Angelo Persichilli had a column in yesterday’s Toronto Star that rhymes with his name; to wit, silly.
He is trying to defend the Commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, Julian Fantino, over the OPP’s handling of the Caledonia file. A private citizen has launched a lawsuit that claims Mr. Fantino exceeded his authority by writing to the local municipal council threatening police retaliation if the council endorsed an anti-aboriginal protest march organized by an outsider (a non-resident of Caledonia).
Mr. Persichilli is saying that the OPP cannot police natives because they will not be backed up by the politicians. He says that this means there is no law.
The law didn’t go away just because the politicians ran and hid under the nearest convenient rock, which we can all agree they did.
This Ontario Liberal government held an expensive public hearing to demonize the former Progressive Conservative government and particularly its former Premier, Mike Harris, in the government’s handling of a similar Indian occupation of a public park in Ipperwash, Ontario.
In that instance, in evicting the occupiers, a trigger-happy OPP officer shot and killed an unarmed Indian. The officer was convicted of a crime and duly sentenced.
But that wasn’t enough for the Liberals. They had to spend $50 million trying to prove that the government (the former Premier specifically) had interfered with police discretion and caused the harm. They failed. The commission exonerated the government from such charges.
Now, with the Caledonia native occupation, the chickens have come home to roost. And that roosting has been expensive. The latest estimate is that it has cost the taxpayers $65 million, not including the cost of the undisclosed settlement of the seven million dollar law suit brought by an Ontario couple against the government and the OPP because they were harassed for two years by the rampaging Indians without police protection.
Mr. Persichilli says:
There was no doubt that without a legal framework to say who was right and who was wrong, the tension in Caledonia would increase, with the real possibility that someone was going to be hurt.
Again, the OPP and its commissioner, Fantino, were asked to enforce the law in a context where the dispute was the law itself. The bottom line was simple: was the occupation legal or not?
Later he asks again:
Was it legal? I don't know, but was it legal to occupy public land? Is it legal to leave citizens without protection?
There is not a shadow of a doubt that the occupation of this land was illegal. It was not public land, like Ipperwash. It was land privately owned by a development company, which may have been subject to an as yet unsubstantiated aboriginal historical claim.
The problem, however, is not so much the fact that the Indians invaded the property and faced down the police in a show of force. Most people would have simply looked the other way and considered it an issue for the development company to sort out with the Indians and federal government.
It is what they did once they were in occupation, starting immediately with the beating of an employee of the development company who was simply trying to retrieve his blueprints and other documents from his on-site development office. He was hospitalized. Here is his picture.
And here are a number of pictures showing the acts carried out during the occupation: burning a railroad trestle, burning an electrical substation, blocking public highways with trash and burning tires, throwing a van from an overpass onto the highway, and tearing up the national flag. One thing to note in all of these pictures: the complete absence of any police presence.
Now here is a series of pictures from the other side of the disputed property – from the town side. A man is detained from waving a Canadian flag by no less than three police officers. A protest organizer is hauled away by three police officers. He was jailed and subsequently released without charge. Note the number of police vehicles present on the town side of the dispute when the town's people gathered to protest the occupation.
It is not that there are no laws to deal with the hooliganism, thuggery, arson and violence perpetrated by the Indians, Mr. Persichilli, it is simply that we lack a police force with the balls to enforce the laws we have.
And the sad thing is that this appeasement in the face of such aggression will only encourage the Indians to adopt such tactics in future land disputes.
Finally, ask yourself this question. If, instead of Mohawks, a band of Hells Angels motorcycle guys rode onto this property and carried on in the same fashion, what would the police response have been?
For readers who are unfamiliar with the Caledonia story, I refer you to this website.