OPP keeping mum on action over toll booth

Peggy Revell

The OPP is not publicly speculating on its course of action should Couchiching First Nation go ahead with plans to erect a toll booth on Highway 11 just west of the Noden Causeway starting at noon tomorrow.
“We’re not going to speculate yet that the booth is going to be up until the booth [goes up],” local OPP Cst. Anne McCoy said late this morning.
“Couchiching is continuing to invite us to community meetings and band council meetings in order to keep us up to date with the most current information [and] their decisions as the days progress towards Friday,” she noted.
Cst. McCoy said the OPP will continue to stay apprised of the situation as it progresses.
“We have plans in place should there be a toll booth erected but we’re not going to speculate at this time, until the booth is actually in place, as to what role the police will have,” she remarked.
At this point, the OPP will continue to maintain its presence at the information slowdown along Highway #11, which was scheduled to continue today.
The slowdown consists of band members handing out information pamphlets outlining the reason behind the toll booth—namely seeking compensation for the land Highway #11 sits on as well as swifter action on the contaminated soil at the site of the former J.A. Mathieu sawmill.
“Public safety is a priority with the OPP,” Cst. McCoy stressed, noting the role of the OPP is to protect the public and keep the peace.
“We always will respect the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” she said.
“And we’re going to encourage all parties that are involved—so whether it’s the local communities that are involved in the area of Couchiching and Fort Frances and Watten Township and etc., the other First Nation communities, the other municipalities—we’re expecting protesters and citizens to remain peaceful, respectful, and to obey the law.”
The police have to do their job, Cst. McCoy remarked.. But if there is a circumstance where there is a violation of the law, the OPP recognizes that each circumstance is different and there is officers’ discretion.
“But at this point, we can’t speculate on what potential future violations will be,” she stressed.
She noted that for where the OPP has jurisdiction, officers have been briefed and have been trained whether if “the laws have been broken, what the reasonable prospects for convictions are, and if charges will be laid.”
“But we’re always going to take into consideration risk to the public, and officer safety, and will try to maintain the safety of the public as our primary goal,” Cst. McCoy vowed.
In related news, monthly passes for the toll booth will not be available at the C&C Complex and Great Bear, as the band originally had stated in yesterday’s article in the Fort Frances Times.
Passes also will not be available at the Couchiching multi-use facility throughout today, although the band will be accepting toll exemption applications for immediate family of band members who are non-status.
Locations where the monthly toll passes will be available have yet to be confirmed.
Couchiching First Nation has said it will post all the up to date information on the planned toll booth at www.tollboothinitiative.com