Friday, May 4, 2007

Haldimand County Council "Let Us Help"

When would you ask for Help? I can give you a few examples of when I personally would ask for help. I am a welder, but if my welder breaks down, I would ask a person who repairs welders to fix it. If my car’s transmission were to die, I would ask a mechanic to fix it.

I like to think in simple terms, so I have come up with an unusual idea. What if Haldimand County Council was to ask us for our help?

In “defense” of our elected officials of Haldimand County, they do need our help. The problem is they haven’t asked us. Council has taken a lot of pressure regarding the issues of policing lately, and has all but admitted that the present issues of policing are beyond their control. The following are a few examples of what has taken place in the last couple of months, that have convinced me that Haldimand County needs all the “help” we can get.

Gary McHale, Merlyn Kinrade of Caledonia and Mark Vandermaas asked to appear as a delegation to speak to Council about OPP activities in Caledonia. They were denied by Council based upon Section 7.35 of the procedural by-law as in the opinion of Council the subject of the presentation is "Beyond the jurisdiction of the County".

Our Council has been pressured by the public regarding “closed door sessions” with the OPP Commissioner. Obviously our Council is unable to supply us with information as the “closed door sessions” are protected under the “Municipal Act 2001”. In other words their meetings are confidential, and council members would be in breach if they gave out any information to the public.

A town hall meeting was held in Caledonia in February of 2007. Councilor Grice held this meeting to hear residents in his ward regarding issues in Caledonia. In attendance were Councilor Sloat, Mayor Trainer and MPP Toby Barrett. Here are some comments, questions and answers from that meeting.

Remark by Councilor Grice: I’m hoping for at least three things today: First, that we as a community come a little closer together to provide a “common voice” to draw attention from the “Ontario government”. Second, I hope that some frustration is relieved tonight. My big concern is about trying to find out how we can move forward. If we can come up with a few good ideas I can work on, that Marie can work on, that Toby can work on, then we’re going to accomplish something.

Question: Council never, ever supported Gary McHale. They don’t support Vandermaas. Is there any reason why council doesn’t support those two individuals that, indeed, have kept Caledonia on the map?

Answer (Grice): I have no problem with freedom of speech. My problem is people like Gary McHale, like anyone else, probably shouldn’t ever exist if the issue was dealt with already. Do I support Gary McHale? Is that the question? Does he serve a purpose for some of those in Caledonia? Yes. At the same time there are those in Caledonia that say we want nothing to do with Gary McHale. I’m not denying that Gary McHale’s presence – at times – is not necessarily a bad thing for Caledonia. At the same time there are those that would say I don’t want anything to do with Gary McHale because of the bad light he brings to Caledonia.

Question: Caledonia is part of Canada. Gary McHale and Mark Vandermaas are Canadians.

Answer (Sloat): My fellow councillor is getting beat up all of a sudden on this Gary McHale situation. I’m going to tell you, I personally will never support any individual, native, non-native, Irish, Polish, German - I don’t care where you’re from – that openly admits that he’s coming to Haldimand County in order to get arrested. Therefore, he’s going to break some laws to get arrested. If Gary McHale has a message, then the residents of Caledonia should be able to bring forth that message.

Question: You don’t support Gary McHale because he comes to town to be arrested? He comes to town because it’s Two Tier Justice, and the sooner you realize it the better off we’ll be.

Answer (Sloat): We have said that from day one we have a one-tier justice system, but we have a two-tier application of that justice system. That’s the problem. I don’t care about Gary McHale. I don’t need Gary McHale to tell me that.

Question: We need Gary McHale and more people like him, and we need Haldimand County Council to get up and tell the people in Caledonia and indeed all of Haldimand to rally around those people.

Answer (Grice): We have batted the Gary McHale question to death and it won’t solve a darn tootin’ thing for Caledonia. This isn’t about Gary McHale. Get over Gary McHale. Get over everything and let’s work for Caledonia. This will only be solved with us. Your point is exactly correct – we should rally around…something. We shouldn’t have to worry about when he is going to show up so I can make my voice heard. I’m not answering the Gary McHale question! I’m not here for Gary McHale. I’m here for Caledonia. If you have a question about Caledonia – something we can do to make it better for Caledonia ask me that question! I’m not talking about Gary McHale.

Question: I’ve lived in three countries and I never lived in a country where the police are told where and where not they can go. I just never lived anywhere where there’s no policing because there’s a small group of people saying ‘you can’t come here’ and the police stay off, or they decide not to go. So who’s accountable?

Answer (Grice): The OPP will have to remain accountable. I can’t stop what they are doing as a councillor. I wish I could. Council supported the resolution that staff be directed to prepare a report to be presented no later than April 16th outlining a framework for reviewing options for policing in Haldimand County. So council is trying to hold them accountable by doing this.

Question: Why have you not sued the OPP for breach of contract when the Sixth Line is a prominent example of policing that is not being upheld according to standards that are normal within any community?

Answer (Sloat): Boy, this is a tough one. Our Police Services Board and our legal team and others have told us that, contractually, we have no legal avenue or recourse with the OPP. We have absolutely no say in ‘Operations.’

Well I have definitely come to the conclusion that Council has “no jurisdiction” regarding policing, as they have stated to the residents of Caledonia during this town hall meeting.

The following is what Toby Barrett had to say to the residents of Caledonia that night. His words are simple, but powerful. We all need to listen and follow Toby’s suggestions.

You need to reach out to the media to keep Caledonia on the radar screen. There are dozens of federal and provincial MP’s and MPP’s within a 20-minute drive that you can approach.

Why not come down to my office and protest on my front yard and get some media? There are lots of politicians in St. Catherines and Hamilton and Brantford and Kitchener. Take the battle to their front.

Write letters to the editor. We do have to force the government’s hand.

The issue was raised regarding an Inquiry into Caledonia. The Ontario Legislature passed a motion for an inquiry into Caledonia. You’ve got to reach out to other people. The most important thing is to think up some action steps.

Toby Barrett hit the nail on the head!

Just imagine what we could accomplish if we put all of our differences aside, and worked as a "TEAM”? Here's a thought; If every member of our council were to get 100 people involved that would be "700" people, just imagine the possibilities!

Haldimand County Council this is not a problem that you can solve on “YOUR OWN”.

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