Thursday, October 6, 2011

Remembering Caledonia

As Ontario heads to the polls, I'd like to re-post something I wrote a little less than a year ago when Julian Fantino was running in a federal byelection. Right wing bloggers were hammering him for his role in the Caledonia crisis. Here we are a year later, his boss who issued the "passive containment" order is running for a 3rd majority, and none of those people are complaining about Dalton's role in that fiasco. Citizens were terrorized when the rule of law was not enforced. That was the order issued by the elected government of Ontario which commands the provincial police force. That was Dalton McGuinty. Nobody seems to have discussed this during the election.
Where are the angry voices of Caledonia when Dalton is running for re-election?

From Ipperwash To Caledonia
Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A week before the upcoming byelections in Vaughan, Conservative candidate Julian Fantino is still drawing criticism from right minded people for his role in the Caledonia crisis. His "great mistake" was carrying out the policy of Dalton McGuinty's government. Remember the road from Ipperwash to Caledonia. In September of 1995 a group of First Nation protestors occupied the Ipperwash National Park. When small bands of native mobs started spilling out of the park into adjacent civilian areas, the Ontario Provincial Police assembled a Swat Team/Riot Squad to force protesters back into the park, a riot broke out, and somebody was killed. Ontario Liberals (including especially Dalton McGuinty) hammered the Harris government forevermore for the forceful response in the Ipperwash case.

Fast forward to 2006 and suddenly Dalton McGuinty is sitting in the Premier's office when a similar land dispute gets nasty in Caledonia. Paranoid that Caledonia will become his Ipperwash, Dalton sets up a policy of ‘passive containment’ and ostensibly stops enforcing the rule of law in that area. It was government policy. As Jonathan Kay wrote in 2007: "Since the crisis began, Dalton McGuinty's government has been petrified of taking decisive action, lest the Toronto media compare his actions to those of Mike Harris' government during the Ipperwash Crisis of 1995. At numerous points during the Caledonia standoff, the OPP has been ordered to sit on their hands despite numerous provocations by native protesters."

I am not trying to argue that the order of passive containment was the best course of action, but that policy came from Dalton McGuinty's government, not Julian Fantino. He was the civil servant instructed by the provincial government to avoid a violent confrontation with native protesters at all cost. The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is responsible for law enforcement services in the province of Ontario, including the Ontario Provincial Police, jails, parole boards, public safety and disaster management.

How exactly should our police force respond to these types of incidents? I think the answer lies somewhere in between Ipperwash and Caledonia. As one OPP Sgt was recorded saying the day before the deadly Ipperwash riot, "we want to amass a fucking army. A real fucking army and do this. Do these fuckers big-time". I don't think that's the answer. At the same time, I don't think suspending the rule of law because you're afraid of bad press is an appropriate response either. Some of you want to blame Julian Fantino for Dalton McGuinty's poor judgment. I guess Fantino should have raised an army to "do those fuckers big-time" and defy the orders of the elected government who sets their policy?

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