Friday, June 01, 2007


Finally! After years of examining the 1995 death of native protester Dudley George at an Ontario provincial park, commissioner Sidney Linden laid blame on Thursday for the fatal shooting on the police and governments.

This doesn't mean all is well.

"What is missing is a clear commitment from the federal government and the provincial government to implement the findings," said Phil Fontaine, chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

Fontaine also said the report from the Ipperwash inquiry showed the need for Canadians to be educated about the long history of land claims "for a greater understanding and respect between our peoples."

"Canadians should understand that this is not something that we ever wished upon ourselves or brought on ourselves," Fontaine said.

Dudley George was fatally wounded by a police sniper on September 6, 1995 when the Ontario Provincial Police attacked a small group of unarmed protestors occupying Ipperwash Provincial Park.

The protest began in 1993 when Indigenous people from Stoney Point, Ontario occupied part of a military base that had been built on land appropriated from them in World War II.

Two years later roughly a dozen protestors, including elders and children, moved into the neighbouring Ipperwash Provincial Park which contained an unprotected burial ground.

Although there was little apparent threat to public safety, the police responded to the occupation of the park with violent force that left one man dead.

On September 6, 1995 more than 30 Ontario Provincial Police officers charged the protestors at Ipperwash Park. The riot squad was backed by snipers armed with submachine guns.

Cecil George, a band councillor, was badly beaten. Sixteen-year-old Nicholas Cottrelle and 38-year-old Dudley George were shot. Cecil George and Nicholas Cotrelle survived. Dudley George died that night.

The police and the Government of Ontario stated immediately after the shooting that the Indians had fired on the police and the police had returned fire. That was a lie. In response to a query by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions in Geneva, the federal government repeated the misinformation about the protesters firing on police.

In its 1997 Annual Report on Human Rights, Amnesty International states that the killing of Dudley George "took place in circumstances suggestive of an extra-judicial execution"

In 1999, the United Nations Human Rights Committee called for "a thorough public inquiry...into all aspects of this matter, including the role and responsibility of public officials."

Dudley's brother Sam George said Friday, "I am asking the people of Ontario through their government to make the commitment in the next few days to return the 109 acres of what was the Ipperwash Provincial Park to full native control." This is the land at the heart of the original protest.

The investigating commission also recommended the protested land be returned to First Nations control, something Sam George said was promised in an 1827 treaty with the federal government.

"Dudley died because that promise was broken, but he passed that task to me and I am repeating his request," George said.

The commission report concluded "the most urgent priority is for the federal government to return" the land to local native bands "immediately."

Commissioner Sydney Linden stated that "Ipperwash is important because it helps us
understand the roots and dynamics of an Aboriginal occupation. The Aboriginal
occupation at Caledonia proves that Ipperwash was not an isolated event.
Understanding Ipperwash can help us to understand how to prevent Aboriginal
occupations and protests in the first place, or how to reduce the risk of
violence, if they do occur.

The following is from the Regina Post.

Shooting blamed on police, governments

FOREST, Ont. -- After years of examining the 1995 death of native protester Dudley George at an Ontario provincial park, commissioner Sidney Linden laid blame on Thursday for the fatal shooting on the police and governments.

And as Ontario's aboriginal affairs minister offered apologies, the commissioner in charge of the Ipperwash Inquiry said: "The most urgent priority is for the federal government to return" the land to local native bands "immediately."

In Ottawa, federal Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice pledged to fulfill Linden's recommendation. "We'll do something immediately," he told reporters following question period on Thursday.

"I've made it very clear we intend to transfer the land back to the First Nation. It has to be done in an orderly way, though, where it is safe," Prentice said, citing environmental and other concerns that need to be resolved.

Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer Ken Deane shot George on Sept. 6, 1995, two days after protesters occupied Ipperwash provincial park.

"There is no doubt that OPP acting Sgt. Deane shot and killed Mr. George and nothing in the inquiry challenges or undermines this conviction," Linden said Thursday. "However, acting Sgt. Dean should not have been in a position to shoot Mr. George in the first place."

Linden, whose inquiry began in 2003, said George's death occurred as result of a deadly mix of aboriginal frustration over decades of broken federal promises related to confiscated land, the provincial government's desire for a quick end to the park occupation and errors and miscommunications on the part of the OPP.

In the Ipperwash case, which is unresolved, Linden concluded Ottawa's refusal to honour its pledge to return native lands confiscated in 1942 for use as a military base meant the issue "festered for decades" as aboriginal frustration grew.

In 1995, a long-term occupation of an abandoned military base spread to neighbouring Ipperwash Provincial Park on the shores of Lake Huron, the site of a native burial ground.

"The flashpoints for aboriginal protest and occupations are very likely as intense today as they were at the time of Ipperwash," Linden said. "No one can predict where protests and occupations will occur, but the fundamental conditions and catalysts sparking such protests continue to exist in Ontario, more than a decade after Ipperwash. If the governments of Ontario and Canada want to avoid future confrontations they will have to deal with land and treaty claims effectively and fairly."

In Ottawa, Prentice noted the disputed land should have been transferred back to the Stoney Point First Nation years ago, and he apologized that previous governments failed to do it. While Linden exonerates former Ontario premier Mike Harris of allegations he interfered in police operations, he finds Harris did push for a "speedy conclusion" to the conflict.

"The premier could have urged patience rather than speed. These decisions effectively foreclosed the possibility of initiating a constructive dialogue with occupiers or others on ways to end the occupation peacefully."

Linden also concluded Harris had made racist comments, stating he wanted the "f--cking Indians out of the park" during a meeting with senior officials.

Harris denied making the remark when he testified at the inquiry.

Sam George, the brother of the slain protester, called upon Harris to apologize for his role in the protester's death. "We wonder if it might be appropriate for Mr. Harris at this time to apologize to my family," George told reporters.

Peter Downard, a lawyer representing Harris, said the commissioner's report made it clear "that no apology is required." Harris "didn't do anything wrong to effect the death of Dudley George," the lawyer said.

© The Leader-Post (Regina) 2007

No comments: