Canada

BLOOD AND LAND

In 1995, a standoff between natives and police left one protester dead at Ontario’s Ipperwash Provincial Park. The confrontation is far from over.

BARBARA WICKENS December 3 2001
Canada

BLOOD AND LAND

In 1995, a standoff between natives and police left one protester dead at Ontario’s Ipperwash Provincial Park. The confrontation is far from over.

BARBARA WICKENS December 3 2001

BLOOD AND LAND

Canada

In 1995, a standoff between natives and police left one protester dead at Ontario’s Ipperwash Provincial Park. The confrontation is far from over.

BARBARA WICKENS

Viewed from the silky white sands of Ipperwash Beach, Lake Huron seems as vast as an ocean—only there’s no tang of salt in the air. Even though it’s unseasonably warm for November, the beach is deserted. Gone are the hordes of visitors who from Victoria Day to Labour Day flock to what the region’s tourism boosters call Ontario’s “West Coast.” Gone too are the cottagers, who have shuttered their summer dwellings, whether modest, paint-flaking shanties or brick-clad monster homes. The only sound is the waves pounding the beach.

In the midst of such serenity, it’s difficult to recall the strife that tore apart the area a little over six years ago. Only a gaptoothed snow fence cutting across the beach stands as a reminder. Anyone is free to walk—or even drive—on the south side of the fence. But north of it is a no-go zone. The only people who tread there now are local Chippewa known as Stoney Pointers. In 1993, they occupied a nearby military base, built during the Second World War on seized na-tive land that was | never returned. &

On Sept. 4, 1995, ß the Stoney Pointers upped the ante by occupying the adjacent Ipperwash Provincial Park—established in 1936 on what was once also native land—which contains an ancient burial ground.

The Ontario Provincial Police were called to the park. In a sequence of events still never fully explained, about 250 heavily armed officers clashed violently with 35 native protesters during the dark evening hours of Sept. 6. The confrontation left one native, Anthony (Dudley) George, dead; ruined the career of Kenneth Deane, the acting sergeant who shot him; sparked demands from around the world for an inquiry into the Ontario government’s handling of the affair; and, as of last week, bestowed upon Mike Harris the legacy of being Ontario’s only sitting premier compelled to testify in a civil lawsuit.

That $7-million suit, launched by five of Dudley George’s siblings, is not about money, says Sam George, who has reluctantly taken on the role of group

spokesman. “We’ve always said we’d drop the suit if Harris would call an inquiry,” the soft-spoken George explains. “All we’ve ever wanted is to find out what happened to our brother that night.”

Although two other siblings also have plenty of lingering questions, they did not join in the lawsuit. Pierre George and his sister Carolyn—who drove the dying Dudley to hospital on that fateful night— have other priorities. Pierre’s main quarrel is with the OPP. Why, he asks, were there so many of them there that night? Why, since it was a peaceful protest, couldn’t they have waited until daylight to try to enter the park? And why, at the hospital, did police arrest him and Carolyn, throw them into separate jail cells, charge both with attempted murder—charges that were quickly dropped—and leave Dudley to die with no family by his side? “Where was their sense of humanity?” he asks.

The split in the George family in many ways mirrors rifts in the wider native community in the area, about 35 km northeast of Sarnia. Sam George lives with his wife, Veronica, on the Ketde and Stony Point band reserve, where he’s a social worker. His brother Pierre, who lives in nearby Forest, considers himself a member of the separate Stoney Point band, many of whom are still living in the park and the adjacent Camp Ipperwash. The two aboriginal communities are just a few kilometres apart and have close blood ties; the ideological chasm between them may be unbreachable.

It comes down to land, attitude, names. Kettle and Stony Point is a fine monicker—the problem is, Stony Point for all intents and purposes no longer exists. The land was lost over the years—to questionable developers, cottagers, the military, the provincial government. The Kettle and Stony Point band wants it back—through negotiation, maybe even purchase. The more activist Stoney Pointers have tried a more direct route.

In this charged atmosphere spelling makes a statement. The entity Ottawa recognizes, the Kettle and Stony Point band, goes without the “e.” The more activist Stoney Pointers differentiate themselves with a single letter. Both the federal government and the Ketde and Stony Point band consider the Stoney Point natives a splinter group. Not so, the activists

Although the natives are split, they agree on one thing: the land at the centre of the Ipperwash controversy contains a sacred burial ground

counter: historically they had their own leaders, institutions and land—and they occupied the base in an effort to take back that traditional domain. But natives on both sides agree on one thing; the land at the centre of the Ipperwash park controversy contains a sacred burial ground.

The history of the Chippewa in the area dates back more than 800 years to when they moved into the Great Lakes region from the east. Hunters and gatherers, the Chippewa migrated around the shores of Lake Huron. The arrival of Europeans changed everything. After epidemics and wars redrew the map, the Chippewa found themselves cut off from their U.S. territories. As a reward for Chippewa support in the War of 1812, the British negotiated a treaty with them in 1827, setting aside 10,000 hectares in southwestern Ontario, including 2,025 hectares divided between Kettle Point and Stony Point. In exchange, the Crown got 900,000 hectares. White bureaucrats seeking administrative efficiency lumped all the southwestern Ontario Chippewa reserves under one band council. But larger reserves successfully petitioned for their own band councils, and by 1919, only the Chippewa of Kettle Point and Stony Point shared a band council.

In the 20th century, the natural beauty of the Huron shore resulted in pressures for resort and cottage development. In 1927, speculators bribed band members into voting to sell them 32 hectares of prime Ketde Point beachfront property for $34 a hectare, even though Ottawa knew the land was worth more than three times

as much. The next year, speculators worked a similar scheme at Stony Point, buying 153 hectares. (The Indian Claims Commission ruled in 1997 that the natives had been cheated out of their Kettle Point land, but by then the cottagers weren’t about to budge—and even won a lawsuit brought by the natives.)

In 1936, the Ontario government got into the act, carving out Ipperwash Provincial Park from the Stony Point reserve land taken in the questionable deal eight years earlier. In 1937, park workers found human remains. But even though the Kettle and Stony Point band council sent repeated letters to federal and provincial officials asking to have that area fenced off, nothing was done. Then, during the Second World War, the department of national defence wanted a new training facility in the area. It invoked the War Measures Act in 1942 to forcibly move Stony Point residents down the road to Kettle Point and confiscate the remaining Stony Point land—with the promise of returning it when it was no longer needed.

By May, 1993, nothing had happened. And the natives finally got tired of waiting.

Qn the drive east from Ketde Point, the land is at first as level as anything on the Prairies, having been scraped flat by the retreating glaciers of the last ice age. Next comes the rolling countryside of Middlesex County, home to prosperous-looking farms and London, Ont. Beyond that, heading towards Toronto, the green spaces get smaller, the city sprawl bigger and traf-

fic heavier. Its a three-hour-plus drive— one that Sam George has done countless times in the past six years, often making the round-trip in a day. He put 109,000 km on his van in a single one-year period, he notes. While he has the support of his family, his employer and his community, its still been a strain; he developed diabetes and later ended up in hospital with a heart attack.

What keeps him going is the quest to learn more about his brothers shooting. While in Toronto, he may meet with his lawyer, Murray Klippenstein, and his small team, raise funds or try to keep the case in the public eye. “We had problems claiming Dudleys body at the hospital,” George recalls. “From that moment, we knew something wasn’t right.”

The 1997 conviction of the OPP’s Deane for criminal negligence causing death was only a minor victory, George argues. Deane never wavered in his testimony that Dudley George was armed when he shot the activist with a submachine gun. In his verdict, Ontario Court Judge Hugh Fraser told Deane “you are not an honest man”—and the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed his appeal. The OPP subsequently moved to expel him from the force; a hearing into his dismissal resumed last week. But, George notes, knowing who pulled the trigger doesn’t explain why the OPP was out in such force in the first place.

The answer to that question, George and others contend, is hidden at Queen’s Park. Harris has always strenuously denied he gave any directions to the OPP to clear the protesters out of Ipperwash. But not everyone takes that claim at face value. Calls for an inquiry have come from many sources, from the opposition Liberal and NDP parties to the UN Human Rights Committee, Amnesty International, and Ron Irwin, the former federal minister of Indian Affairs.

Harris has refused. The argument borders on the absurd: the premier says he

While the Ipperwash crisis at first ruptured the usually cordial relationship between natives and whites in the area, it was also a wake-up call

can’t do so as long as the George family’s suit is before the courts; Sam George says the suit would be dropped—if Harris called an open and fair inquiry. With no one blinking, the premier fought hard to escape testifying in court. Harris’s legal wrangling has so far cost Ontario taxpayers $700,000. Nevertheless, Harris spent two days last week answering questions from Klippenstein in closed-door sessions known as pretrial examination for discovery. He is scheduled to be back this week; George said he planned to attend all three days. “It’s painful to listen to,” he said, “but I want to be there.”

<«Aops, I missed it,” says John Byrne. He \ßstops, backs up, then points out a drainage ditch. It’s a seemingly ordinary culvert. But to Byrne, chief administrative officer of Lambton Shores (an amalgamation of five rural towns, including Forest and Grand Bend), it’s a symbol of a new spirit of co-operation between natives and non-natives: both groups are now actively maintaining the municipal ditch that runs through reserve lands before emptying storm water into Lake Huron.

There are other signs as well that the wounds of 1995 are being healed: a new community health centre on the Kettle and Stony Point reserve is run joindy by the municipality and the band council, and the two communities have successfully negotiated some land swaps. When cottagers call police at 3 a.m. to complain that joyriders are tearing up the beach, officers from either the local OPP detachment or the band’s own Anishinabek police force may respond, regardless of whether the perpetrators are white or native. Byrne says that while the Ipperwash crisis at first ruptured the usually cordial

relationship between natives and whites, it was also a wake-up call. “We all realized the need to be more sensitive,” he adds.

Still, progress is slow. In June, 1998, then Indian Affairs Minister Jane Stewart signed an agreement-in-principle to return Camp Ipperwash to the Kettle and Stony Point band as well as pay some $26 million for damages, healing and economic development. In return, the band was to stop any legal action relating to the 1942 forced move. Ottawa and the band were to work together in cleaning up the site. None of that has happened, and negotiations remain on-again, off-again. Meanwhile, the status of the park lands remains in limbo.

The Kettle and Stony Point band council would like to expand its land holdings, but if it tries to buy privately held land it could well bump into another impediment—the almighty American dollar. Instead of purchasing beachfront property on the Michigan side of Lake Huron, Americans have increasingly turned to the Ontario side. Local Re/Max real estate broker Ellen Cockshutt says Americans bought fully 75 per cent of the lakefront properties sold in the past five years, for anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000. “Instead of driving twice as far north in Michigan and paying twice the price,” she added, “they’re coming here.”

Regardless of what happens on the broader stage, what land deals are settled or even what the civil suit reveals, the George family still has to contend with its own private grief. “The last time my sister Pam moved,” Sam recalls, “she said, ‘This is the first time Dudley isn’t here to help.’ ” The Georges miss their brother, in countless ways—in spite of the gulf that divides them. ED