Sponsored Collection

Atlantic Books for the Holidays



Caledonia's Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us

by Christie Blatchford

0 ratings
0 of 5
comments: 0
reviews: 0
list price: $22.00
also available: Hardcover
category: Law
published: 2011
publisher: Doubleday Canada
imprint: Anchor Canada
View Excerpt

It officially began on February 28, 2006, when a handful of protesters from the nearby Six Nations reserve walked onto Douglas Creek Estates, then a residential subdivision under construction, and blocked workers from entering. Over the course of the spring and summer of that first year, the criminal actions of the occupiers included throwing a vehicle over an overpass, the burning down of a hydro transformer which caused a three-day blackout, the torching of a bridge and the hijacking of a police vehicle. During the very worst period, ordinary residents living near the site had to pass through native barricades, show native-issued "passports", and were occasionally threatened with body searches and routinely subjected to threats. Much of this lawless conduct occurred under the noses of the Ontario Provincial Police, who, often against their own best instincts, stood by and watched: They too had been intimidated. Arrests, where they were made, weren't made contemporaneously, but weeks or monthlater. The result was to embolden the occupiers and render non-native citizens vulnerable and afraid. Eighteen months after the occupation began, a home builder named Sam Gualtieri, working on the house he was giving his daughter as a wedding present, was attacked by protesters and beaten so badly he will never fully recover from his injuries. The occupation is now in its fifth year. Throughout, Christie Blatchford has been observing, interviewing, and investigating with the tenacity that has made her both the doyen of Canadian crime reporters and a social commentator beloved for her uncompromising sense of right and wrong.
In Helpless she tells the full story for the first time - a story that no part of the press or media in Canada has been prepared to tackle with the unflinching objectivity that Christie Blatchford displays on every page. This is a book whose many revelations, never before reported, will shock and appall. But the last word should go to the author:
"This book is not about aboriginal land claims. The book is not about the wholesale removal of seven generations of indigenous youngsters from their reserves and families - this was by dint of federal government policy - or the abuse dished out to many of them at the residential schools into which they were arbitrarily placed or the devastating effects that haunt so many today. This book is not about the dubious merits of the reserve system which may better serve those who wish to see native people fail than those who want desperately for them to succeed. I do not in any way make light of these issues, and they are one way or another in the background of everything that occurred in Caledonia.
"What Helpless is about is the failure of government to govern and to protect all its citizens equally."

close this panel

Friday, June 9, 2006
By June 9, the worst of the occupation seemed to be over.
The mayor had just called an end to the state of emergency imposed after the riotous Victoria Day long weekend, when native occupiers destroyed a Hydro One transformer, plunging much of the county into darkness. The Argyle Street barricade, which for thirty-three days blocked traffic on Caledonia’s main drag, had been down for almost two weeks, the financial assistance office set up by the provincial government for businesses affected by the blockade was open, and a fragile calm appeared to have been restored. The situation wasn’t normal by any stretch, even by Caledonia’s deteriorating standards, but there was reason to hope.
In fact, on June 8, Michael Pullen, the Haldimand County tourism manager, sent out a giddy email announcing that the province had approved the final chunk of money for a $210,000 media campaign for the beleaguered town and burbling cheerfully about “some outstanding fishing photos” that had been taken for the print ads. “Caledonia: Close By, But A World Away” was the slogan of a publicity offensive designed to highlight the area’s bucolic charms and improve the town’s image. It was the classic government response to trouble: in the absence of actually fixing the problem, mount a public relations operation.
At the start of the season that Environment Canada was later to declare southern Ontario’s “Goldilocks summer” because of its just-right amounts of sun and rain, this day dawned cool and overcast. Before 1 p.m., three of the most alarming episodes of the entire occupation, each more violent than the last, occurred within two hours. All took place off the occupied site and well beyond any legitimacy arguably afforded the occupiers by the disputed land claim. These incidents happened instead on a public road, in a busy parking lot and in a pleasant subdivision, in front of citizens left disbelieving, enraged or weeping. In all three events, OPP officers were not only present, but also tantalizingly close to the action, well positioned to intervene.
Yet, with one exception, the police did nothing.
They failed to assist six of the eight victims, including one of their own, a fellow OPP constable. They made no arrests. They chased no perpetrator. They prevented no crime, and in one instance, either outright enabled (by handing over the keys) or allowed the theft of a car.
It all began when Kathe and Guenter Golke, then 68 and 66 respectively, decided to go for what Mr. Golke calls a fun drive. Both retired, they live in Simcoe, a country town spread low and thin, as though there isn’t enough of it to fill the space, about forty klicks southwest of Caledonia in the neighbouring county of Norfolk. The couple was heading towards Hamilton when, at the last minute, instead of hopping onto the Highway 6 bypass that skirts the town, they turned right onto Argyle Street, the main street through Caledonia.
“It occurred to me, after hearing so much about that Indian problem there, I wanted to see what it’s all about, what this property is all about,” Mr. Golke says.
He slowed their cream-coloured Ford Taurus as they pulled even with Douglas Creek Estates, and had a good, long gander at the site across the street. Suddenly, a motorcycle came flying up towards them. “Why are they driving so fast?” he thought to himself, as he pulled over to the shoulder and stopped to let the bike pass. But it drew up to his window, so he rolled it partway down. A furious woman in motorcycle leathers said, “Is there a problem?” and then let fly a torrent of verbal abuse, accusing them of coming to “look at the bad Indians.”
“This I don’t need,” Mr. Golke snapped, and floored it. “The minute I stepped on the gas, all hell broke loose,” he says. “From the ditches, a whole pile of First Nations came out, trying to stop us.” But the car was already moving—in fact, some of the natives were so close he was afraid he’d hit somebody—and he high-tailed it into Caledonia.
At the Canadian Tire parking lot just up the road, he spotted an OPP cruiser, drove right to it and was trying to explain to the officer inside what was going on when two pickup trucks and some cars materialized beside them. From these vehicles, more than a dozen people, some in camouflage-patterned gear, came running, surrounded the car and began jumping on the hood, whooping. Quickly, the crowd around them grew to about twenty.
“They were trying to bang on the windows, open her [Kathe’s] door, but it was all locked, fortunately,” Mr. Golke says. Then one of the men made a move for the steering wheel through his half-open window. As he was trying to roll it up, he saw that the officer had grabbed the man’s arm and was holding him back.
The officer somehow got them out of the Taurus and into his cruiser. By about noon, they were taken to the police substation a few blocks away. Minutes after arriving there, the police called for an ambulance for Mr. Golke. A diabetic who’d already had two heart attacks, his heart was now pounding and he was grey. He spent about twelve hours in hospital, diagnosed with heart fibrillation, an abnormal rhythm that, untreated, can lead to heart failure or stroke. The couple remain grateful to the officer who rescued them—as Mrs. Golke says, “I win the lottery, I send him off to a nice vacation”—and completely untheatrical about the entire incident. They were just happy to get their car back—damaged to the tune of three thousand dollars, but their insurance covered it—a couple of days later.
The Golkes had no idea that their attackers had merrily driven away in their beloved Taurus, having either been actually handed the keys by a member of the OPP’s Aboriginal Relations Team (known as the ART), as some officers believe, or having hot-wired and stolen it in front of a gaggle of cops. Certainly, although seven occupiers were later charged with a variety of offences in relation to the two events that day in the parking lot, no one was ever charged with theft of a motor vehicle.
Self-sufficient German immigrants (Mr. Golke arrived in Canada in 1961 with twenty-four dollars to his name and, when the customs official remarked upon his lack of funds, he smartly replied, “I came here not to bring it; I came to make it”), the couple claim no lasting ill effects but for the way Mrs. Golke starts at the sound of a motorcycle. Still, Mr. Golke says, “You picture this happening in Third World countries, but you don’t think Canada can be like that.” Canada is still “No. 1 for Germans,” he says, and their friends back in the old country “couldn’t believe it happened in Canada.”
The Golkes didn’t know the half of it.
About the time they were being surrounded by what can only be described as a mob, Ken MacKay and Nick Garbutt were at CHCH-TV in Hamilton, about fifteen minutes from Caledonia, when someone on the news desk heard over the police scanner that something was happening there.
Something was always going on in Caledonia—CH crews had been there almost daily and knew the atmosphere was highly charged—so when MacKay drew the short straw, he decided, “I’m only going if someone else comes with me.” Mostly, he wanted the comfort of knowing someone had his back—holding the camera means the operator can’t see much on his right side. Earlier that week, a couple of cameramen had been confronted by hostile occupiers, “and we just felt it wasn’t safe to go up there by ourselves anymore,” MacKay says.
Nick Garbutt was the next guy up in the rotation, so in two separate trucks, they headed for the Canadian Tire lot. They pulled into the north end and could see something was going on at the south, but not what exactly it was. As the Golkes never saw the CH crew, so Garbutt never clamped eyes on the Golkes’ car, let alone on the couple themselves. But MacKay, the shooter, says he could tell the crowd was around a car and that police were in there with them, talking to them.
“My story was to show here’s natives around the vehicle, here’s the police standing, over here . . . and nothing’s being done.”
MacKay grabbed his camera, Garbutt following, and as they got closer, an OPP officer—whom Garbutt assumed was in charge and refers to as the sergeant—raised his hands for them to stop.
“Ken and I realized we’re sort of a distance away from the scene,” Garbutt says, “so I said I’d go back and get the tripod.” They set up by a white tradesman’s van, and MacKay started shooting. What they could see was the crowd milling about and a group of uniformed OPP officers standing, spread out in a makeshift line.
The natives spotted them. “Three or four of them start approaching us,” Garbutt says. The natives walked right past the officer who had waved to the news crew to stop. “They walk quickly past the sergeant,” he says. “The sergeant’s eyeballing me. I sense trouble and I put my hands up to the sergeant to go, meaning ‘What’s going on here?’ My thoughts are, ‘A little help here?’ Because I sense trouble.”
“Here they come,” he told MacKay.
“I see them,” MacKay replied, taking the camera off the tripod and sort of backing up.
“They were telling us, ‘Stop taping, put the camera away!’” Garbutt says. “So Ken says yeah.”
Garbutt stood his ground, but the natives were running now, and the first guy shouldered past him, spinning him around, and began wrestling with MacKay, trying to get the camera.
“Give me the fucking tape, give me the camera,” the man told MacKay. “I said, ‘I’m not doing that, not doing that.’ So I’m stalling, hoping that these guys—the cops—are going to come and help us.”
By this time, there were six natives around MacKay, who was trying to protect the camera and using the tripod as a guard. When someone managed to grab his arm, it was Garbutt’s cue to step in and help. He hooked onto the lead assailant by the elbow, trying to spin him away from MacKay.
“They grab Nick,” MacKay says, “and they put their arm across his throat and throw him up against the van and put him in a headlock, and they punch him.” MacKay saw “there’s cops right there, three of them . . . and I turn around and I yelled, ‘Do something! Do something!’ And they just looked at me.”
Garbutt was briefly released, or so he thinks now, and saw that MacKay was still in a struggle over the camera, while other officers stood right there.
“How can that happen?” Garbutt asks. “It should have ended there. So I go into the melee and I start trying to help Ken out. Again. Then I’m surrounded by three or four natives, who jostle me and start . . . I’m getting jostled and surrounded, and that’s when the actual assault on me takes place.”
Garbutt was getting hit from behind on the top of his head; he remembers taking between four and six blows. “And I remember thinking, ‘Oh, this won’t last long.’ All the OPP officers are on scene, this was the first actual physical violence that has happened. This won’t last long, because obviously the officers will step in now because they’ve seen this. They were so close to me.” All of a sudden, Garbutt “felt two hands on my shoulders and someone’s telling me, ‘It’s okay, it’s over, just start walking backwards,’ and I look up, expecting to see an OPP officer in uniform. And it wasn’t an officer in uniform. It was somebody in plain clothes, and I thought, ‘Ah, it’s an officer in plain clothes who’s come to rescue me.’”
MacKay was thinking much the same thing. “My whole tactic was to keep stalling,” he says, “because eventually more cops are going to show up and get these guys off of us, because Nick’s actually being hit, and I’m having a forty-thousand-dollar camera taken out of my hands.”
Only a few minutes later, as Garbutt profusely thanked the “officer” and asked for his name, did he discover that his rescuer was not a provincial policeman, but a Caledonia civilian named Ken Sullivan. He led Garbutt and MacKay back to their news trucks.
“I was still itching to get back in [the fight],” Garbutt says. But now he felt the blood dripping down his face, and allowed himself to be persuaded.
MacKay, an ex-CBC employee who was enrolled in teachers’ college at the time and working for CH only for the summer, is now an elementary school teacher not far from his home in Port Dover, on Lake Erie. But the then 46-year-old journalist-turned-teacher had had a third career: he is also a former soldier, a member of the 1st Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
“I was in the regular forces way back when, ’78 to ’81,” he says. “There was nothing happening back then. But it teaches pride for the uniform, and that’s what I said to these guys [the police]: ‘How can you guys wear that uniform?’ My buddy’s over there bleeding. And they wouldn’t look. Nick was over to their right, he was on a car, civilians were cleaning him up with towels, and they’re standing there, and they’re covering up their [badge] numbers, so I can’t get names or numbers, and I asked, ‘Who’s the sergeant in charge?’
“And they said, ‘We don’t know.’
“I said, ‘Give me a break. There has to be a sergeant in charge, with this number of people, there has to be a sergeant in charge; I want to know his name.’ Nobody would answer me.”
Finally, MacKay says, an officer wearing gloves took a look at Garbutt, called for an ambulance, and “the cops just disappeared—vapourized.”
One officer, furious and embarrassed, climbed into the ambulance to whisper to Garbutt, “You should sue the OPP!” He went to hospital in Hagersville, where he got a tetanus shot and four stitches to the biggest of the cuts on the head. And MacKay, with only a few bruises, quickly got the camera back, minus the videotape inside (the natives refused to give police any of the pictures, as they also refused to be interviewed later).
Garbutt and MacKay decided to file formal complaints. They did this on June 27 with the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, which sent the complaints right back to the OPP for investigation, as per the governing legislation. OCCPS may advertise itself to be, and may be perceived to be, an independent agency that investigates citizen complaints against police, but as its spokesman Cathy Boxer succinctly puts it, in practice the agency acts “as a post office” and just forwards the beef to the police force that is the subject of the complaint.
The OPP asked the Ottawa Police Service to conduct the actual probe, two sergeants were assigned, and after extensive interviews with thirty OPP officers and about the same number of citizens who had witnessed all or part of the events in the Canadian Tire lot, they reported back to Garbutt and MacKay one month shy of a year after their attack. I have both reports, and while no one could argue that the investigation wasn’t complete, it was also weirdly nitpicking, with an odd passive-aggressive tone, almost as though the investigators set out to minimize what had happened. Where the cameramen complained that they had begged the police for help to no avail, for instance, the report offers detailed breakdowns of where various groups of officers were, and goes to extraordinary lengths to explain why their views may have been blocked or limited, or why they failed to act. In an especially galling illustration, the reports note that officers from one “vehicle were immediately confronted by Six Nations people and were stopped from going any further by these Six Nations people,” and make no further comment, as though it were the norm that police are routinely stopped from doing their job by civilians who say, in effect, please cease and desist.
As MacKay, paraphrasing, says: “‘The natives were in our way?’ Go around them! Arrest them for obstructing justice!”
And while two intelligence officers who arrived at the parking lot early on—one of whom went into the Canadian Tire store while the other stayed in his car—took a total of 157 pictures, neither managed to get any of the first part of the initial struggle-cum-assault, when Garbutt was thrown up against a white van and MacKay was fighting to hang onto his camera. The first officer, the reports say, was changing memory cards and it took him two minutes, by which time “the incident beside the white van had already occurred.” To this, MacKay snorts, “I teach photography; it does not take two minutes to change a memory card.”
The second intelligence officer “wasn’t interested in the cameraman,” the reports say, because he was trying to photograph as many of the Six Nations people as he could. As MacKay scrawled furiously in the margin of his copy of the reports, “Both police intel photogs stopped taking pictures at the same time . . . How convenient.”
In the end, the Ottawa officers acknowledged that the assault and robbery took place and that the police made no attempt to arrest a single, solitary soul. But they also said the perception that the OPP hadn’t intervened was refuted by pictures showing officers involved at various points in the melee (which is not the same thing as going to the aid of the cameramen).
The conclusion? There was “insufficient evidence” to support the allegations.
Only Garbutt appealed the decision to OCCPS, which again sent it straight back to the OPP, which decided there had been a splendid investigation and no further action need be taken. Garbutt appealed to OCCPS again, and in April of 2008 the agency wrote him to say a review panel had examined the file and was satisfied. Twenty-two months later, it was over.
Garbutt, who was then 53, went back to work in the business he’d been in for almost three decades; CHCH gave him the choice of staying away from Caledonia if he wanted, but he returned frequently.
For a time, the station hired a private security firm to accompany crews, but the firm was based in London, Ontario, and the arrangement was sometimes awkward and time-consuming, so the cameramen sometimes still ended up going on their own. Garbutt became very aware of his surroundings, but never again felt threatened.
“In the grand scheme of things,” he says, “what happened to me is reflective of probably the big picture, but I don’t put much stock in what happened to me. That was my fifteen minutes of fame, that I didn’t want, and it was probably one of the more visible hooks that was a tipping point—a journalist got mugged up. So what happened to me, my suffering, is minimal compared to what all the people of Caledonia were being put through, the businesses, the homeowners who live near the property lines who suffer the intimidation at night . . .”
Ken MacKay never went back. “That was it,” he says. “I asked not to go.” He figured with all the publicity there had been, he was too easy and recognizable a target. To this day, he still drives around the town in order to get home to Port Dover. He finished off that summer with CH, went back to teachers’ college, and began working in a school in the fall of 2007.
Buried in the reports, however, were fleeting glimpses of the new Caledonia reality. Officers were clearly confused by their marching orders, with some, including at least one sergeant, believing that the OPP were not to “use any use-of-force options on the Six Nations people” and that, in general, “they were to stand down when dealing with the Six Nations.” These officers couldn’t, or wouldn’t, point to anyone who had said those specific words, but it was clear that the occupiers were already well recognized as being in the do-not-disturb category, untouchable. And at least one officer said that when he saw the camera being stolen, “he questioned one of the sergeants why the person was not being arrested, but there was no answer.”
Police officers have the individual discretion to make arrests, to act; they don’t need a superior’s permission, and neither do they usually ask for it. The hard truth of the OPP’s new way of doing business was perhaps better measured that day by Inspector Brian Haggith. Haggith is a Caledonia resident and veteran OPP officer who, from the very start of the occupation, was delegated by his force to act as the OPP liaison with townspeople, precisely because he is so well liked and trusted. Faithfully, he had for more than three months toed the company line: officers were to keep the peace; negotiations were underway and looked promising; residents should be patient.
By June, he was in his third week of working out of the OPP’s Western Region Headquarters in London—his superiors were concerned the steady diet of sixteen-hour days and endless meetings with frustrated residents was wearing him down and thought he could use a change of scenery. But he still lived in Caledonia, and June 9 was a day off for him. In shorts and a shirt, he headed to the Canadian Tire store purely by chance. He arrived at the tail end of the confrontations, but saw enough to sicken him—the blood on Garbutt’s face, for one thing. As he testified on December 9, 2008, during examination for discovery at the civil lawsuit of Caledonia couple Dave Brown and Dana Chatwell, he overheard numerous citizens complaining that the OPP had stood by and done nothing as the Golkes were swarmed and the cameramen attacked.
Haggith was, he testified, particularly shaken by the sight of a woman on a cell phone, obviously talking to a 911 dispatcher and oblivious to the fact that the man in shorts beside her was also a cop. “The police won’t do anything,” Haggith heard her say. “Who is going to help us?”
Haggith testified that the dispatcher asked for the woman’s name, and she replied, “I will not give you my name because I don’t want my name to get out because you will not protect me.” “Basically,” Haggith explained, the woman was saying “I don’t want the natives to find out that I called you because you won’t protect me.” As she spoke, he said, she was weeping. And as she shut the cell phone and gave it to another woman, she started crying again, got into a car and drove away.
Haggith headed to the Unity Road command post and found Superintendent Ron Gentle, the incident commander that day. “I asked, ‘Are we going to be arresting these people?’” Haggith testified. “I also told him that this violence, that this has gone on too far: citizens are concerned for their safety, and that was what was relayed to me on the site. There were ladies crying, saying the police will not protect us, the police, you know, allowed the CH man to be beaten up or assaulted. So I expressed those comments to the superintendent . . . . I told him it’s time to make arrests.”
What Haggith also said, according to OPP sources, was this: “We can’t cower anymore.” He testified that, more generally, “we were dealing with this incident [the occupation] differently because it was a land claim situation, and we were trying through peaceful negotiations to get a peaceful resolution, and we tried and we tried and we tried.” And compared to the way the OPP normally did business, Haggith said, he “would have to agree” with the widespread view in town that the police weren’t doing their job. He agreed that there were earlier incidents “where the law was broken and officers were in sight to observe it, yes.”
But the distinguishing factor common to the June 9 events, what made them unusually alarming, was that they all occurred off the DCE site, off the site of the protests surrounding the land claim.
“Yes, that was an act of aggression,” he testified, “and it was lawlessness . . . that had nothing to do with the land claim. It was strictly lawlessness and they should have been arrested, and that was my opinion.”
While at the command post, Haggith also learned from other officers of the third incident, the one before which the others paled. What he found out was that one of his friends, Detective Constable Norm Ormerod, an intelligence officer, had been seriously hurt. Ormerod never returned to work. He spent some time in hospital, some time on disability, and then put in his papers, as cops call it, and retired.
Dave Hartless had just got out of the shower and was on his way to work—he’s a detective constable with the Hamilton Police—when he walked out into the middle of chaos at the end of his street, Braemar Avenue.
In this part of the newish development of single-family homes, Braemar hits Thistlemoor Drive and ends abruptly in a little cul-de-sac. Thistlemoor backs directly onto the western edge of the Douglas Creek site; Braemar backs onto the railway tracks and hydro right-of-way, areas that, while not part of DCE, nonetheless had also been taken over by the occupiers.
By this stage, Braemar was one of eight or nine hot spots in town that the OPP had designated as checkpoints, and to which it had assigned cruisers 24-7 and given military-style code names. Braemar was Hotel checkpoint; the cul-de-sac where Braemar hits Thistlemoor was Golf; Quebec was the corner of Thistlemoor and Kinross Street, and so on.
What Hartless saw was this: a native man got out from behind the wheel of a vehicle and stood right in front of the two officers in the cruiser permanently stationed at Golf. The man spread his arms wide and shouted, “Arrest me! Arrest me!”
“They [the two officers] do nothing,” Hartless says. “‘Come on! Arrest me!’ They do nothing. So he turns back and he says, ‘See? Your fucking cops can’t touch us! You’re all next!’ He gets in the truck and fucks off and drives it across Graeme’s [a neighbour’s] lawn, down onto the DCE and across the tracks.”
What Hartless was seeing—as were other residents of Thistlemoor who had gathered, drawn by the noise—was the end of perhaps the most egregious example of brazen lawlessness of the entire occupation.
In Caledonia that day, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Buffalo, New York, were Mike Powell and Thomas O’Brien, two agents with the U.S. Border Patrol, an agency of Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—the largest arm of the Department of Homeland Security and the one responsible for keeping terrorists and other bad guys out of the States—and Steven Dickey, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (still known by its old abbreviation of ATF), another U.S. law enforcement organization, which tracks criminals involved in the trafficking of firearms, explosives and illegal tobacco.
With Detective Constable Ormerod, the three were in a blue Chevy Tahoe parked in the little Thistlemoor cul-de-sac, conducting surveillance and sharing intelligence on DCE because, as Hartless notes wryly, some of “their badasses have come up to join the fight against injustice with Six Nations.” At about 2:15 p.m., the lawmen, unarmed and in plain clothes, were about to call it quits for the day when two vehicles suddenly appeared and blocked off one exit. A pickup truck arrived within seconds, shutting off the only other route out: Graeme Fisher’s unfenced back lawn. About fifteen men emerged and surrounded the Tahoe, and two of them, later identified as Trevor Dean Miller and Albert Kirk Douglas, both then 31, both from Six Nations and both dressed in green camouflage, began banging on the hood, arguing aloud about whether the men inside were cops and whether to run them off—or worse.
The four officers saw the large knife Miller had attached to the front of the military-style web gear he wore, and that he had his hand on it. Miller began shouting at the four to get out, making “lunging movements” with the knife.
According to the affidavit sworn on July 7, 2007, by Philip Knapp, the lead border agent for the Buffalo office, Detective Constable Ormerod “instructed the American law enforcement agents to comply with the attackers’ demands to exit the government Tahoe.” Powell and Dickey, the driver and front-seat passenger, got out. Dickey was wearing his ATF badge on a chain around his neck. One of the attackers, “wearing a mask,” grabbed for the badge, but Dickey pushed him away.
At that point, Miller began advancing towards Dickey “in an intimidating manner and began to pull the knife out of the sheath.” (Hartless, ever the trained observer, later spotted this knife in its sheath during the denouement he witnessed.) Dickey, now essentially engaged in hand-to-hand combat, delivered two karate chops to Miller’s collarbone and neck, causing his arm to go numb and stopping the attack. Powell, meanwhile, was confronted by Douglas, who looked into the car, spotted the U.S. government radio in the console and began shrieking, “What the fuck is this?” and “They’re spies! They’re spies!” He pushed Powell aside and got into the driver’s seat.
Because the Tahoe was a police vehicle, the rear doors—as a safety feature—had to be opened from the outside. Just as Douglas began to drive off, Powell got the driver’s-side rear door open and O’Brien leaped out. But Ormerod was still frantically trying to exit the Tahoe, which was now accelerating. Dickey working the handle from the outside, Ormerod kicking against the door from the inside in the rear seat, the door finally opened—and Ormerod jumped out, landing violently on the pavement. He was knocked unconscious.
Douglas then put the Tahoe in reverse and tried to run Ormerod over, “narrowly missing” him only because the other three officers and some of the residents who had been watching managed to drag him out of the vehicle’s path. As they took cover behind one of those big community mailboxes that are a feature of the modern subdivision, Douglas got out of the car and approached the OPP cruiser—and at that point, made the threats Hartless saw and heard, before taking off in the Tahoe.
The officers in the cruiser called for backup, and within minutes, Hartless says, the area was flooded with cops, which meant that within another minute or so, “we’ve got a big fucking crew of natives coming up because the OPP are here.” By now, this was absolutely standard procedure. To paraphrase the New Testament, Matthew 18:20, wherever two or three OPP gathered within sight of DCE, the occupiers would swarm the area. Among them was Clyde (Bullet) Powless, a high-steel worker and Six Nations member who by now was the head of security on the DCE site.
Hartless says one of the residents approached Powless “and says they stole the fucking truck, so Powless has a few words back and forth with some of his guys and off they go on the quads [all-terrain vehicles], and the next thing you know the truck [the Tahoe], about half an hour later, comes back out.”
According to the U.S. documents, it was about two hours later that the Tahoe was returned. Powless parked it next to Graeme Fisher’s place and walked away, back to Douglas Creek Estates. “And they’re all sort of stood off in the field and they’re giving the finger and waving the flags and yelling and squawking off,” Hartless says.
It appears that a portable toilet—several of which were on the site—had been emptied into the Tahoe. The truck’s contents, including various top-security lists of informants and undercover operatives, body armour, handcuffs and binoculars, were gone. Eventually, some of the stolen items were retrieved, if only, as the U.S. court documents note, “after negotiations” with the occupiers. The body armour was rendered useless; the trauma plate had been stabbed several times. The Tahoe was deemed unsafe and was removed from service.
Eight people were eventually arrested—weeks, months, and in one case more than a year later—and charged with a variety of offences in the three searing events of that long day. Only Miller and Douglas did any significant jail time. Of the eight, one was from Victoria, British Columbia, two from Akwesasne, near the convergence of the borders of Ontario, Quebec and New York State, and five from Six Nations. Miller was arrested in August that year. Douglas was only arrested in September of 2007, reportedly on a routine traffic stop. Both spent about six months in pre-trial custody.
Because of that, though Miller pleaded guilty to two offences, including the theft of the Tahoe, he was sentenced to time served and a year’s probation. Similarly, though Douglas at one point faced five charges, including attempted murder, it appears from documents at Cayuga court that he was convicted only in the theft of the Tahoe.
Though the Canadian documents are neither clear about the final disposition of Douglas’s charges nor complete, they do show that at least one count was withdrawn against Douglas at the request of the prosecutor.
The Hamilton Spectator reported in April of 2008—on the occasion of Miller’s arrest in the United States as he entered Minnesota—that Douglas had earlier been sentenced to time served in the theft of the Tahoe. He still faces several felony charges in New York and is considered a fugitive. Most charges against the others involved that day were also withdrawn by prosecutors. In February of 2010, one man pleaded guilty in the theft of the CHCH camera and was sentenced to the time he’d already served—fifty-six days—and fined fifty dollars.
As Hartless watched the Tahoe being towed away that day, he was incensed.
“The police call for the flatbed and it’s towed off and off they go,” he says. “They do nothing else. Are you kidding me? The two officers, at the end of the street, they actually congratulate them for having restraint. That was outright cowardice. They stood there and watched [four] people get carjacked right in front of them; they say, ‘We didn’t have time to react.’ You don’t have time to react in that short a space, you’re in the wrong fucking job.”
The day was by no means over. At 3 p.m., officers at the Unity Road command post were briefed and told that, in anticipation of a reaction from townspeople to all that had happened, the public order units of the Hamilton and Toronto police had been notified. The briefing sergeant also said he’d received word from command staff: “Enough is enough. Anyone committing a criminal act is to be arrested.”
This was what Inspector Haggith had been told too, after his impassioned plea for his cops to be able to act like cops.
In a second briefing three hours later, officers were formally told what most of them already knew, and what some had seen evidence of with their own eyes: the brass was finally “satisfied there are long guns and handguns on Douglas Creek.” An OPP superintendent in attendance further admitted that things were “now out of control.” Yet members of the Emergency Response Team (ERT) were ordered again to wear what might be called “Caledonia hardtack” that night, meaning they could sling, but not wear, the protective helmets that are standard fare for riot squads being sent into volatile situations, and have close by, but not actually carry, their protective shields. Ever since the occupation had begun, more than three months earlier, not once were ERT members allowed to wear their gear as they routinely trained to do.
By 9 p.m., as many as a thousand angry townspeople were gathering not at the usual spot, the Argyle Street barricades, but in the Thistlemoor subdivision, behind Notre Dame School—the area where the four officers had been surrounded and attacked. Pat Woolley, a land surveyor who was to have done considerable work on DCE, wandered over, and was there when the ERT came marching down. Like many, he’d watched and heard reports of the awful day on the news. “They were all carrying their helmets,” Woolley says, but, bringing up the rear, he could see four officers carrying sub-machineguns. He heard what the sergeant said: “Okay, suit up! We’re going in and getting them out of there!”
Woolley’s heart soared in his chest. He thought, “This is it, they’ve had enough and they’re going in!” But in an instant, he realized the police weren’t heading for DCE, where a large crowd of occupiers were gathered, but for the townspeople.
“And they did a clearing manoeuvre,” Woolley says, “and cleared these people out.”
At long last, the police made a contemporaneous arrest. They arrested a Caledonia resident, one of the throng in the road, and loaded him into a paddy wagon. The townspeople stayed on the road, blocking the vehicle.
“I had kind of gone from being a spectator and I had kind of got involved as well,” Woolley says. “You judge these situations, and I judged they [the residents] were standing there, nobody was touching the police or anything, but they’d arrested some guy and [people] said, ‘We’re going to stop them.’ And so they [the paddy wagon] inched forward.”
Woolley was moving in and out of the crowd when he had “my road to Damascus moment, not that I hadn’t had it before, but I came out and sort of stepped out of the crowd.”
People were shouting at the officers, “Do your job! Do your job!”
Woolley approached the police line. “Guys, do you hear this?” he said. “Do you hear what’s going on? You’re just a disgrace, everybody’s just ashamed and appalled at your behaviour.”
“I was just really animated,” he says. “My grandfather fought against the Germans in Germany for this, for law and order. If these guys came back, they wouldn’t have put down their arms, they would have just marched on.”
He began furiously pointing at an officer as he spoke, the moment captured in a photograph that is now famous locally. Woolley told the man he’d been talking to his mother, and she too was ashamed of the OPP, and wanted her son to quit and go to work for a real force, like Toronto’s. He said, “You guys should be upholding the law.”
“They just stood there stone-faced. I was trying to provoke a reaction. It’s not in my nature to say ‘you piece of shit.’ And the other thing I said, I said, ‘How can you allow one of your own to be attacked like that? Who are you?’”
Woolley calls the incident “a reverse riot, probably the only one in the world,” because instead of police trying to calm an unruly mob by urging them to shape up and obey the law, here was the citizenry, at its wits’ end, “yelling at the police to behave, to uphold the law, to act responsibly.”
Shortly after, the crowd decided they simply were not going to let the paddy wagon proceed.
“So we all sat down in the road,” Woolley says. “Yeah, we all sat down right in the middle. There were probably about two to three hundred of us who sat down.”
There, in the middle of the night, this perfectly respectable professional surveyor, graduate of Trinity College at the University of Toronto, well-married father of three, joined his equally respectable neighbours in a sit-in. He was wearing a Hamilton Tiger-Cat shirt. It read, WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE.

close this panel
Contributor notes

CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD was born in Quebec. She wrote for all four Toronto-based newspapers. She won a National Newspaper Award for column writing, and in 2008 won the Governor General's Literary Award in non-fiction for her book Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army. Blatchford is also the author of Helpless: Caledonia’s Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy, and How the Law Failed All of Us and Life Sentence: Stories from Four Decadesof Court Reporting --  or, How I Fell Out of Love with the Canadian Justice System (Especially Judges). Christie Blatchford died in Toronto on February 12, 2020.

close this panel
Editorial Review

Praise for Fifteen Days:
"Learned more about the performance of our soldiers from reading Blatchford's book than I did from being on the ground for short stays... Bravo Zulu, Christie Blatchford."
— Major-General Lewis MacKenzie (ret'd) in The Globe and Mail

close this panel

Buy this book at:

Other titles by Christie Blatchford

more >

User Activity

more >
Contacting facebook
Please wait...