Provincial police are taking some heat for a series of unexpected house calls. At least seven anti-nuclear dump activists were visited at home before they presented at federal review panel hearings in Kincardine.
While the visits were unnerving for some, the OPP are calling it proactive policing.
The visits are in addition to a strong police presence at the nuclear waste hearings taking place in Kincardine, where the security is evident both outside and inside as well, with several guards on hand.
But keeping the peace at these contentious hearings over plans to bury nuclear waste near Lake Huron actually started weeks ago when OPP officers dropped by the homes of at least eight planned presenters.
Beverly Fernandez, spokesperson for Stop the Great Lakes Dump, was one of them.
“They were pleasant and calm, but yes I would say unnerving, absolutely."
She says officers asked whether her group was planning any protests at the hearings. At least six other anti-dump activists and one pro-dump presenter were visited by the OPP's liaison team.
The team was created in the wake of the Caledonia protest back in 2006 to try and head off trouble before it begins.
South Bruce OPP Const. Kevin Martin says “Anywhere we may encounter, shall we say, passionate views one way or the other, we would like to have a rapport beforehand going in there, so we're able to mediate and hopefully keep the peace in a very calm way."
But that's not how everyone sees it. Some nuclear dump opponents say officers must decide whether they are part of the Ontario Provincial Police or the ‘Ontario Political Police.’
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley says "It is inappropriate in Ontario for police forces to be approaching citizens to say that ‘We understand you’re speaking at hearings, and we want to know more about you.’ That just is not acceptable."
Fernandez says she wasn't intimidated by the police visit, but still found it inappropriate.
“They’re just ordinary citizens and they’re making a presentation and now they get a visit from the police, well what does that lead one to believe?"
Martin says "We are absolutely neutral. We are in it for the Province of Ontario. We protect everybody equally and this is just a proactive way of doing that."
So far there have been no protests or demonstrations at the hearings, but if the review panel gives Ontario Power Generation the green light to move forward with the plan all bets may be off.