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Ontario Hansard

Legislative Assembly of Ontario
Ontario Hansard
June 12, 2006

Oral Questions - Native Land Dispute

Mr. John Tory (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Premier. The media reports from this weekend in Caledonia suggested that an OPP officer stated off camera that they had been instructed not to engage in violent commotion or activity between those occupying the land, other external groups such as the media, local community members and Ontarians travelling through the area. Can you confirm whether or not this is the case, and will you also confirm that no element whatsoever of that instruction has come from your government with respect to how they carry out their duties to protect the public?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): I can in fact confirm that. I am not aware of what instructions any particular police officer may have been referencing, but certainly we have not provided instructions of any kind to the Ontario Provincial Police vis-à-vis Caledonia.

May I take this opportunity as well to extend my sympathies to all those affected by last Friday's violence? I know I will be joined -- I say this with confidence -- by every single member of this Legislature when we condemn those activities of those individuals. I can say as well that we have been negotiating in goodwill and in good faith, but this now makes it very difficult for us to have a basis for continuing discussions, and I will speak to that further in the supplementaries.

Mr. Tory: Again to the Premier, Caledonia has undergone more than 100 days of hardship for a conflict you and your government were informed about more than a year ago. Last week and this weekend, the incidents that you spoke about were things that I think shocked people. They saw a newspaper reporter for the Kitchener Record assaulted and robbed as someone held him by the throat and other people rifled through his vehicle. They saw an elderly man having a heart attack after he and his wife had their car stomped on and surrounded. They saw the two CH cameramen, of course, who were assaulted by a group of individuals.

Last week in the House, the Minister of Community Safety referred to an understanding that existed about where the police go or don't go. Who is that understanding with, and what involvement has anyone from your government had, including any public servants, in terms of discussions of that kind of understanding? Who is it with, and who has been involved in discussing it? Has anyone in your government -- public servant, politician or otherwise -- been involved in discussing such an understanding?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: Again, and I'm not sure I could have been any more clear in my answer to the first question, we have not provided any kind of instruction to the Ontario Provincial Police.

Let me say that we have been negotiating with the First Nations community in good faith. We have established an expedited land claims settlement process. We've invited to that table the federal government. We are working as quickly as we can. We have put in place a moratorium on the development lands in question. But I can say that a condition of our being at the table was that public safety would not be compromised. In fact, last Friday it was without a doubt compromised.

I've asked the minister responsible for aboriginal issues to speak with the leadership of the First Nations community involved to relay that we are no longer prepared to continue negotiations until two important conditions are met: First of all, the barricades must come down, and they must stay down; and secondly, we are asking the leadership to co-operate in any way with the Ontario Provincial Police so that they might apprehend the individuals involved.

Mr. Tory: I'd like to ask the Premier two questions that arise in part out of that answer. The first question would be, now that the situation is the way it is, might you commit to holding at the appropriate time an independent investigation into what has gone on here so that all of these different understandings and instructions that seem to be floating around from somewhere and all the things that are going on that involve a breakdown of the rule of law can be independently investigated? I think people would take some comfort from knowing that at the appropriate time this will be looked into by someone independent so we'll all know how it went on, why it happened and that it won't happen again.

Secondly, what time limit have you placed on this business of saying that the barricades must come down and that the rule of law must be respected? When have you said this is going to come into effect? It's a new statement on your part. I commend you for it. When, specifically, is it going to come into effect?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: Our government just conveyed this information to the First Nations leadership involved. The leader of the official opposition may know that this morning we issued a joint release, together with the federal government, demanding that the barricades in fact come down. Beyond that, we've also requested that the First Nations leadership co-operate with the Ontario Provincial Police when it comes to the apprehension of the individuals involved.

I can say -- and I know I say this on behalf of the people of Ontario -- that we will not brook any disagreement with respect to which law applies when it comes to alleged criminal activity. There is one law for all Ontarians and all Canadians when it comes to criminal misconduct, and that's the criminal law of Canada. That's why we're asking the leadership involved in the First Nations community to co-operate with the Ontario Provincial Police in order to ensure that the individuals involved might be apprehended.

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): New question.

Mr. Tory: I could ask a very simple question: Where have you been? You said in your answer a moment ago that when the moratorium was placed on the development of the land and when the negotiations were set up and one of the barricades was brought down -- I believe I'm right that you said a condition of that deal was that public safety would be respected and the law would be respected. I think you -- your government -- said that some time ago. Now you're here today saying in no uncertain terms, "Take it from me. We're going to make sure that is the case."


So I think it is reasonable to ask you, when? You entered into a deal three or four weeks ago, at which time the first barricade did come down, but all of the incidents we're talking about have happened since then. So I'm asking you again, by what date are you expecting that people will comply with these conditions that were in the old deal so that we can know that the rule of law is going to be restored in Caledonia? When is it going to happen?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: The leader of the official opposition may know that we have been in discussion with the federal government in these matters. That's why we issued the joint release today. We said that it's a matter that is very urgent. We are not going to engage in brinksmanship. We are going to continue to act responsibly. We will do so in co-operation with the federal government, and we've deemed the matter urgent.

Mr. Tory: One of the things that has not yet happened is a visit by you to Caledonia, simply to meet with people face to face and really see what's going on there and listen to some of the people who live there and who I think have a combination of frustration, heartache and anger over a lot of these kinds of things.

I would ask you, if it isn't convenient or appropriate for you to go there, would you as premier of this province consider -- as part of the dialogue that has to go on and the personal conveyance of the message you've talked about today to all of the stakeholders involved -- calling these people in, showing this kind of leadership, to have them into your office to deal with them directly in conveying the message you have conveyed to this House today and make sure there is no misunderstanding, I would suggest with a date by which this is going to happen? Will you do that?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: I think the leader of the official opposition knows that Mr. Levac, a member of the government, is on a community liaison table. He may know as well that Minister Cordiano has had an opportunity to meet with the community. But he will not know that Minister Ramsay met with the First Nations leadership this morning and conveyed this directly. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that we have very good channels of communications with the leadership and with the community and we will keep those open on an ongoing basis.

Mr. Tory: I'm delighted to hear that the minister finally has had a meeting with those individuals. I would suggest to you, respectfully, that there are other people in that community, because I have talked to them, who would welcome the opportunity to have a meeting as well, both to convey some thoughts they have on this matter and to be given the same message that you talked about conveying to the First Nations people, because everyone needs to understand that the rule of law is going to prevail. So I would ask you if you would consider asking the minister to do that.

Secondly, I would ask you one more time, as a constructive means of indicating that people will have their chance to be heard and to be listened to by somebody independent going forward, will you commit to having an independent investigation of this matter, this series of matters, including the land claims process and how we can make it better? Will your government commit to do that as a means of trying to further defuse the tension that exists today in Caledonia? Why won't you agree to that?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: No, I will not agree to that. I cannot understand how embarking upon yet another process at some point in the future will help us address the matter that is before us today.

In addition to the ongoing communication efforts and the table that has been put in place to expedite the land settlement claims process, we have also helped the local community with a $500,000 emergency assistance package for local businesses. We have delivered $50,000 to the local council to hire additional communications support. We've delivered $50,000 to help develop a marketing and economic recovery plan. Last week, we delivered a further $160,000 to local council to implement that plan. We are presently in discussions with the developer involved to see if we might find a way to offset some of their costs. We are working as hard as we can, bringing as much as we can possibly bear, to ensure that we resolve this matter as quickly as possible.

Oral Questions - Native Land Dispute

Mr. Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): To the Premier: In today's Hamilton Spectator, the mayor of Caledonia says that OPP officers are embarrassed because they're not allowed to invoke the rule of law. Your Minister of Community Safety is also quoted in the paper as saying that OPP intervention in the Caledonia crisis would make the situation worse. This is the minister responsible for the OPP publicly saying, "Don't intervene; don't confront lawbreakers and lawlessness" -- in other words, "Don't do your job." Premier, would you agree that your minister's public comments could be construed as providing direction to the OPP?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): No, I would not. I have every confidence that the Ontario Provincial Police will do whatever they think is appropriate, given their mandate, their responsibilities and their determination to protect public safety. I know they are monitoring the situation very closely and they will do what they feel is appropriate.

Mr. Runciman: I don't think there's any doubt that the Liberal Party's rhetoric over the years has impacted the decision-making of the OPP. As the president of the OPPA said last week, "political pressure and optics" have the OPP "bending their own rules" and jeopardizing officer safety.

After 104 days of occupation and numerous incidents of violence, property damage and enormous economic loss, you say your patience is running out. Given your minister's public comments advising the OPP to continue to ignore the rule of law and not confront lawbreakers, other than breaking off negotiations, what does your patience running out mean to the good people of Caledonia: meaningful action or another cross-country tour?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: On the one hand, the member opposite is accusing us of somehow either directly or indirectly lending direction to the OPP. On the other hand, he's saying that we're supposed to end up with some kind of meaningful action. I don't know how he defines "meaningful action," but I can say that what we have agreed to, together with the federal government, is that we issued a statement this morning calling for the barricades to come down on an urgent basis. Beyond that, our government has requested of the leadership of the First Nations community that they co-operate in every way possible to ensure the apprehension of the individuals who are alleged to have perpetrated misdeeds last Friday.


Oral Questions - Native Land Dispute

Mr. Toby Barrett (Haldimand-Norfolk-Brant): My question is to the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs. Over the last several nights in Caledonia people have been giving me eyewitness accounts and rumours about the violence on Friday. Also, there are rumours in Caledonia and Six Nations that say that David Peterson has been fired.

Minister, this morning you called for an end to the blockades, not David Peterson. Has Mr. Peterson been fired or is he just missing in action like the rest of your government?

Hon. David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs): No, David Peterson has not been fired. He still remains the provincial lead though, as I'm sure the member has observed, for many of the issues that only the main table can deal with, because the federal government is at that main table, that is where most of the discussions are taking place right now. That's why he has seen more of an emphasis to the main table, with Barbara MacDougall representing the federal government and Jane Stewart representing the provincial government.

Mr. Barrett: Minister, these rumours are just further proof of the total breakdown in communication in Caledonia and Six Nations. To his credit, Mr. Peterson has been at the barricades. He was a no-show over the weekend. I've informed your government of this failure to communicate on a number of occasions in this Legislature, in addition to the motion that was passed just last week.

Minister, you say that Peterson is still on the job. What is his response to this weekend's events? How can my constituents contact him for further advice? And why has he no longer been communicating with people in the area?


Hon. Mr. Ramsay: The main table of discussion is where the negotiations are taking place now, because the federal government has a presence there, as we've always wanted to have. We're very happy that the federal government is there with the province. As you know, we have the liaison group. Dave Levac works with that group in the community, keeping the broader community informed of our progress.

Just to say that, as the Premier did, we are very concerned about what happened Friday. Everything changed on Friday. We do not accept that lawlessness and intimidation that we saw Friday, and you've heard the very strong language from the Premier of this province in regard to that.

Oral Questions - Native Land Dispute

Mr. Frank Klees (Oak Ridges): To the Premier: The events in Caledonia are not only of great concern to the residents of that community but, increasingly, to people across the province. Your occasional insistence that all is well is not great comfort to those who are seeing news reports and who still don't see a resolution. The key is communication for people across the province. They need to know what is happening; they need to know that the issue is being managed.

Will you agree to implement daily briefings so that the people of Ontario will fully understand what the facts of the matter are; so that they know what the government is doing; so that the rumours don't persist; so that everyone has a full understanding of what the issues are? Would you agree to implement daily briefings so that we know what the facts are?


Mr. Cameron Jackson (Burlington): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: I think the honourable member should not be accusing a member of spreading rumours. That is unparliamentary and it's outside of the proper decorum of this House.

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Premier.

Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): To the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs.

Hon. David Ramsay (Minister of Natural Resources, minister responsible for aboriginal affairs): I'm sure the member is aware, as I've stated in this House many times, that there are several avenues of communication that have been developed. The latest has been a liaison working group in the community that is made up of municipal officials, business officials and other community representatives, where there are daily briefings by government officials. Of course, we are always available and, through your questioning on it every day, we are giving you updates all the time on the situation there. We think that is very important for the community, and we try to do that for all sides so that all sides know what is going on at all times.

Mr. Klees: I thank the minister for his response. What I'm trying to do is be helpful here. Coming to this place and simply getting briefed as members of the Legislature is one thing. What I think would be very helpful is if in fact there were a structured briefing that members of the public could rely on, that the media could rely on, to ensure that the kind of rumour-accusations that are being made here have no basis, that in fact all of us across the province have factual information and know that this issue is being managed. Why would you not agree to a five-minute or a 10-minute briefing on a daily basis until this matter is resolved? I just believe that would be a responsible way for you to handle this issue.


Hon. Mr. Ramsay: I would say to the member that I will take his suggestion as being one in good faith. We are always looking for ways to try to make sure that the general public has information. As you know, some of these other avenues we've done with the website, with the 1-800 number, the daily briefings with the liaison committee -- we have individual calls from the people in government to the liaison committee also, over and above the daily briefing. We look at every avenue we can, so we will look at all suggestions. We want to make sure that we always improve our communications on this issue.

Oral Questions - Native Land Dispute

Mr. Garfield Dunlop (Simcoe North): My question today is for the Premier. Premier, your absence has been widely noticed at Caledonia, and so has the absence of the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services as well as the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs. On the other hand, however, our leader has been there a number of times. In spite of the fact that just last week in the House your Minister of Community Safety said that the Leader of the Opposition hasn't spoken to any police officers, nothing could be further from the truth. Premier, when can the good folks at Caledonia expect you to visit the community?

Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): Again, I'm very confident that we have a number of channels of communication open with the community. I'm confident that we are doing everything we can, to this point in time, to bring about a peaceful resolution, and we will keep those channels open.


Mr. Dunlop: I guess you're not going to the community.

The supplementary is for the Premier as well. The OPP have been present for over 100 days at Caledonia, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As one officer told me just yesterday, they are strung out and they are very tired. They tell me that they feel like meat in a sandwich. The OPP is using up very valuable resources at Caledonia -- millions of dollars per month. That's after the cuts of $31.3 million to the field and traffic division this year.

As you say, you're not going to visit Caledonia and you don't plan to. Can you tell me, Premier, what are you doing to support the Ontario Provincial Police at Caledonia?

Hon. Mr. McGuinty: First of all, let me take this opportunity to thank the Ontario Provincial Police for all the work they've been doing at Caledonia. This is obviously a very challenging circumstance which they've been called upon to address. I think they've shown a remarkable aptitude in managing this.

If there are additional resources required, if there are additional efforts that we as the government can make, then of course we are very much open to representations made by the Ontario Provincial Police.

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