(Click here to see Gary’s contribution to Caledonia in words & images.)
Gary McHale has been a full time Civil Rights Advocate volunteer working to stop violence and OPP racially-based policing in Haldimand County since October 2006 although he began documenting the crisis via his now-famous CaledoniaWakeUpCall website in June of the same year.
He is the youngest of six boys, three of whom were born in Caledonia while his father worked in the town’s gypsum mine. Gary grew up in a small farming community outside Napanee and for years got up at 5:30 a.m. to milk the cows before school. In the summer time his work also included haying and bringing in the grain from the fields
Gary is 48 years old and has been married for 29 years to wife Christine who he met in high school in St. Catharines. After graduation Gary started a computer programming business developing and supporting taxation, payroll and accounting software. He has been a small business owner for the past 30 years. He is also a world-class wildlife photographer who has travelled extensively with wife Christine to capture images for their series of interactive wildlife CD ROM’s which they were about to take to market prior to becoming involved in the Caledonia issue. Despite having invested countless hours and funds in the design and production of the series the McHales put their business plans on hold to dedicate their time to oppose racially-based policing in Haldimand.
Gary attended a Baptist Seminary and has been a deacon in the church, and preached and/or taught in various churches in Ontario. He has also authored several Christian books. His activism in Caledonia arises out of his deeply-held religious belief that he as a Christian has a duty to speak out against the injustices of race-based policing.
When Gary first heard about the injustices of race-based policing in Caledonia in April 2006, he had to look at a map to find out where Caledonia was located. He and his wife Christine lived in a snug, upscale condominium north of Toronto getting ready to market their wildlife CD’s after remortgaging their home to invest in equipment for the business.
If anyone had a good ‘reason’ not to get involved, it was the McHales. But, Gary didn’t make excuses as to why he shouldn’t speak out for people he didn’t know about an issue that didn’t affect him directly. He built what would eventually become THE website for people and organizations seeking information about the Caledonia situation, eventually being recognized for his work by the prestigious Ryerson Review of Journalism. Despite living a world away, he drove from his then-home north of Toronto to speak out for, and stand with, the innocent victims of Caledonia, and he has continued to do so at great personal cost.
Who or what inspires Gary McHale?
In order to understand Gary McHale, one must understand who has influenced his thinking. In addition to his Christian beliefs he has been very much inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King.
I think I should indicate why I am here In Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” …
But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds. [...]
Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
Gary believes that we are called by a power greater than ourselves that imposes upon us a duty to speak out and act when we witness injustices that shock the conscience – just as Caledonia shocked his, and Birmingham shocked Dr. King’s. The question that should be posed, he believes, should not be ‘Why have you spoken out?’ but rather, ‘Why have others not done so?’
Click here to see the extraordinary story of Gary’s contributions to Caledonia in words and pictures during the past four years.