Protestors gather chanting Idle No More march on a rainy Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 waving flags and placards and briefly blocking an intersection
Credits: CLIFFORD SKARSTEDT/QMI AGENCY
TORONTO - Under fire from the judiciary and media, Ontario's police chiefs are turning to the provincial government for advice on how to proceed with enforcement of court orders to break up Idle No More protests.
In a letter dated Jan. 9, Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police president Steve Tanner asks Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur for advice.
Some First Nations chiefs have declared Wednesday a national day of action with blockades planned in several locations across Ontario, including the Ambassador Bridge, North America's busiest border crossing.
"I am writing to ask you, as the minister responsible for community safety in the province of Ontario, to advise what the ministry's expectations and position is with respect to the appropriate police response in these types of protests," Tanner writes.
Tanner also expresses his frustration over media coverage, which has scrutinized police for not forcibly removing First Nations protesters who've blocked roads and rail lines.
In the letter, Tanner says the priority of police at Idle No More protests is to "keep the peace."
"Our police leaders and the men and women on the front lines have been working hard at doing just that, despite what one might perceive from media reports."
Tanner also said previous court rulings and oversight recommendations place the priority on "peacekeeping" and give chiefs of police "discretionary powers" when it comes to enforcing court orders concerning public safety.
The same day Tanner penned the letter to Meilleur, Premier Dalton McGuinty told media the province wouldn't give direction to police on how to handle Idle No More protests.
"In our democracy, we do not direct the police, that would be inappropriate," he said. "They make their own operational decisions on the ground. We'll leave that in their capable hands."
McGuinty acknowledged that some people are frustrated that police haven't tried to break up blockades.
"There have been no deaths and no injuries," he said. "These kinds of issues have been resolved peacefully."