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article imageOntario's top cop Julian Fantino facing criminal charge

By Stephanie Dearing     Jan 2, 2010 in Crime
An Ontario Superior Court Judge has ruled that OPP Commissioner, Julian Fantino, will face a charge of "trying to influence municipal officials by means of threats." The charge was laid in 2008 by Gary McHale.
The case was heard in November 2009 by Justice Crane who issued his decision on December 31, 2009. Justice Crane overturned a ruling made by a Justice of the Peace on the case earlier in 2009. Justice Crane ordered that a summons or warrant be issued for Fantino. Speaking to the Canadian Press about the ruling, McHale said "We have set the standard for private citizens' rights to lay criminal charges against government officials." McHale is facing charges of "counselling mischief not yet committed."
In his ruling, Crane noted that the Justice of the Peace who had originally heard the case in 2009 had determined a threat had been made, but characterized the threat as "too vague." Justice Crane determined that Fantino had not only made a threat, but had made that threat while serving in an official capacity.
The case is based on an email Fantino sent to Haldimand County Council in April of 2007. In that email, Fantino critisized Haldimand Councillor Craig Grice for appearing to support McHale. Fantino wrote "... Councillor Grice commends McHale on his efforts in Caledonia. In fact the comments are perceived to actually encourage McHale." Characterizing McHale as "... a lightening rod for confrontation and potential violence ..." , Fantino went on to warn Haldimand County Council "... that going forward, in the event any of my officers are injured as a result of further forays into the community by McHale and his followers ... I will publicly hold accountable Councillor Grice AND Haldimand County along with McHale; ... I will strongly recommend to my Minister that the OPP contract with Haldimand County NOT be renewed once the current contract expires..." Alluding to the "mutual understanding" between Fantino and the Council that McHale was responsible for the protests in Caledonia, Fantino said Councillor Grice's apparent support of McHale was "... gravely detrimental to the morale and safety of my officers ..."
As a result of Justice Crane's ruling, Fantino will now have to defend himself against a charge made under Section 123 (2) of the Criminal Code of Canada, of "influencing or attempting to influence a municipal official ... by means of threats." James Morton, former head of the Ontario Bar Association told the Spec.com "I would not be surprised at all if there's a stay in the proceedings by the Crown attorney." If convicted, however, Fantino could face up to five years in jail.
The controversial head of the Ontario Provincial Police since 2006, Fantino's term as Ontario's top cop runs until July 2010. Fantino faced similar accusations in 2008 after transcripts of taped telephone calls between Fantino and First Nations protester Shawn Brant, although the accusations did not result in criminal charges or disciplinary action.
McHale's charge against Fantino is rooted in a land claim dispute that includes a piece of land in Caledonia about 40 hectares in size. The land was somehow transferred out of the hands of Six Nations when a reserve was created by the government. In 1995, Six Nations filed a law suit to reclaim those appropriated lands, including the property in Caledonia, which had since found its way into the hands of Henco Industries
After Henco began construction on its registered subdivision on the land in 2006, the Six Nations moved in to occupy the land. The rest of the year was filled with often violent confrontations between Six Nations and their supporters, locals and the OPP. The land claim dispute is still ongoing because the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario has been arguing over who has the jurisdiction to negotiate a settlement. The Province of Ontario purchased the land from Henco to hold in trust until the dispute is settled.
Recently a family who lived in a home that was almost completely surrounded by the property, now known as the Douglas Creek Estates, settled a lawsuit it had filed against the OPP and the Province of Ontario for the OPP's failure to protect the family during the period of strife over the disputed land. The family had initially sued for $7 million. The amount of the settlement has not been disclosed.
More about Julian fantino, Threats, Gary mchale, Caledonia land dispute, Haldimond county council
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