This post concerns the ongoing saga of a Police service head who refuses to enforce a Judges order. The article, verbatim by John Snobelen, is titled 'Police must enforce the law, OPP Commissioner should re-read the judge’s order, published in the Toronto Sun. Below that is my response with room below that for your comments or you may want to contact me directly at my email address below but please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent.
How much lawlessness is too much? How long can a gaggle of protesters close University Avenue before the inconvenience to the public is senior to the difficulty of enforcing the law? An hour? Two hours? Torontonians know the answer is a week. How long can a community be terrorized before law enforcement actually enforces the law? An hour? A day? The residents of Caledonia know the answer is years.
Is blocking a railroad the same crime for all Canadians or are there special folks for whom the law does not apply? We all know the answer to that one. Who decides how much lawlessness is too much? Who decides which Canadians should be held to what standard? The cops? The politicians? We know it’s not the courts.
That point was made abundantly clear this week by Ontario Superior Court Justice David Brown. Judge Brown granted an emergency injunction to remove protesters who C-were blocking a CN rail line. It’s his job to decide these issues and make the appropriate orders. It’s the cops’ job to enforce them.
In this particular case, the OPP determined it was too dangerous to remove 15 protesters from a railroad line so they ignored the order. It’s not the first time a court order has been ignored; see the above reference to Caledonia. As my Sun colleague Joe Warmington pointed out earlier this week, not everyone was amused by Judge Brown’s comments. OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis shot back with a few pointed comments aimed at the good judge. Heck. It was the only thing the OPP fired back all week.
In defending the decision to ignore a court order Lewis said: “The OPP are not going to solve hundreds of years of legal issues by marching down the road and fighting with a group of First Nations people — some of which are often women, children and elderly people. A peaceful several hour blockade, as wrong as it is, pales in comparison to a full shutdown of all major highways, railways and therefore trade routes across Canada for days or weeks. Hundreds of First Nations territories, with thousands of First Nations people residing therein and in other municipalities from coast to coast do have the ability to carry that out. That doesn’t make it right by any means, but it is reality.”
Warmington found merit in Lewis’s position. I don’t. In the first place we are not asking the police to solve hundreds of years of legal issues. We are asking them to do what they have sworn to do — enforce the law.
Commissioner Lewis seems to believe that enforcing the law will somehow lead to greater social discord. This is certainly a new concept in policing. It is reasonable for police to use their best professional judgement when enforcing a court order. They are the highly-trained experts who can best determine when and how to maintain civility and respect for the law.
But it is also reasonable to expect police to actually get around to doing their job. Are they still “gaining trust” in Caledonia? And, while I appreciate Commissioner Lewis’ concern for not agitating First Nation communities, he might want to show some concern for the rights of other citizens and the moral of the officers he orders to stand down. What is Lewis’s answer to Judge Brown’s concern over the eroding respect for the law? And what is his answer to CN, who simply want to go about the business of delivering freight. Hire private security to clear the tracks? Perhaps Lewis should read Brown’s order again.
Before we tar and feather OPP Commissioner Lewis for his intransigence, perhaps we should consider that the OPP, in fact perhaps no paramilitary force; one intended to keep the peace is the ideal solution to quell an uprising, the likes of which we saw in Ipperwash or Caledonia, for the uprising we are about to see across Canada in the coming weeks may make these two minuscule in comparison!
Over the last two centuries, immigration brought millions of southern and eastern Europeans to our shores; some to avoid starvation, others to escape war, none of whom who found a new and empty land. Every square inch of land they claimed or bought was Indian land. After more than a few skirmishes, political leaders of the day made treaties with native band leaders so that each group could co-exist in peace.
Part of these treaties dealt with social assistance to enable the native population to raise their standard of living and it is this issue that still causes problems for all concerned. There was a recent report that members of a certain native town received millions in aid and still the homes had leaky roofs. So the question really becomes, have we been doing right by the folks who were here before our grandfathers arrived or have we just been papering over a problem in the faint wish that it will go away?
If ever there was a time to delve into new ideas, opening up the Indian Act over the next few weeks may just be the only option....if only for discussion!
bio at http://about.me/brianweller