News Local

OPP ticks off protesters

By Raymond Bowe, Barrie Examiner

Provincial police have started a list of alleged troublemakers who are protesting the construction of controversial landfill Site 41. Some are expected to face mischief charges this morning.

However, police have not said exactly how many people are on the list.

"I can say that the numbers are not on the extreme side," Const. Peter Leon said yesterday afternoon from the Southern Georgian Bay OPP detachment in Midland. "We have been consulting with the Crown attorney, and the OPP does have a number of individuals who are in violation of the court-imposed injunction."

Dump opponents say police have created a photo wall of suspected troublemakers at the Midland detachment, but authorities would neither confirm nor deny that.

"We have an operational perspective we are following and an operational plan," Leon said. "I won't go into specifics or details, but we have a very comprehensive and detailed way in which we conduct our investigations."

Police have been monitoring the protest at the Tiny Township landfill. Suspects have been identified through various investigative measures, Leon said, and officers have visited the site daily.

The police presence has included a video unit, a van with tinted windows that has been regularly driving past the site.

Last month, protesters began blocking construction vehicles from entering the Simcoe County landfill, located north of Elmvale on Concession 2 East. They were told July 16 by the OPP to stop or they could face criminal charges.

Some protesters said they're willing to be arrested, if necessary, to draw attention to the potential risks to the Alliston aquifer if the dump is built there.

Authorities have been going down the list and calling alleged mischief-makers.

"A number of individuals have been contacted by the OPP and they have been made aware ... of the court injunction and that they are in violation of it," Leon said. "They have been made aware of what our intentions are."

The constable said it would be "a safe assumption" that the people being contacted will face mischief charges.

On July 22, the county filed for an injunction to stop the blockade, as well as seeking $160,000 from protesters Anne Ritchie Nahuis and Vicki Monague. A temporary injunction was granted the next day, allowing people to protest across the road.

Site 41 opponent Bob Ritchie says he'll do whatever he can to stop the landfill, including fundraising and spreading the word.

"What the county wants to do is scare people off," he said. "My wife and I have never blocked the gate. Both of us didn't want to get in trouble. I think it's a scare tactic."

The 67-year-old Springwater Township resident said he usually shows up at the landfill around 5 a. m., about an hour before the heavy equipment arrives.

"The real criminals are the county," he said. "They feel I'm the ringleader, but I just try to help out where I can. We don't need that (landfill) on our water."

County officials say they will not comment while the matter is before the courts.

Simcoe County is seeking a permanent injunction against protesters, while the Council of Canadians is seeking a declaration that the landfill construction is unlawful. A final decision on both issues is expected next week.

County officials say Site 41 -- now being referred to as the North Simcoe Landfill -- has all of the necessary provincial approvals, and construction started earlier this year, but is at a standstill due to the blockade.

County lawyers say the sit-in is illegal, while participants say it's a peaceful protest aimed at protecting local drinking water.

There is now added pressure from law enforcement in dealing with the situation.

"We've certainly provided protesters the opportunity for how they would like to continue or discontinue this protest," Leon said. "The OPP has utilized discretion in terms of how we are enforcing the law."

The people who have been called have been given the option to surrender to police, but none of the arrests will be made at the controversial landfill, police said.

"We are trying to do it away from Site 41," Leon said. "It was just a decision that was made, probably in the interest of public safety."

Police called Baseline Road resident Ina Wood, 76, at her home Tuesday around 4 p. m. and told her to report to the Midland detachment to face possible mischief charges. She drove to the landfill site to tell her 82-year-old husband, Keith, what had happened.

But police said the couple was granted an extension due to their advanced age.

Not only do police say they have public safety in mind, but authorities also admitted there are the optics of dragging senior citizens away in handcuffs.

"I think so," Leon said, although he added protesters have been given the opportunity to deal with the charges "in a professional manner. There are also people of various walks of life and ages (at the site)."

The Woods are to arrive at the Midland detachment this morning. They are expected to be among at least a half-dozen others whom police contacted, but an entourage of protesters is also expected to be in tow.

"I feel we've all been mistreated by the county for a very long time," Keith Wood said. "I pay taxes on this road. I have a right to use this road, a right to protest. The protest has been very peaceful."

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North Simcoe Landfill time line

The following is a brief time line of the most recent actions to take place around the North Simcoe Landfill, also known as Site 41.

July 2009 --Simcoe County is given until Aug. 12 to indicate how it plans to comply with an order from the Information and Privacy Commissioner's office to obtain records an engineering firm refuses to provide. Jagger Hims denied the county's May request on June 26, saying it could not disclose proprietary information. The data relates to so-called Modflow information.

July 6, 2009 --Protesters begin camping out at Site 41 in an effort to stop construction. The blockade includes local residents, farmers and cottagers, as well as First Nations representatives.

July 10, 2009 --The county says the ongoing blockade has cost area taxpayers more than $90,000 due to 28 days of missed work by county employees. If the protest continues, costs are estimated to exceed $80,000 weekly.

July 16, 2009 --Provincial police say criminal charges could be laid if the blockade continues, but protesters say they are willing to be arrested.

July 22, 2009 --Lawyers for Simcoe County file for a court-imposed injunction to stop the ongoing dump blockade. The application -- naming Anne Ritchie Nahuis and Vicki Monague as defendants -- seeks a prohibition of demonstrations at landfill entrances. The county also seeks damages of at least $160,000. A temporary injunction is granted, but the protest continues.

July 29, 2009 --The Council of Canadians seeks a declaration that construction at the site is unlawful. The group wants a one-year moratorium. A decision on the declaration is expected either Aug. 13 or Aug. 14.

July 31, 2009 --The first charges are laid against protesters at Site 41. A 35-year-old Christian Island man, who was in custody on an unrelated matter, is charged with mischief and intimidation in regards to the blocking of roads and access to the landfill.

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