Over two months ago I attended a protest rally in Caledonia against the ongoing native occupation of a large piece of land. During the protest OPP arrested eight of the participants – Gary McHale, Doug Fleming, Merlyn Kinrade, Randy Fleming, Bonnie Stephens, Jack Van Halteren, Mark Vandermaas and Jeff Parkinson. They justified the arrests with the excuse that only “land claimants” were allowed on the disputed land (even though now it is owned by the provincial government). None of the officers seemed to notice that the protesters never reached the land; they were apprehended on the road, which is a country property.
Fast forward to the last week – after Caledonia Eight’s second appearance in court, the charges were dropped. The Crown decided that no conviction could be secured. The problem is that if on December 3 somebody from the government bothered to look at the situation with sober mind, nothing of that would’ve happened. Despite dropping the charges, OPP is still on the hook for unlawful arrests and kidnapping of eight people, who shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place.
It’s just another chapter in the bizarre saga of the Caledonia occupation, where most of the actions of the authorities are devoid of any logic.
The article about the acquittal in the Hamilton Spectator, provides a short interview with Constable Mark Foster of the Haldimand OPP, which provides a glimpse into the way of thinking of the police force:
“He said each circumstance is judged on its own merits and police only act when a situation “reaches a point where it may breach the peace.” When McHale and his supporters go to Douglas Creek Estates, it usually draws a group of natives who mill about on DCE, keeping a close eye on them. Sometimes the OPP get in between the two sides. Foster said police will be monitoring the Feb. 18 rally, but warned “as soon as (the Caledonia Eight group) comes on to the property, it causes unrest and that’s the beginning of disturbing the peace.”
That’s an interesting take – one of the reasons for the December 3 rally was an armed robbery of the Caledonia KFC. When the robber was traced with a dog, it turned out he escaped to the occupied land, so the police didn’t pursue him. Apparently, a robbery doesn’t disturb the peace enough, while the very presence of the peaceful Gary McHale hurts the feelings of the thugs who illegally occupy the land.
Last month I met Gary in Caledonia to get his take on the events. Actually, the meeting was my wife’s idea, because events similar to those in Caledonia are brewing in Japan. The Ainu (native population living in the North) have similar status – they get billions and billions of yen without doing much, but they demand more and are becoming more aggressive. They even try to use the UN against Japan – the same corrupt UN controlled by Third World crooks and Muslim fanatics, which has no problem taking Japan’s money (the country is one of the biggest UN donors).
Gary agreed to a short meeting, but when everything was said and done, it turned out we spent nearly four hours talking (he even brought Merlyn Kinrade with him). He is an interviewer’s dream – so passionate about his cause that when you ask him a question, not only does he give you an answer, but also provides you with information from other perspectives that I wouldn’t have a clue to ask about.
He jokingly calls himself a “gabber”, but it is so fascinating to listen to him – the events he has been through are so extraordinary that your only option is to sit and listen trying to figure out how all of them could happen in Canada. To me, the closest similar experience was the talks with the victims of communism after its fall, when the survivors from camps and jails could finally tell their stories without fear. I am aware that Canada is not a totalitarian country, but the way the Caledonia events were suppressed by the media shakes that belief.
We meet at Tim Hortons, which is his idea. That’s not a randomly chosen location. This coffee shop is located strategically close to the place where most of the violence took place in 2006. From its windows you can see Douglas Creek Estates (the occupied land), several houses and the Canadian Tire store. I’ll get back to what Gary and the others saw from those windows years ago.
Although we don’t ask about his background, from his remarks we can piece together his life. It hasn’t been easy – his brothers and him have had their brushes with the law. He credits his Christian faith for turning his life around. Surprisingly, he is not from Caledonia – he used to live in Richmond Hill (that’s almost Toronto). Gary decided to join the people in the town after he saw on TV what was happening.
Since he is one of the best known faces of the Caledonian conflict, we ask him about his opinion of the media. He praises the bloggers, who are interested in his cause, because they are very supportive. However, not surprisingly, his opinion about the mainstream media is not that high. Many reporters approach him with a pre-conceived agenda and try to present him in a way that fits it.
He recalls an interview with a reporter at his home. His wife asked if the reporter wanted coffee and left the room. When the interview was published, it mentioned that Gary was wearing the same shirt the reporter saw him in at a protest several weeks before that and she also said that as soon as the interview began, he sent his wife to the kitchen. He still wonders if the journalist wanted to present him as a poor family despot.
Nevertheless, he tries to ignore the media hostility to make his point heard. He won’t refuse an interview; he would appear on any radio or TV station that would invite him. He has even been on many native radio stations (surprisingly not all of them have been hostile).
But things can turn ugly with the media considering that Gary is up against a hostile provincial government. Case in point – the local Haldimand newspaper Regional News This Week. It has been published for over 35 years and its honest editor Chris Pickup made the “mistake” of supporting the Caledonia victims.
It regularly published materials by Gary and other activists. Gary gave me the January 11 issue, which contained a large editorial by Chris on the lawlessness in Caledonia. There was also an opinion piece by Gary on Mayor Hewitt’s disgraceful behaviour of refusing to appear in court in an OPP case, and letters from Albert Marshall, son of the late Superior Court Judge David Marshall, and Merlyn Kinrade about the same case.
You don’t need to be psychic to figure out how that rebellious paper was dealt with – the government withdrew all its advertising, amounting to over $2,000,000, which needless to say was a devastating blow to a free newspaper. And that was the end – this week the paper went out of business.
Next we move to the major issue – the native occupation. The situation with the Indian Act and the reserve system is very complicated. The government is responsible for maintaining the reserves, but it doesn’t do it directly – it provides the funds to the chiefs and the band council, which are supposed to do the work. However, since practically there is no accountability, the money is often misused (like in the recent case of Atawapiskat). But that doesn’t relieve the government from responsibility and they have to fix the problems with new payments. The whole scheme breeds a never-ending cycle of corruption from which the ordinary natives always suffer.
The system is so broken that many people of the reserves leave them to live independently (although that is not widely publicized). Things get even worse when you consider that the Indian tribes have a very loose idea about laws and treaties. For example, even if a claim treaty is signed by most clans, years later descendants of those who didn’t sign can decide to start it all over again.
Even the common individual rights don’t apply on the reserves. Often people can be expelled on racist grounds (that they are not pure enough). In other cases bands have decided to banish criminals or people they don’t like from their territory (imagine if the Mayor of Toronto decided to do something like that). Until very recently it wasn’t even possible to file human rights complaints on the reserves.
(In my opinion the whole system is a feudal relic from the past, in which people depend completely on the mercy of the chief. It was no wonder that the Indians voted overwhelmingly against the Meech Lake Accord, which was supposed to provide them with self-government.)
Things get even more complicated when we turn to the Six Nations issue. They arrived in the 18th century after the Crown purchased the Haldimand Tract as a refuge for them from the Mississauga Indians in accordance with the Haldimand Proclamation of 1784 in gratitude for being loyal allies during the Revolutionary War (it’s a long story and you can find more information about it here). Their territory is clearly defined and there is no ground for any claims. As relative newcomers, they don’t even have federal status, which explains why the federal government never got involved in the conflict, allowing McGuinty to mess up everything royally.
It’s a myth that the occupation was started by ordinary natives. The criminals had been a major part of it from the very beginning. Gary tells me about a horrible incident that he and other people watched from the very same Tim Hortons.
It was at the height of the tensions, with many officers and natives roaming around. Across the coffee shop that day there was a police van with several officers and an American, who was an ATF agent (from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agency), sitting in it. A group of Indians approached the van, opened the doors and pulled everybody out. One of the criminals grabbed the American, pulled out a knife and put it to his throat. The most amazing thing was that none of the dozens of OPP officers did anything to help their colleagues.
Then the Indian released the agent and went to a policeman with hands stretched forward, asking to be arrested. The policeman did absolutely nothing. Then the thug turned around yelling at people: “You see? They can’t do anything! Next I will get you.” Imagine how the people, who were supposed to be protected by the police felt at the time.
Meanwhile the other Indians stole the van with all the equipment in it. In a few hours they brought it back, empty and trashed. It gets even worse – after the US government learned about the incident, they asked for information to prosecute the criminals and McGuinty’s government refused any cooperation.
When Gary and the other people who witnessed the crime learned about that, they contacted the US District Attorney in charge of the case and testified in Buffalo. The case ended in conviction.
(Do we really have a government in this province?)
That’s how the violence was neutralized – many of the main criminals were arrested one by one when crossing the border, mostly on drugs and weapons smuggling charges.
There are many other horrible stories that Gary remembers. The husband, who was kidnapped by the Indians for violating their “curfew” in front of OPP and his wife; then there was that school nearby, which had to have police protection; the local woman whose brother OPP tried to deport, and so on, and so on.
As of Gary, he has also suffered his fair share of abuse – he has been arrested several times (each and every one of them illegally); he has been beaten and had to spend time in hospital.
Even under those circumstances he hasn’t lost his sense of humour. He jokes that he had to become his own lawyer. He had no other choice – from the very beginning he has been harassed through bogus charges that he had to fight in courts.
Thanks to the internet, he has been able to study the laws and the litigation procedures to the point where he can represent himself successfully without losing a case. Not unlike Mahatma Gandhi, who fought the British Empire in courts, Gary can successfully oppose McGuinty’s judicial machine with its expensive lawyers and beat it every time with truth and honesty.
I really envy him for his determination and stamina, which keeps him going. On February 18 he plans another rally at the occupied territory. Nobody knows what is going to happen – he might be arrested or everything may go smoothly, it’s a toss-up. But one thing is sure – he will keep going.
The trouble is that the other side has no intention of slowing down either. Until the Indian Act is abolished and the natives are treated like individuals, there will always be opportunists willing to exploit the current system to get easy money. Just before the meeting of Harper with the chiefs last month, Stewart Phillip, a B.C. Indian chief warned that if the natives don’t get what they want, they may start an Arab-Spring-like “uprising”. I wonder if they’ll still demand their welfare cheques during the uprising.
That’s typical, instead of thinking how to improve the opportunities for their “subjects”, people like Phillip are ready and willing to sacrifice them.
Only a few years ago the ordinary Canadians would’ve listened quietly to him afraid of being accused of racism, but now the outrage was almost unanimous (if we exclude the professional grievance mongers).
I am sure that in our country, which is dangerously short of heroes and courageous people, Gary McHale and the few others like him would gradually help us re-establish a society that is just for all individuals.
© 2011 Blogwrath.com