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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Government of Men and Not Laws

In Caledonia:

I’ve only read the intro and scanned other parts, but what I have read so far confirms my belief that most people will have a hard time believing Christie Blatchford’s HELPESS isn’t a work of fiction. They’ll have to, though, because the detail is extraordinary. The word ‘shocking’ doesn’t begin to describe the range of emotions one feels at what the people of Caledonia went through at the hands of native extremists and the cops who were supposed to protect them, but chose not to.  So far, it’s a despicable, ugly story – beautifully told.

In Toronto:

“Once finalized, the G20 report will be made public in its entirety,” Marin wrote on Twitter, adding it will be made public before the end of the year.

Marin’s 90-day probe looked at why the province passed the secret law, which many thought gave police powers to arrest people who came within five metres of a security fence at the summit site if they didn’t show identification.

The law actually stated officers could only search people trying to enter the secure perimeter. But neither police nor politicians set the record straight until after the June summit was over.

Probably just slipped their mind. With all that effort spent in careful crowd control planning, wasn't the time to look over these small details. Kind of like the de facto declaring of Caledonia, sovereign Canadian territory, to be outside the protection of Canadian peace officers. Another minor detail, over looked in the big scheme of modern Canadian government.

In his writings on American independence, John Adams wrote of "a government of laws and not of men." The phrase was later incorporated into the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780. He was describing the difference between how the British government was suppose to work, and the workings of a dictatorship (he used the term empire). In an a dictatorship it is the dictator, or a small cabal, that determines what the law is, and to whom it is applied. 

The refusal by the OPP, upon the supposed direction of the Cabinet of Ontario, to remove trespassers from a development in Caledonia, was a selective application of the law. Had the same behaviour been displayed anywhere else in the province, by any other group, the police would almost certainly have enforced the law. It is a glaring exception.

Various cowardly evasions have been used to explain the inaction of the police and government in Caledonia. That the OPP commanders did not want to risk the life and limb of their officers, a strange explanation as such risks are inherent in policing. Rumours that the so-called "protestors" carried with them automatic weapons is no more of an excuse.

If accurate intelligence had been obtained of such weapons, then an assessment should have been made. If OPP SWAT resources were insufficient, then the head of the OPP should have so informed the responsible minister. It would have been the duty of the minister to inform the cabinet, and of the cabinet to have requested the use of the army, if necessary, from the federal government.

Instead a cowardly abdication of responsibility allowed a state-within-a-state to emerge on Canadian territory. We are now faced with the absurd spectacle of the Canadian army successfully securing large portions of Afghan backcountry from the Taliban, while part of suburban Ontario is handed over to a half-organized group of thugs.

In late June in downtown Toronto the provincial government, and the Toronto Police Service, had no such hesitation in applying the law. Indeed, they seem to have been enforcing laws that did not even exist. Despite engaging in the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, they still failed to prevent police equipment from being turned into barbecues, and private property from being destroyed. Most of the genuine criminals in the G20 riots took weeks to track down. That particular weekend, it was mostly peaceful bystanders who were threatened with violence - by the police. 

However foolish the decision to set the G20 conference in a major urban area, or however just the claims of the Six Nations aboriginals, the rule of law has been abused in both Toronto and Caledonia. Ultimately only one man is responsible, Premier Dalton McGuinty. In both cases his action, or inaction, resulted in a failure of the rule of law. Directly, or indirectly, the OPP has been restrained from doing their duty at the behest of Queen's Park. Bill Blair's tough talk about sweeping arrest powers would have been impossible had the Premier's office not tacitly approved. When challenged on his distortion of the law, the Chief of the Toronto Police Service was rather blase:

Asked Tuesday if there actually was a five-metre rule given the ministry’s clarification, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair smiled and said, “No, but I was trying to keep the criminals out.”

Nice trick. Those dirty nasty criminals. But if a police officer detains someone unlawfully, or is able to bully a citizen with a non-existent law, then who exactly is the criminal? If you can just make laws up, then who couldn't be made a criminal, just by taking a stroll down the wrong street without identification. Interestingly, Chief Blair was rather less vigilant in upholding the laws of Ontario, both real and imagined, last summer when Tamil protestors - some waving the flags of a known terrorist organization - blocked off University Avenue and the Gardiner Expressway. 

In Caledonia and Toronto the laws have been applied selective on the basis primarily of race. In the wake of the Ipperwash shooting, the McGuinty government is terrified of violence that might, however remotely, be considered racist. Thus aboriginals and Tamil who break municipal by-laws are not fined, who break provincial and federal laws are not arrested and prosecuted.

The ghost of Dudley George, an aboriginal occupier killed in 1995 by a panicky OPP sniper, haunts Queen's Park. The grave irony is that whereas the Six Nations claim to Caledonia is, at best, sketchy, the Stoney Point Band's claim to Ipperwash was actually very strong. Portions of Ipperwash were seized by the federal government as a war measure in 1942, after promising that the lands would be returned after the war. We allow injustices today, for fear of repeating the injustices of the past.


Posted by Richard Anderson on October 13, 2010 | Permalink


As we saw with the firearms registry , chief Blair believes that they license us , the people, when in reality we license them. It pretty obvious the police believe they are accountable to only themselves, and that they enforce the law selectively.
The OPP sure had no problem going after Bruce Montague, threatened to destroy his house with a bulldozer if he didnt comply.

Posted by: don b | 2010-10-13 10:27:08 AM

Sadly Lady Justice ceased being blind a long time ago. The problem of selective justice (law enforcement and prosecution) continues to grow. We are far removed from our British heritage of the rule of law where the law is applied equally and fairly to all regardless of wealth, class, religion or ethnic group. What a shame.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-10-13 10:31:29 AM

Great post.

Posted by: Bradley | 2010-10-13 11:03:55 PM

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