Caledonia, Canada lose heroic watchdog of democracy as Haldimand Regional News closes


UPDATE: National Post, Feb 10/12: Christie Blatchford: Caledonia loses brave, feisty voice as Regional shuts its doors

UPDATED — It is a sad day for those of us who have fought for justice in Caledonia, and for those who value the role of journalists as the watchdogs of democracy.

The heroic Caledonia-based Regional News is no more. It published its last edition today.

A voice of freedom and justice has been silenced todayDuring the past 5 years the Regional News was a journalistic beacon to those of us desperately trying to get mainstream media to cover the Caledonia crisis.

Its publisher Chris Pickup and her reporters never backed away from controversy, never let political correctness get in the way of telling the truth or taking a stand whether it was against the foibles of town council, wind turbines or the abuses of OPP racial policing.

The Regional News was the first to give Gary McHale a regular column, and was the only media outlet to publish our summary of the failures of the Ipperwash Inquiry and its terrible legacy for Caledonia and future communities that may face landclaim lawlessness.

'Caught in the Middle': click to see/learn moreIt also provided a voice for residents and activists to be heard through their letters to the editor. CANACE co-founder Merlyn Kinrade was a frequent letter-writer,  and the today’s final edition contains his observations on the Regional’s demise:

At the launch party for Christie Blatchford’s book Helpless we presented both her and Bill Jackson of the Regional News with copies of Barb Patterson-Tuck’s award winning painting ‘Caught in the Middle‘ as a sign of our gratitude. The applause and cheers for Bill and his paper were loud and heartfelt:

Paying a price for truth and justice

The Regional’s reporters have paid a price for telling Caledonia’s real story. Bill Jackson was assaulted by native protesters in the early days of the occupation and the newest reporter Kristin Kaye’s front page story last week included details about how she was shoved and sworn at by an OPP officer during our Jan 27/12 protest at the occupation site. Chris Pickup’s editorial about the assault – ‘Oh What Heroes Our Cops Are!‘ – can be read in this article:

It’s defence of truth and justice made many enemies, especially after it gave Gary McHale a weekly column to expose the awful details of OPP corruption. The county stopped advertising with her. The OPP stopped providing the news releases they sent to other media outlets, and some members of the business community stopped their advertising as well.

Preferring order to justice

There are, indeed, many in Caledonia who will be delighted that the Regional has been silenced, and they would love for us to go away as well. That way they can get on with the business and politics of making money by pretending that everything is just fine now. They are like those white moderates who Dr. King referred to as the Negro’s greatest enemy:

 I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”

No regrets

Since the Regional News isn’t published online, so CANACE co-founder Merlyn Kinrade called earlier today to read me Chris Pickup’s last editorial in which she talked about – among other things – her respect for Gary McHale and the people who worked with him, and her sadness at the loss of the community’s alternate voice. I hope to get it up at VoC in a few days.  She went out with a bang, unapologetic and with no regrets for standing up for what she felt was right in her community.

The Regional will be missed

Bill Jackson of Regional News takes notes during 2010 municipal election, Caledonia Lions Hall, Oct 13/10

I once said this about the Regional News and its longtime reporter Bill Jackson who recently left to pursue other opportunities:

From the perspective of someone who has risked my safety, reputation, freedom and financial security to keep native thugs, corrupt police and politicians from destroying everything I value about my country I’ll take one Bill Jackson and The Regional over the Spectator, Expositor, Toronto Star, Toronto Sun and CBC combined.

When the politicians and police finally realize that no realistic landclaim solution is possible if they continue to ignore the innocent victims of landclaim lawlessness it will be due in no small part because one courageous newspaper and a gutsy reporter held true to the highest and finest ideals of journalism in a town where fear has silenced so many.

The Regional’s defence of freedom did not go un-noticed outside Caledonia:

Chris Pickup risked the very existence of the Regional News to expose injustice and tell the ugly truth of racial policing so that, in the long run, her community and her province would become a better  place to live. I am reminded of another quote by Dr. King in his April 16/63 Letter from Birmingham jail :

 Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

We will do our best to continue to open Caledonia’s boil to the air of conscience and public opinion so it can be healed and lessons learned, but we lost a valuable ally today who understands, at the very core of her being, the meaning of Dr. King’s long-ago words.

To Chris Pickup and the staff – past and present – the words  ‘thank you’ seem so inadequate. I wish you and your staff the very best.

You will be missed.

POSTED BY: Mark Vandermaas
Editor, VoiceofCanada
Founder, Caledonia Victims Project (


One response to “Caledonia, Canada lose heroic watchdog of democracy as Haldimand Regional News closes

  1. Pingback: Truth justice and freedom of speech not allowed in Haldimand County – by Merlyn Kinrade «

  2. I cannot believe all of the things that has happened over the past 5-6 years in Haldimand County, and yet I have lived them day by day and hour by hour. Now we have lost a newspaper that covered the real news of the day, not only in Caledonia but in all of Haldimand County.

    The second newspaper in this town covers only the frilly stuff and doesn’t touch anything controversial. This town will be left without a voice and only the feel-good things will be addressed in the local news.

    All levels of Government are corrupting the facts and shutting doors on the truth to keep the citizens of Caledonia and Haldimand in the dark.

    The Government of Ontario has wiped its feet on Haldimand County for the last 6 years, The OPP have harassed and arrested peaceful protesters while letting thugs and native radicals run lose to do whatever evil deed they are bent on. Now the Municipal Government is complicit in forcing the dissenting media outlet into closing its doors.

    Is anyone else frightened by this turn of events? Will we wake up one morning and find all of our rights and freedoms gone.

    VoC REPLY: Thanks so much for writing, Donna. Your perspective, as someone who lived the nightmare others want to forget, is so important. It is a sad day, but as a Christian I believe that God is in control, and there must be a reason for this. The struggle will go on. Regards, Mark

  3. Reading Donna’s missive on the political and media capitulation with corruption in Caledonia I was motivated to comment.

    Donna, Mark, Gary, Merlyn, Regional News and all those in Caledonia who value truth, justice and civil rights, I really feel for you. It is hard to bear the cross of martyrdom to a just and moral cause against the overwhelming oppression of the majority forces of iniquity. It is difficult to go forward when at every turn you see capitulation to corruption rewarded and opposition to corruption punished – all you really have to go forward with is the self-satisfaction that when all around you are submitting to self-interest and corruption, you stood up for something good and right (uncompromising equality before the law).

    I know it is of little compensation to say this but the political events unfolding in Caledonia are a microcosm of what is/has happened to our nation, and most other free western nations. The larger issue is that of big government (run on patronage brokering) and its natural by-products; special interest policy agendas and the corruption and authoritarian coercion needed to propel such agendas.

    In the wider perspective nationally and internationally, as in Caledonia, we see any dissenting individual or media voices who confront big government on its corruption or errant political agendas, under constant savage attack by NGOs, media, regulators, prosecutors and political forces aligned with corrupt government through direct or indirect patronage. We can dismiss all this corruption and the intensifying civil oppression and injustice it yields by saying; “it’s just the way of the world in post modern big government society – cope with it”, but it never was right before and it is not right or proper civil conduct now – many of our forbearers died for the liberty and civil justice we so casually trade away to encroaching big government. Official and systemic corruption is never correct as it leads to total corruption and that is a state where neither reason or social justice exist.

    So, while I feel for the pain, loss and stress that has befallen the lives of those in Caledonia who have the spiritual and moral strength to confront systemic corruption and stand for the right, I and also comforted to know there are still such people in our society. God bless you all and thank you.

    VoC REPLY: Thanks for the kind comments Bill. There are some good people out there. You’re about to read about some of them who just took a very public and inspiring stand with us and the people of Caledonia at our Queen’s Park news conference this past Friday: ‘Ending Race-Based Policing: The Caledonia Act.’ Stay tuned; working on the story right now. Since you blessed us in God’s name, I’ll say this to you: one of the most important lessons I learned as a new Christian (thanks to Gary and some others) is the ‘Sovereignty of God’ – which means that God is in control, not us. It’s his timing and his plan, and all we have to do is do our best to do the right thing. Thanks, Mark