The Ontario New Democratic Party is calling for the province's police commissioner Julian Fantino to resign or be fired for controversial remarks captured on a wiretapped conversation with aboriginal protest leader Shawn Brant during last summer's aboriginal day of action.
In OPP transcripts of the three phone calls, recorded last June, Fantino tells Brant in a telephone conversation that "your whole world’s going to come crashing down" and threatens to "do everything I can within your community and everywhere to destroy your reputation" if Brant did not order aboriginal protesters to withdraw from blockade sites in eastern Ontario.
NDP justice critic Peter Kormos said Fantino's rhetoric flies in the face of the Ipperwash public inquiry, which called on police to forge new ties with the aboriginal community in the wake of the police shooting death of protester Dudley George during a standoff at Ipperwash Provincial Park in 1995.
The transcripts were made public last week after the CBC successfully argued that a publication ban on Fantino's testimony in a preliminary hearing last August should be lifted. Preliminary hearings are held to determine if there is enough evidence to warrant a trial.
Brant, who waived his right to a publication ban, faces several charges in connection with First Nations blockades on Highway 401, Highway 2 and a CN Rail line near the eastern Ontario town of Deseronto on June 29, 2007. The actions prompted provincial police to close Canada's busiest highway and CN to suspend all rail service on the Montreal-Toronto corridor.
During his testimony, Fantino said he gave Brant a deadline, and was prepared to move in if the protesters didn't lift the blockades. He said he believed the public interest demanded that the highway be reopened.
"There comes a time when the balance of the greater public good shifts, and the feeling was that under the circumstances, this situation could no longer continue, and we were, in fact, preparing to move on the blockades," he told the court.
In an interview with the Toronto Sun published Monday, Fantino seemed to downplay the controversy over his comments, saying "people should not be tried in the media." He noted that the legal proceedings against Brant, whose trial is expected to begin in January, are ongoing.
"I am not going to worry about screaming headlines," Fantino is quoted as saying while on vacation with his family. "These people doing all of this talking were not there and don't know all of the complications of the day."
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant's office said he can't comment on Fantino's remarks because the affair is still before the courts.