t know; it was because they didn’t want to know; because knowing would mean having to do something: to take a risk of being criticized, of having to give up earthly pleasures or weekend time to attend a protest or get involved, perhaps of being intimidated by those responsible for the mayhem. One never gets criticized for organizing an African or homeless shelter aid project, so these are risk-free endeavours for Christians whereas speaking out against violence by native extremists and racial policing by the OPP are not.

I am still wrestling, as a new Christian, with my feelings about organized churches because of their deafening silence in and about Caledonia. I don’t feel ready to attend one because I want to grow closer to Jesus and God, not be taken further away as I was for nearly all my life. ‘ It was not organized religion or religious leaders or ‘Sunday Christians’ who led me to Christ – it was a small group of people who were willing to risk everything they had for others who had no voice, no help, no hope.

So, where are the Christians? 

Some, at least, will be in Caledonia, at 1pm, at the Lions Hall Park, asking for apologies to the people of Caledonia so healing and reconciliation can begin between two communities ripped apart by injustice and indifference. 


Mark Vandermaas, Editor

5 responses to “‘Where are the Christians?’ A Donkey’s Search for God and Justice in Caledonia

  1. Sick of Being Muzzled

    Mark, I know you said awhile back that you had read Widdowson and Howard’s Disrobing the Aboriginal Industry. I suggest you re-read pages 24 to 29–particularly pages 27 to 29. The authors provide an explanation as to why the churches are part of the problem, rather than part of the solution, when it comes to aboriginal issues.

    I was a member of one of the mainstream Canadian churches for about 17 years. I attended three different churches in this denomination and then gave up. I realized it was hopeless to try and reason with the church leadership regarding aboriginal issues. In fact, I encountered quite a bit of intimidation and harassment just for bringing up the topic. One of the main reasons I decided to leave was I read the above pages in the Disrobing book. It then became clear to me why I wasn’t getting anywhere.

    VoC: Thanks for writing. Actually, it was Dr. Widdowson who invited Gary McHale and me to speak at the 2010 New Directions in Aboriginal Policy forum in Calgary, and I do have a copy of her book. She and Dr. David Newhouse had a great debate on religion/spirituality as part of the presentation that both Gary and I found very interesting.

    As for the churches – they cannot say they didn’t know. One day they will be as ashamed of turning blind eyes and deaf ears to Caledonia as they are about Residential Schools. Interesting how they manage to go from playing roles in sanctioning one injustice after another — didn’t think of it that way until now, so thanks! Regards, Mark

  2. Pingback: LETTER TO CHRISTIAN LEADERS re ‘Truth & Reconciliation’ Rally in Caledonia on Sunday | Caledonia Victims Project

  3. Pingback: Queen’s Park ‘Truth & Reconciliation’ news conference | Caledonia Victims Project

  4. Bonnie Stephens

    Your knowledge of the issues is obvious and your passion for your work comes off the page and seeps into a reader along with your heartfelt sincerety. Although Larry and I have supported Voice of Canada and CANACE and marched with you from time to time, we are still humbled with respect and gratitude at your amazing determination and efforts on behalf of all of us! Thank you for opening your heart and sharing your passion with us.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on this: as Christians we are called to do more than be; we are called to live and act as Jesus has taught us. You and Gary are shining examples of what that means. Thank you, donkey.

    VoC: It’s great to be able to count on you guys to be there and help out. I’ve got the monument built and painted, just have to letter on the ‘apologies.’ Looking forward to seeing you on Sunday! Bringing some friends from London. Hee haw. Mark

  5. Mark; it isn’t a matter of “where are all the Christians”, or their churches. As a long term jaded observer of the human condition, I have come to realize most self-professed “Christians” are in fact Christians of convenience. They wear the cloak of piety to cover a fundament of weakness. Damn few so-called “Christians” ACT on the message of Christ in their daily life decisions – particularly where it involves putting Christian/moral principle before personal security. These are rare and we can never find enough.

    As for the church, it has been a control tool of power brokers for centuries. While outwardly spewing self rightiouness it’s real purpose is to protect the interests, agendas and policy of the power elite from public scrutiny through a collusive sort of theocratic control over parishioners. In the modern mega-state this comes in the form of placating the government of the day’s policies and conditioning the thinking of the faithful to comply – in return the state protects their land holdings and tax free status —but stray out of that arrangement and financial disaster looms. For this reason, no ecclesiastical council would dare challenge the government when it is wrong or caught spreading a lie. I found this out early in life when my church actively endorsed government policies that were deeply damaging to my fundamental freedoms. It’s why I left the church.

    I want to add just one more thing as long as you are kind enough to allow me to vent my jaded opinion on the church and its army of ” Christians of convenience™”. In another post here you muse about what it is that has sustained the constant smears, injustices and attacks on Gary by all the usual suspects (Unionist-left-anarchist-radicals and government policy androids). Had you ever considered this is the result of pure human wickedness? Is it such a stretch to see that certain political ideologies/agendas attract and encourage wickedness and evil intent?

    I’m not an overly religious man, I like what Christ had to say, but I don’t trust the churches. I don’t know if there is an all seeing all loving God but I’m pretty sure there is a devil because I can feel his twisted pleasure in human wickedness and the evil we do to each other in the name of ‘good’. Wickedness keeps us from resolution and ultimately from evolving past petty cliquish bickering. It is also the reason Caledonia will never fully know peace – unless their is a fundamental change of heart in those who feel they can gain by wicked deceptions and the threat of doing evil to extort gains.