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Crown stays mischief charge against Caledonia, Ont., activist Gary McHale

Wed Apr 21, 3:38 PM

By The Canadian Press

HAMILTON, Ont. - The Crown stayed a charge Wednesday against a man it still contends was attempting to incite civil disobedience at a protest against an aboriginal occupation in Caledonia, Ont.

Gary McHale was charged in December 2007 with counselling mischief not committed over a protest in Caledonia that month that turned violent.

In court in Hamilton, the Crown said it was "mindful of the court time that will be required" for the case, as the preliminary inquiry - which began in November 2008 - was not yet finished.

A Crown attorney said Wednesday that even though it is still the Crown's position there is a "reasonable prospect of conviction" it would stay the charge.

The Crown accused McHale of being behind various confrontations involving First Nations people who occupied a building site as well as town residents and police.

Aboriginal protesters have been occupying the former housing development site since February 2006.

During a protest on Dec. 1, 2007, the Crown alleged McHale encouraged a longtime resident of the community to organize a road blockade outside an aboriginal smoke shack and not to move it when police asked.

"Mr. McHale's urging of Douglas Fleming to ignore police requests and to take further steps to block the road only served to increase the volatility of an already dangerous situation unfolding that day," Crown attorney Brent Bentham said in court.

At one point during the preliminary inquiry, McHale, who represented himself, called Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino to testify and grilled him on the stand.

Fantino, while on the stand in April 2009, accused McHale of being an agitator who provoked confrontations and baited police.

"But for you, Caledonia would have been a relatively peaceful place," Fantino said.

McHale, who at that time lived in the Toronto area but has since moved closer to Caledonia, maintains the non-natives in town who wanted to speak out were being silenced.