Today, a professor that I know and respect sent me a message telling me that he had signed the Open Letter (now withdrawn on the basis of its libelous statements) because he had “reservations about particular panelists from the militia in Caledonia” due to their methods, which “the open letter captures”. He then went on to ask: “Are there not others involved in the conflict who bring a more balanced view to the conflict in Ontario? Christie Blachford [sic] for example has written about Caledonia from a critical perspective without advocating vigilantism”.
After Ms. Blatchford was informed about the professor’s query, she provided an email responding stating that she could not attend because she is currently working on a book about Caledonia, and did not have the time to participate. She also made some comments in response to the professor’s reference to “vigilantism”, and requested that I forward them to him. After receiving this reply from Blatchford, the professor in question is now reconsidering his original position on the matter, and so I thought that others who signed the petition might be interested in what she has written. Reprinting Blatchford’s comments is not meant to endorse the ideas of Vandermaas and McHale; Blatchford’s views are only one opinion, and her impressions of McHale and Vandermaas’ could be mistaken or be based on an unrepresentative sample of the evidence available. It is only to suggest that until the voice of McHale and Vandermaas are heard we will not be able to develop an informed opinion on the Caledonia conflict, and the appearance of these speakers should not be “protested” on the basis of questionable allegations.
In Blatchford’s words:
“…[the professor] writes that I have written critically about Caledona “without advocating vigilantism” — the clear implication that Mr. McHale and Mr. Vandermaas have done so. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I have attended three recent rallies in Caledonia, two of them organized by Mr. McHale, both of which were cancelled when self-styled anti-racists from Toronto showed up to out-shout the group. Mr. McHale sensibly cancelled the rallies both time. He always urges his supporters to be polite, respectful, civil, and peaceful. (In fact, he also asks people not to swear, which would exclude me, I confess.) In the course of researching my book, I have also reviewed video footage of earlier rallies in Caledonia and at Queen’s Park that were organized by Gary and Merlyn Kinrade; the footage of the rally at the Legislature is actually touching, because they were all dressed up, in suit and tie, and their remarks were as respectful as their attire.
On the one occasion that I know of where a Six Nations member, Clyde Powless, showed up and asked to speak at a Mr. McHale rally, he was greeted politely by Mr. McHale and allowed his turn at the microphone to say his piece. It was but a couple of weeks later at another rally that Mr. Powless assaulted Mr. McHale (he pleaded guilty to this offence in 2008). This was typical and telling — on the few occasions there has been violence at a McHale rally, it was not committed by him or his supporters, but rather by those who wish to deny him the right to speak.
While I grant you that the Caledoniawakeupcall website looks a little cartoonish, it is a well-documented (with original court files, newspaper stories, etc) site, and the cartoonish aspect does not accurately reflect the serious nature of the organizers.
I’ve come to know Mr. McHale quite well, Mr. Kinrade and Mr. Vandermaas a little, and have found them always to be fierce advocates only of freedom of speech and non-violent civil disobedience. I think it is just a little ironic that at a time when George Galloway’s supporters (including university professors) are arguing he should be allowed to enter Canada and speak — and I agree with them and have said so publicly — another professor is advocating censoring Gary McHale et al.” (Personal communication from Christie Blatchford, April 28, 2010).