This is the first in a series of excerpts and related commentary from Christie Blatchford’s upcoming book, Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, And How The Law Failed All of Us. It tells Caledonia’s story and the story of those who fought back to preserve the rule of law:
The Globe & Mail
Caledonia: the town that law forgot [PDF]
by Christie Blatchford
Now that I’ve written a whole book about what happened in Caledonia, Ont., starting in February of 2006 and continuing to this day, it’s daunting to offer a precis. But basically it’s this: The people of that lovely small town just an hour and change from Toronto were abandoned by their governments, and ultimately by their police force, and left to fend for themselves. The book is about the failure of government to govern, and of leaders to lead.
From the get-go, the federal and provincial governments had adopted a hands-off policy to the occupation. Ottawa didn’t even recognize the tenuous land claim that residents of Six Nations were belatedly making, and deferred to Queen’s Park; the Ontario government nonetheless treated the occupation as purely a land claim and somehow, overtly or in the subtle ways that are the hallmark of practised politicians, made its wishes known; the Ontario Provincial Police, first under then-commissioner Gwen Boniface and later under her successor Julian Fantino, now a star candidate for the Stephen Harper Conservatives, obligingly carried that message to the force’s rank and file.
The end result was a form of policing that would be simply unrecognizable to Canadians living anywhere else in the country: cops who watched or turned away as the law was broken, sometime brazenly; cops who appeared to take sides and would take action against only one group of people and not the other; cops who refused to make arrests, conduct investigations or protect the public.
Some of those officers who resisted were either punished, reprimanded or disciplined, with the result that the others lost heart.
Few people are as shamed by Caledonia, sickened by their own impotence, as the men and women of the OPP who worked there regularly.
At one end of the spectrum is a letter written by then-commissioner Fantino in December of 2008.
The occasion was the criminal trial of Clyde Powless, a Six Nations man who had acted as one of the band’s spokesmen and liaisons during the most heated period of the occupation.
Mr. Powless was on trial for assaulting a non-native, anti-occupation leader named Gary McHale, an offence to which Mr. Powless pleaded guilty on Dec. 8 that year, and for which he received a conditional discharge.
But on Dec. 4, Commissioner Fantino provided a letter to Mr. Powless’s lawyer.
He gave Mr. Powless a ringing endorsement. He blamed the victim, Mr. McHale, for having provoked the assault. “The Honourable Court,” he suggested, might want to consider that Mr. Powless had often acted as a peacemaker.
It was extraordinary, and it was official: Ontario’s senior law official was not only denouncing the victim of a crime, he was also singing the praises of the assailant to a judge.
- Globe & Mail, Christie Blatchford, Oct 24/10: The town that law forgot [PDF]
- Dec 04/08 – Fantino letter of reference to Court for Clyde Powless, man who led swarming attack on Gary McHale on Dec 01/07 [PDF]
- Caledonia Victims Project: R. v. Gary McHale (Counselling Mischief Not Committed)
- VoiceofCanada, Dec 22/09: Brown-Chatwell trial: crimes against democracy
- ONTARIO SUPERIOR COURT: 1536412 Ontario Ltd. v. HCCC, HDI, ruby & Floyd Montour, Hazel Hill (Cayuga occupation, May-June 2008) (rebuke of OPP for abusing power & discretion in refusing to assist non-native occupation victim; natives subject to rule of law)
- ONTARIO SUPERIOR COURT: John Voortman & Associates v. HCCC, HMF (Hagersville occupation, April 2009) (natives subject to rule of law)
- MANITOBA COURT OF APPEAL: R. v. Catagas, 1977 [PDF, 7p] (gov’t cannot exempt groups or races from Criminal Code; see also LINK for key excerpt & related)
- VoiceofCanada, July 07/10: McGuinty appoints cop charged with Obstructing Justice as head of OPP
- VoiceofCanada, March 17/10: Minister knew about OPP obstruction allegations in 2008
- VoiceofCanada, March 16/10: Senior OPP officers charged w/Obstructing Justice in McHale case
- VoiceofCanada category: Fantino on Trial
- VoiceofCanada feature: Caledonia Lawsuits
- CANACE Report: Human Costs of Illegal Occupations (Dec 2007) [PDF, 101p]
- CANACE Report: Legalized MYTHS of Illegal Occupations (May 2008) [PDF, 56p]
- CANACE Reference Feature: Race-Based Policing (MUST SEE for journalists)
- Regional News: Gary McHale’s weekly column (bias in Crown’s office; political interference; criminal case against him, etc.)
- CBC News, Feb 02/10: The 2 men who are putting a police chief on trial [PDF]
- CBC News, Feb 02/10: Ont. top cop pushed for charges against protester [PDF]
- Globe & Mail, April 21/10: Charges stayed against relentless critic of Ontario Provincial Police in Caledonia occupation [PDF]
- Globe & Mail, Feb 02/10: OPP’s chief’s pursuit of activist laid bare in emails [PDF]
- HelplessByBlatchford: www.HelplessByBlatchford.ca
- Caledonia Victims Project: www.CaledoniaVictimsProject.ca