Six Nations Solidarity

News | Background | What you can do | Links 

Probing conduct of cops at barricades

OPP boss says she's proud of her force as bureau quietly investigates Caledonia complaints

John Burman
Hamilton Spectator
Caledonia (Jul 11, 2006)

[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. Mainstream media often presents biased and distorted information, lacking pertinent facts and/or context. Inclusion of this article on our site should not be considered an endorsement by SISIS.]

Members of the OPP professional standards bureau are quietly looking into the conduct of police officers outside the barricades at the native occupied Douglas Creek Estates.

Officers with the bureau have been contacting people they believe have information about several violent incidents, including the swarming of an elderly couple and an attack on a CH TV cameraman more than a month ago.

In both cases, witnesses complained OPP officers stood by and did nothing.

A complaint intake officer with the bureau told The Spectator the bureau does not comment on investigations.

"We are looking at various things," Detective Sergeant Paula Rossewy said, declining to elaborate.

Attempts to reach a senior bureau officer for comment were not successful.

Rossewy said the investigation of the incident during which a CH cameraman was hurt "is ongoing" and that she could not comment.

The embattled commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police insists she has made all the right decisions in her handling of the controversial native standoff in Caledonia.

In her first interview since native protesters took over a disputed land site five months ago, OPP Commissioner Gwen Boniface said she is proud of her force, and defended them against accusations police have treated natives differently throughout the sometimes-violent dispute.

"Leadership is tough. Leadership is tough ... and I'm not in to make popular decisions. I'm here to make the right decisions," she said.

"I think the right decisions have been made and they've been carried out by competent men and women in the OPP."

Boniface conceded the native occupation is a sensitive issue and had to be dealt with in a delicate way, but denied that protesters who have been allowed to occupy a privately owned land development for months, block the highway and dig up sections of the road -- so far without penalty -- were exempt from the law.

Ken Hewitt, a spokesperson for the Caledonia Citizens Alliance, said it is "ludicrous" to suggest the Six Nations protesters weren't treated differently.

"It's a ludicrous statement to make. To stand by and watch roads dug up, blocked illegally, people assaulted and nothing be done about it ... this kind of lawlessness would never be tolerated anywhere else in the province," he said.

Karl Walsh, president and CEO of the Ontario Provincial Police Association representing rank-and-file officers, has been critical of the handling of the standoff. He said the union has not been notified a formal investigation has been launched.

The bureau will gather information first, Walsh said, then notify the union and the officers involved if a complaint has merit to proceed to a formal stage and disciplinary charges under the Ontario Police Services Act.

"At that point, the association will step up to defend them," he said.

Walsh said he is aware of the public outcry about the CH TV crew assault, but he defended the actions of officers, saying, "people are being a little myopic" about the incidents.

"The officers were dealing with several different people in several different situations that were unfolding before them," he said. "They were busy with several other people at the time. The cameraman was injured quite quickly and they could not get to him quick enough."

The OPP issued warrants for seven people following the June 8 and 9 incidents and have arrested three.

The Caledonia Citizens Alliance, which acts as a voice for some of the town's residents, asked senior OPP leadership to investigate the allegations about the violent weekend in June and OPP handling of the Caledonia dispute.

Boniface and another senior OPP officer met with the alliance last week.

"We haven't filed a (formal) complaint about the officers doing nothing that day the CH cameraman was hurt, but we asked for an investigation," said Hewitt.

"They said they are working on that investigation and it was ongoing and that all the information and whatever results come out of that will be made known to the public."

Hewitt has said in the past that Caledonia citizens believe the OPP officers have divided responsibilities of enforcing the law and peacekeeping.

The alliance believes senior OPP leadership has given enforcing the law a secondary role in the officers' priorities.

Hewitt believes OPP brass is coloured by the Ipperwash tragedy 11 years ago, when an OPP tactical officer shot and killed unarmed native protester Dudley George during the occupation of a park.

The OPP made an abortive attempt to enforce an injunction to remove protesters from Douglas Creek Estates when they stormed the site April 20 and arrested 16 people.

Police were quickly driven off the land by natives. Shortly after, OPP deputy commissioner Maurice Pilon went on the site and promised the occupiers they had no plans to stage another raid.

With files from Toronto Star

BackBack to updates

Back Top