OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino and upper levels of the provincial police force appear to have been virtually obsessed with arresting activist Gary McHale.
Disclosure material recently released to Mr. McHale in his defence on a bizarre "counselling mischief not committed" charge and now filed in Ontario Superior Court show that in an eight-day period in December, 2007, the OPP boss wrote at least 27 e-mails about Mr. McHale, and that in the flurry of traffic between him and various senior officers, Mr. McHale's name was mentioned at least 116 times.
Most of the notes were before Mr. McHale was finally charged with an offence that, later, judges and lawyers confessed they had never heard of before.
Out of a disclosure package that may include as many as 2,000 e-mails, Mr. McHale culled 115 pages of them to file with the court Tuesday.
At one point on Dec. 3, 2007, the commissioner wrote his deputy, Chris Lewis, and said, "I feel like doing what L.A. Police Chief Daryl Gates [does]- go out and arrest the goof myself."
The day before, a frustrated Commissioner Fantino wrote Deputy Lewis, "The reason I waited to get back to you was to simply cool off. What are we doing in Caledonia? We seem to be in an almost state of paralysis when it comes to proactively doing anything respecting McHale et al. If it isn't us being told what to do by feeble Crowns, it's our own lack of fire.
"It seems to me that we are reactive to the point that McHale is the orchestra leader while we are almost captive to his nonsense …. ahhh, I can't believe this!!!!!"
Commissioner Fantino appears to have been intimately involved in what he once labelled the effort to "take him [Mr. McHale]out."
There are frequent references in e-mails between other senior officers - "Boss is asking"; "request of commissioner"; "commissioner has significant concerns"; "when he [the commissioner]has to reach out for an update and then doesn't get a reply, that's not a good thing" - which suggest that he was also riding hard on anyone not enthusiastically joining the quest to have Mr. McHale arrested.
At one stage, the McHale updates were so frequent that one senior officer, Superintendent Ron Gentle, director of the OPP's criminal investigation bureau, asked one of his detectives, "Why are you submitting these updates?
"… If there is someone else who has asked you for these I'd like to know what the purpose is and why they tasked one of my members with this duty …? If I had every CIB member giving three updates a day on every case they were assigned, all we'd be doing is typing and reading."
His note was prompted by receipt of an e-mail from Detective-Inspector Bill Renton, apologizing for being late with his 2 p.m. update.
Presciently, Supt. Gentle warned the e-mail trail had "implications in relation to disclosure, evidence and leaves one wondering who is the manager of the case - you, or is someone else directing the investigation from afar?"
The answer came 47 minutes later from Inspector J.D. Stephens: "The deputy commissioner has requested these reports to keep the commissioner briefed."
Supt. Gentle appears to have been the only senior officer sounding a note of caution. At one point, when Deputy Lewis asked if the plan could be rushed, he wrote, "I fully understand the commissioner's concerns and the need for this to be expedited. However he, you and I are crime fighters from way back and we all know the importance of doing the right thing here keeping in mind our responsibilities to all involved …"
Mr. McHale, 47, is now seeking to have the bail conditions removed that were imposed upon him after his Dec. 7, 2007, arrest.
More than two years later, the restrictions still include a full ban on travel to the town of Caledonia, site of the long-standing native occupation and lawlessness which prompted Mr. McHale's activism.
Commissioner Fantino's own charge - in a private complaint laid by Mr. McHale, the OPP head is accused of influencing or attempting to influence municipal officials in the small town south of Hamilton - is slated for a court appearance in nearby Cayuga Wednesday morning.
He wouldn't say Tuesday whether he will attend in person, telling The Globe that he would be "taking direction from my counsel" last night. He refused to identify the lawyer.
The commissioner is charged in connection with an April, 2007, e-mail he sent Haldimand County Mayor Marie Trainer and her councillors, lambasting one of them for having had the temerity to support Mr. McHale, whom the OPP boss slammed as "a lightning rod for confrontation and potential violence." The commissioner warned that if any of his officers was hurt in a Mr. McHale-led protest, he would hold Haldimand County responsible and bill it for the added policing costs.
Yet despite Commissioner Fantino's apparent fixation with Mr. McHale, the facts on the public record don't bear out his view of what transpired in Caledonia that summer.
The worst violence, for instance, preceded both the commissioner taking over the OPP in the fall of 2006 and Mr. McHale, who then lived in Richmond Hill, first showing up in Caledonia in July that year.
As testimony at a recent civil suit revealed, the most egregious lawlessness in the small town, where protesters from the nearby Six Nations reserve seized a former housing subdivision, occurred after a failed OPP raid in April of 2006 and during the early summer, when protesters barricaded roads, burned a bridge to the ground and destroyed a hydro transformer.
Most of Mr. McHale's protests, by contrast, involved either trying to carry a Canadian flag through the town or demonstrations against various native "smoke shacks" on public property.
Mr. McHale is the editor of the CaledoniaWakeUpCall website, where many of his legal battles are carefully documented, and a founder of CANACE (Canadian Advocates for Charter Equality), a group opposed to race-based policing.