Rally organizer arrested in Caledonia, Ontario

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Two men were arrested today by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) at a Caledonia rally at about 12:00 p.m. ET after entering the disputed land in Caledonia, Ontario waving Canadian flags. One was Gary McHale, a Richmond Hill, Ontario man who entered the occupied land in Caledonia, Ontario to organize a rally against the ongoing aboriginal occupation. Mark Vandermaas of London, Ontario was also arrested. Vandermaas was forced to the ground by police officers, who ripped the flag out of his hand when he crossed the police line. There were approximately 100 protesters rallying with McHale.

According to news reports, McHale intended to put the Canadian flag across the street from DCE (Douglas Creek Estates) where the aboriginal occupation has been ongoing for 10 months. Back in late October the aboriginals had already put up their flags across from the DCE property and the OPP made no attempt to stop them. However, on Dec. 2 residents of Caledonia attempted to put up Canadian flags with Yellow ribbons in various areas in Caledonia. When they tried to put up a Canadian Flag across from DCE property the OPP sent in 100 officers to stop them.

Mr. McHale called for people to gather on Dec. 16 to try to put up Canadian Flags across from DCE property on the same hydro poles that Natives already had put up their flags. Mr. McHale stated, "I have asked 2 dozen OPP officers why it is legal to have a Native Flag up along the highway but illegal for a Canadian Flag to be up and I have never received an answer."

"The OPP set up a line just about a hundred yards away from that site and several people were able to cross that line. They got through a farmer's field on far left side of where I'm standing here," said CTV reporter Joel Bowey. "We're hearing that Mr. McHale got in the middle of the street and put a flag down there, and that's when he and the other man from London, Ont. were arrested. So far all we know is that those two men have been arrested and there are no other arrests at this point."

The OPP said the men were arrested for "breaking the peace" and noted that it is not a criminal offence. Police had warned them about crossing into the disputed land before.

"I've now said that Mr. McHale's plans were counterproductive and potentially dangerous to what we've been trying to do there, and that is to reach a peaceful settlement," said David Ramsay, Ontario's minister of aboriginal affairs. "I've twice now offered Mr. McHale the opportunity to protest at Queen's Park [the site of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario building]. In fact, I said I would sponsor his rally and set up a platform and a microphone, a PA system for him."

Mayor Marie Trainer of Haldimand County, were Caledonia is located, said: "The next meeting or two will be wasted on frivolous stuff again instead of getting down to business." Trainer also says that he should not be entering the town and did not specify what side she is on or if she is not taking any side.

This was not the first time Gary McHale entered the disputed land. On October 15, 2006, McHale with approximately 2000 (as reported by local newspapers) participants rallied in Caledonia, but the OPP blocked the entrance to the occupied site.

"Our fight is not with the natives, we're just trying to be equal in a democratic Canada," said Christine McHale, wife of Gary McHale.

"When a native commits a serious crime or any crime, they stand by and watch the crime take place and will not do anything to stop the crime. When a resident does the simplest thing, even putting up a Canadian flag or drinking a coffee in a lawn chair across some magic line, they will send in scores of officers to arrest the person," said Gary McHale. "We have to take a stand and say to police forces that there is one set of laws for all citizens."

"Police have one set of policies for natives and another set of policies for non-natives," he said before the rally. "It's against our Charter of Rights, that clearly says there's not to be any discriminations based on their religion, beliefs, race or their skin colour."

McHale has been long critical of the Ontario Provincial Police over the land claim saying that they treat aboriginals differently. McHale and his wife operate a website called Caledonia Wake Up Call.com, were they detail what they describe as police bias.


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