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Ontario Justice

Gary McHale held in jail with no charges

By Judi McLeod

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gary McHale, as far as is known the first Canadian citizen kept overnight in an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Cayuga jail--without charges of any kind laid against him---was released by a Justice of the Peace this morning.

In a Hamilton court bail hearing by videotape from Cayuga, the crown attorney, the duty counsel and the justice of the peace all registered surprise that McHale had been held overnight without any official charges made against him.

"We have no jurisdiction against this man," Justice of the Peace Kerry Boone announces on the tape of McHale, flanked by two police officers.

When the Crown Attorney admitted that there was no information of any kind from the OPP regarding charges, the judge dismissed the case and attached no terms to McHale's dismissal.

"It was a long night," a somewhat haggard McHale told Canada Free Press (CFP).

McHale and Mark Vandermass were arrested by OPP around noon on Saturday as they crossed into disputed territory at the aboriginal-occupied Douglas Creek Estates in Caledonia, carrying Canadian flags.

The pair, who wanted to put Canadian flags beside the aboriginal ones, was informed that they were breaching the peace.

Vandermaas, whose flag was wrest out of his hands and rent in two by OPP officers in a struggle to force him to the ground, was released to his wife, Debby within a few hours.

McHale, led away in handcuffs in front of his wife, Christine, was kept in jail overnight.

McHale, who entered his cell with a bad cough, had his cough drops removed by officers.

"They caused me no physical harm, but it was apparent to me that they were trying to get even and intimidate me.

"I refused the food they brought in from a nearby Tim Horton's, and stripped down to my boxer shorts," said McHale.

"Whether or not they knew I am supposed to eat regular meals because of Crohn's Disease, I do not know, but I wasn't going to eat or drink anything they gave me.

"I told them, I might be here but in my heart and in my soul, I'm free and there's nothing you can do about that."

Officers removed the clothes from his cell, returned his cough drops, asked him if he wanted a blanket and when he refused it, cranked up the heat.

"It certainly wasn't enjoyable being held, but I think they know that I am prepared to sacrifice more than one night of my freedom to make my point that that we are all, natives and non-natives alike, equal under the law in Canada."

Although hourly radio broadcasts were indicating on Sunday afternoon that McHale had been released from OPP custody at the same time as Vandermaas, McHale spent the entire night in a jail cell while his 45-year-old wife, waited for him at the home of Caledonia friends.

"I do not know where the electronic media are getting the misinformation that I had been released with Mr. Vandermaas, and would like to see proof of any OPP or government media releases before commenting further on that," McHale told CFP.

McHale, said he will be requesting a copy of this morning's videotape and will, if successful, post it on the Internet through CFP.

In Caledonia, it's been a textbook Mexican standoff ever since the provincial government paid the developer $21.5-million for the land in dispute.

An uneasy siege has covered the small Ontario community like a shroud.

McHale, who says he does not represent any group but only himself, said complete strangers to him had pounded on the paddy wagon that held him yesterday and that an officer in the van said, "Let's get this van out of here" before driving off.

"When I attend a rally in Caledonia, I am there representing Gary McHale and no one else. People, who happen to share my viewpoint about the two-tier system of justice in Ontario, also come out. We are not against the aboriginals. We are against the way the Dalton McGuinty Government and the OPP are mishandling the aboriginal occupation of a Caledonia housing development."

"Canadians are equal under the law. There is no difference between aboriginals breaking the law or anyone else breaking the law."

McHale said that he and his wife had been pulled over by OPP officers as they drove to the rally, and were told that the OPP was there to keep the peace.

"They were parked on the road waiting for us," he said.

Christine, who couldn't sleep all night because of the worry of her husband in a jail cell, ran to give him a bear hug the moment she saw him.

McHale, who says he'll be updating the couples' website is not giving up on his advocacy. He says he won't take another step on Caledonia land if Julian Fantino and the OPP answer a question he's been asking by telephone message over the past weeks: "Why is it legal for aboriginal flags to fly at the Douglas Creek Estates' "no-go zone", but not for the Canadian flag?"

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