OPP commissioner defends officers' conduct at site of Indigenous land dispute

Holly McKenzie-Sutter
·3 min read

The head of Ontario’s provincial police force has defended his officers’ conduct at the site of an Indigenous land dispute that escalated to violence last week, but demonstrators say a video he shared doesn't tell the full story of what happened.

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Thomas Carrique said in a social media post that protesters have “falsely blamed” the force for escalating the conflict in Caledonia, Ont.

Demonstrators at the site of a proposed housing development alleged officers injured two people using a taser and rubber bullets last week, while officers said a cruiser was damaged.

Carrique tweeted Sunday night that he is proud of what he calls officers' "measured response" to the situation.

He shared a video that appears to be shot from within a police car showing two people striking the windshield with a lacrosse stick.

“Protesters falsely blamed OPP for escalation in Caledonia,” Carrique’s tweet read.

“Extremely proud of my officers for their professional and measured response to keep the peace and preserve life while under attack.”

Demonstrators at the site they're calling 1492 Land Back Lane said Carrique’s post is an out-of-context attempt to reframe the violence and further escalate tension.

"I think it’s really despicable content that you show a one-minute clip out of context," camp spokesperson Skyler Williams told reporters Monday.

The site has been occupied since July, reaching the 100-day mark on Monday.

Demonstrators argue the development near Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation is on unceded Indigenous land and violates the sovereignty of the Haudenosaunee people.

Tensions flared last week after a judge issued a permanent injunction on Thursday ordering people to leave the camp.

A statement from the demonstrators following Carrique's social media post said blockades that have gone up since Thursday night were a protective measure against increased police presence.

It also said police were asked to leave immediately before the video posted by Carrique was shot, and alleged that officers fired rubber bullets near people who were not in the area covered by the injunction.

“The actions of Land Defenders and community members, including erecting barricades, are a protective action meant to keep us safe from police violence,” Williams said in a statement.

“Police continue to threaten arrest and it's up to us to keep ourselves safe from these oppressive police tactics. Police have no place in dealing with land disputes.”

At least 33 people have been arrested since the occupation began and provincial police say 100 charges have been laid.

Carrique said in his Sunday evening social media post that arrests will continue.

Premier Doug Ford expressed support for police when asked about Carrique's video in a news conference on Monday.

"There's one country, one rule, one law, you follow the law. Simple as that," Ford said.

"I support our police and I think it would be disgusting if someone wanted to attack our police ... they need to be held accountable."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2020.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press