Ontario police chiefs turn to gov't for Idle No More guidance
Under fire from the judiciary and media, Ontario’s police chiefs are turning to the provincial government for backup when it comes to how they should enforce court orders surrounding Idle No More protests.
In a Jan. 9 letter obtained by the Toronto Sun, Steve Tanner — president of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police — asked Ontario Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur how to proceed on the thorny issue.
The letter comes as the spectre of more blockades arises.
Some First Nations chiefs have declared Wednesday a national day of action, with blockades planned in several locations across Ontario, including the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor to Detroit.
“What we find as police leaders in Ontario is … we end up being on the front lines to address issues that really have come about over decades and can really only be resolved at the provincial and federal levels,” said Tanner, who’s also Halton Region’s police chief.
Tanner said he and other police leaders would like to see government and First Nations leaders resolve the complex conflict.
“We would certainly urge all levels of government to work towards long-term resolutions of these issues so they’re not continually arising,” he said. “They are an extreme drain on resources and funding.”
The letter springs from a December rail blockade near Sarnia that went on for several weeks. A court injunction ordered Sarnia’s police department to bring down the First Nations blockade but local leaders insisted a solution could be reached without sending police in to forcibly remove protesters.
That approach drew criticism from a Superior Court judge and media pundits.
In the letter, Tanner expresses his frustration as police tried to resolve the situation peacefully.
“Our police leaders and the men and women on the front lines have been working hard at doing just that, despite what one might perceive from media reports.”
The same day Tanner penned the letter to Meilleur, Premier Dalton McGuinty told media the province would not give direction to police on how to handle Idle No More protests.
“In our democracy, we do not direct the police, that would be inappropriate,” he said. “They make their own operational decisions on the ground. We’ll leave that in their capable hands.”
Meilleur’s office issued a statement late Tuesday, confirming receipt of the letter and acknowledging a response will be made.
OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis's internal message to staff on Idle No More was posted to YouTube Tuesday.
Do you think police should act to remove Idle No More blockades?