TORONTO — Human Resources Minister Diane Finley may have jeopardized talks aimed at settling a long-standing aboriginal land dispute in southern Ontario when she signed a petition that criticizes provincial police, critics say.
The petition calls for a public inquiry into the actions of Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino in Caledonia, a town in Ms. Finley's riding of Haldimand-Norfolk.
The document, which has collected more than 4,000 signatures, was drafted by local residents who complain that police have mishandled the aboriginal occupation that's dragged on for nearly three years, with no end in sight.
The dispute has erupted in several violent clashes between homeowners and the native protesters occupying a 40-hectare tract of land on the outskirts of Caledonia.
While Ms. Finley's office refused to comment on the petition, which shows a signature and a post office box address beside D. Finley, it did not deny that the minister signed the document.
“What I can say is that Minister Finley supports her constituents and shares their frustrations as we approach the third anniversary of the Caledonia occupation,” spokeswoman Julie Vaux wrote in an e-mail.
“If I was a negotiator, I'd think that would be blindsiding me. I don't think that would add to the job of the negotiators who are trying to reach a settlement.”
Talks between aboriginal, provincial and federal representatives are expected to resume Jan. 28.
When asked whether Ms. Finley had acted appropriately, Premier Dalton McGuinty punted the political hot potato to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“Well, it's an interesting development,” he said with a chuckle.
“I have nothing but the highest regard for the OPP and the way they've conducted themselves under very trying circumstances.”
An interesting comment ... The petition demands that Mr. McGuinty launch a public inquiry “into the actions and decisions” of Mr. Fantino, immediately suspend him without pay, and “upon confirmation of the facts, his immediate resignation.”
And a federal minister of the crown calls for the suspenson/ resignation of a provincial police commissioner ??