|Below is a dissappointing December 4 follow-up article to the original Dec. 3 story in the London Free Press that offers little new information, even though the interview with Brodie Fenlon, held in Fp's offices, included several specific responses to police allegations. None are reported here.|
By Brodie Fenlon
Free Press Reporter
Members of a group identified by London police as "right wing" and "extremist" say they're targets of a political policing campaign that violates their Charter rights.
Police say they're just protecting the community from a group that's dangerous and associated with right-wing groups, including the Ku Klux Klan and the World Church of the Creator.
The furore stems from a letter London police sent last month to members of the Northern Alliance, a group responsible for a "straight pride" protest at London's annual Gay Pride march last summer.
The letter said Northern Alliance had been identified by police for its "extreme right-wing beliefs," and members were required to attend a meeting at police headquarters Nov. 21.
No one showed up.
"This is political opportunism at its worst," said group leader Raphael Bergmann, who sought advice last week from the London-based Freedom Party of Ontario. "I don't understand how beliefs can be judged."
Added group member Tyler Chilcott: "I think it's possible the police department violated my civil rights with this letter."
So does the Freedom party, which sent a letter to Ontario Solicitor-General David Tsubouchi on Monday demanding a list of left- and right-wing beliefs considered extreme by Ontario police.
A spokesperson for Tsubouchi said the ministry wouldn't be able to comment on the issue until Monday.
Northern Alliance was a loose-knit group of Londoners who met weekly at coffee shops and bars to discuss topics such as politics, racism, immigration and the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Bergmann said.
The meetings, which drew between 10 and 29 people, had stopped in February and the group is now defunct, he said.
"Some guys had dubious ideals, but the beauty of it was that we didn't care --- as long as it didn't come to violence and they didn't espouse violence."
But London Det. Supt. Dave Lucio said police began watching Northern Alliance only after a number of its members were charged with violent, criminal acts --- including weapons-related offences.
"It has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with public safety," he said.
Requesting members to attend a police meeting was an example of proactive policing and no different from stopping to chat with motorcycle gang members on the street, he said.
William McKercher, a professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario and an expert on civil liberties, said police can't require any group to attend a meeting based on beliefs.
"Discrimination against a group for their ideas is essentially not acceptable unless someone can prove that it's actually done harm."
last updated on June 3, 2002