OPP threatening to stop policing Caledonia: mayor
TORONTO - The commissioner of Ontario's provincial police force is threatening to stop policing a small town living with a year-long aboriginal occupation, the town's mayor said Thursday.
Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer said she received an e-mail from Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino - as did top Ontario bureaucrats including staff in the premier's office - expressing anger over the ongoing rallies against the occupation in Caledonia, Ont.
Fantino implied that the southern Ontario town is encouraging the divisive rallies and said if any of his officers are hurt as a result, he won't support a renewal of the force's contract to police the town and will back any officer's lawsuit brought against the town, Trainer said.
The e-mail left her shocked and "extremely upset," Trainer said.
"I took it as a threat," she said. "I wish he had called and talked to me about it."
A police spokesman told the Hamilton Spectator that the force will neither confirm nor deny the authenticity of the e-mail because it is correspondence meant for a particular person.
"We're not interested in getting into a discussion about an e-mail sent to a specific recipient," Insp. Dave Ross said, adding that Fantino wasn't available to comment but that there are no plans for provincial police to pull out of Caledonia.
Community Safety Minister Monte Kwinter said he isn't worried about the ongoing security of Caledonia since the police contract lasts until next fall. But he refused to comment on the e-mail, saying Fantino is independent of the government.
"I am aware of the correspondence but he is accountable for what he says," Kwinter said. "He is not accountable to me for his actions directing the OPP. He has the ability to make decisions affecting the OPP."
While the town council was already talking about the possibility of not renewing its contract with the force in September 2008 because of the backlash against officers throughout the occupation, Trainer said the e-mail is especially disconcerting because the provincial police are already cutting back on their surveillance of the occupied site.
A police cruiser that normally stands guard 24 hours a day outside the occupied site will now conduct patrols instead, she said.
"It's not going to make the residents feel very good," Trainer said. "It's the occupation that's been causing us the grief."
Conservative Leader John Tory said the Liberal government is to blame for the escalating tension in the town because they have allowed the occupation to continue.
"I think the continued inaction by (Premier Dalton) McGuinty government to do anything about this, and just let it go on forever and ever, doesn't solve anything," he said.
Six Nations protesters have occupied the former housing development site since last February, saying the land was taken from them by the Crown over 200 years ago. The year-long occupation has been marred by violent clashes between town residents and Six Nations protesters.
Six Nations negotiators are currently at the table with provincial and federal representatives, trying to work through the land claims that led to the occupation.