LONDON (November 29, 1999) - Freedom Party leader Lloyd Walker has asked Ontario Solicitor General David Tsubouchi for an official listing of political beliefs (both left- and right-wing) "that are considered 'extreme', and would result in a call from a police department in Ontario."
Walker's request was accompanied by a copy of a November 1, 1999 letter written by David Lucio of London's Criminal Investigation Division which required "Members of Northern Alliance" to attend London Police Headquarters on Sunday, November 21, 1999.
"The London Police Service has identified you and several others as members of the Northern Alliance, an organization which holds extreme right wing beliefs," wrote Lucio. "The London Police Service has organized a meeting with you and other members of the Northern Alliance to allow you to express your views."
The letter contained no specific reference to any particular view or action that might be considered "extreme", but did explain that the police were planning to make public what they knew about the Northern Alliance and "its connection to other extremist groups".
Two of the recipients of Lucio's letter, Raphael Bergmann and Tyler Chilcott, showed up at the offices of Freedom Party on the morning of November 22, 1999, the day after they were "required" to appear at the police station. Neither attended the meeting arranged by police. Fearing repercussions for failing to appear, they were not sure where to turn for help, or even about what kind of help they needed. Above all, they could not understand why the police were preparing to issue public statements about a group that no longer existed and which was never organized in the traditional sense of the word. There were no members, dues, etc., nor any official connections whatsoever to any other groups. When active, the group informally held political discussion meetings in bars and coffee houses which were open to anyone who chose to attend.
On December 8, 1999, in an interview conducted by CJBK radio host Steve Garrison, detective superintendent David Lucio said that police had "identified this group through their criminal activity", though in the London Free Press (Dec 3), Lucio made it clear that the "Northern Alliance as a group has never been charged with an offence."
"We didn't target them for any beliefs that they had," Lucio said on air, despite his description of the group as "an organization which we believe holds extreme right wing beliefs." Lucio's letter makes it undeniable that the group was targetted for its "extreme right wing beliefs" and states that the purpose of requiring Northern Alliance members to attend the police station was to "allow you to express your point of view."
Lucio defended his choice of the word "require" in his original letter by saying: "We required them to come to the police station. That's the word I used because I required them to come to educate me as to what it was that they were all about." Ironically, Lucio only moments earlier made it clear that members of the Northern Alliance "really don't hold back. They have no problem telling you what they believe in. So when you approach them, they're there and they're espousing their beliefs openly."
However, as the interview progressed, the real reason for his letter began to surface: "I guess what the original plan was," continued Lucio, "was to first of all address this group face to face and tell them that we knew who they were. We knew that they were in our community, and that we expected them to obey the law."
In a glaring departure from offering any specifics regarding their beliefs or actions, Lucio stressed that the members of the Northern Alliance "had considerable things in common. Their appearance was one of them. That's what we went forward to tell the community because... we believe in community policing. Basically these people are what most people would call, I guess, 'skinheads'. They dress in baggy clothes and they wear certain tattoos and they wear things on their clothes which denote what it is that they believe in, slogans and pins and things like that."
What makes Lucio's statement particularly bizarre is that none of the four recipients of his letter who have so far appeared at the offices of Freedom Party even vaguely resembled his description. There was virtually nothing in common between them with respect to appearance or dress. Not one could even remotely be described as a 'skin head'. And all insist that they have no criminal record.
"It's a smear campaign," countered Bergmann on CJBK's December 8 Left, Right & Center program which features regulars Fp president Robert Metz and former Ontario Solicitor General Marion Boyd. "My personal, my business, my athletic reputation and now my political reputation have been totally smeared and I'm wondering who has to gain from this. I will be looking into that and finding out who. This is just a smear campaign against the gentleman that put on the straight pride march. That's obviously what it is, and it has been very effective. Now I am taking steps. I've launched a complaint with the Police Services Board as to why and how any police department can require me to tell my views to them, my political views..."
On the heels of London's mayor Dianne Haskett being forced by Ontario's Human Rights Commission to make a gay pride proclamation, in July 1999, Bergmann organized a 'straight pride' march opposite the gay pride march which was scheduled on the same day. Both marches were carried out peacefully.
"Our event was less about local contentions over gay/straight relations than about the much broader aspect of greater government interference in our lives," wrote Bergmann in a July 23 London Free Press rebuttal column, "whether it be from human rights commission or non-elected judges who make rulings on issues far too important not to take to a national plebiscite. This should worry us all, even those who disagree with our moral premises."
"The Minister does not become directly involved in operational policing matters," wrote Robert Middaugh (Assistant Deputy Minister, Policing Service Division) in an undated letter faxed to party leader Lloyd Walker on December 29, 1999. "Regarding police concerns about your organization... I understand that the letter sent to you by Detective Superintendent David Lucio of the London Police Service was discussed at a meeting of the London Police Services Board on December 10, 1999. I encourage you to contact the Board Chair, Dr. Michele Bailey, to learn more about the discussions involving (the letter)."
Not only did the Ministry's response incorrectly imply that Freedom Party was the intended recipient of Lucio's letter, but it also directed us to the wrong party for answers to our questions.
Though emphasizing that "the Solicitor General has general authority over the delivery of police services in Ontario," and that his office deals with "legislation, policies and procedures," Walker's three questions relating to legislation, policy, and procedure were left totally evaded. Walker's concerns had nothing whatsoever to do with "operational policing matters", making it appear that Tsubouchi's office had not even read his original letter.
Following a heated telephone exchange between Walker and Middaugh on December 30, 1999, it was clear that Tsubouchi's office was reluctant to put any official response to Walker's concerns in writing. As a result, it was left to Walker to summarize their conversation.
In a letter addressed to Middaugh and dated the same day of their conversation, Walker concluded: "I want to be sure that you are satisfied with my understanding of (your responses) to the three questions I posed in my original letter, and that certain clarifications have been made:
"(1) You understand that we are a third party in this issue. We are not original recipients of the letter from the London Police Service. As far as I am aware, there are no police "concerns about (my) organization,
"(2) You are not aware of any beliefs or list of beliefs that are proscribed in the province of Ontario,
"(3) You are not aware of any legislation or regulation that empowers police to 'require' anyone to attend a meeting to discuss their beliefs,
"(4) The position of the Solicitor General's office is that their function is to ensure that there's a process in place to handle complaints about police activities."
Middaugh offered no comment regarding the issue of why recipients of the police letter were not allowed to be accompanied to the police station by legal counsel.
As of this writing, we have yet to receive a reply to Walker's December 30 letter to Dr. Michelle Bailey of the London Police Services Board.
LONDON (January 10, 2000) - Notice under section 5 of the Libel and Slander Act was served by Bergmann to: (1) the Sun Media Corporation, (2) Les Pyette, Publisher and CEO of the London Free Press, (3) Free Press reporters Hank Daniszewski and Brodie Fenlon, (4) Detective Superintendent David R. Lucio, (5) the London Police Services Board, and to (6) the Corporation of the City of London.
The notice, prepared by Bergmann's legal counsel Barbara Kulaszka, asserts that the claims by police and articles published by the London Free Press defamed Mr. Bergmann on a dozen different grounds, among them:
"That Mr. Bergmann is the leader of a group, Northern Alliance, that constitutes a significant violent threat to minority groups in London and that therefore he constitutes a significant violent threat to minorities in London;
"That Mr. Bergmann is an active supporter or member of the Ku Klux Klan, the World Church of the Creator, and the Heritage Front;
"That the straight-pride parade in London organized by Mr. Bergmann in 1999 was a right-wing, extremist political act constituting urban terrorism and prone to violence;
"That Mr. Bergmann is equivalent to being the member of a motorcycle gang, implying he is part of organized criminal activities and violence."
London Board of Education trustee and president of London Fanshawe's Freedom Party constituency association, Robert Vaughan, phoned in on December 8th's Left, Right & Center program to offer his insights on the issue: "Apparently, if you're politically incorrect, if you don't agree with the prevailing view of the politicians, you're labelled. You're labelled 'urban terrorist, right wing, skin head, extremist'."
"These labels I saw not only being quoted from the police but those were labels used by the Free Press as well," he observed. "I saw no facts whatsoever printed in the Free Press regarding the actions of members of this group. I found no facts to indicate why their views may be labelled the way they were labelled. I saw no facts as to what their views even are! I saw nothing but innuendo in the newspaper. And I'm telling you, that if the police get away with rounding up people because of their views, we're heading down a path we cannot escape from," concluded Vaughan.
Perhaps the most ominous statement about the whole affair was made by Marion Boyd in her final remarks on the December 8th show. After explaining how the current government has changed the police complaints procedure "in such a way that it is certainly not as protective of citizen's rights as it was previously", and that the police are "being given powers that they did not previously have... because of gang issues," Boyd concluded that "to try and make this a cause celebre that suggests we've got a police state and that we're trying to suppress everybody's political views is in itself an extreme view."
last updated on April 28, 2002