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.
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.
- VoiceofCanada, March 01/09: McGuinty’s Ipperwash Cover-up: The Caledonia Legacy
- Regional News (Caledonia/Haldimand): Gary McHale weekly column archive (note: the Regional does not publish online)
It 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:
- JeffParkinson.ca, Feb 08/12: Truth, justice and freedom of speech not allowed in Haldimand County – by Merlyn Kinrade
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:
- VoiceofCanada, Feb 05/12: ‘No Blacks, Whites or Jews Allowed by Order of McGuinty’ — by Gary McHale
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”
- VoiceofCanada feature: Lessons from Dr. King
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
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.
- VoiceofCanada, July 23/08: Ryerson Review of Journalism: McHale & Vandermaas important news sources for Caledonia dispute
The Regional’s defence of freedom did not go un-noticed outside Caledonia:
- VoiceofCanada, Dec 14/10: International Free Press Society recognizes Bill Jackson & Regional News for Caledonia coverage
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.
- VoiceofCanada feature: Lessons from Dr. King
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.