Sam George urges return of Ipperwash land
Brother of slain protester says province must act quickly on inquiry recommendations
The brother of slain aboriginal protester Dudley George is calling on the Ontario government to make a commitment in the nextfew days toreturn Ipperwash Provincial Park to the Stoney Point First Nation.
Sam George led a tireless campaign that eventually resulted in a public inquiryinto the death of his brother, who was shot by an Ontario Provincial Police sniper in September 1995 as police moved in on about 30 unarmed First Nations protesters occupying the park.
"Can we agree, in the next week or so, to commit that those 109 acres [about 269 hectares]be returned to native people?" George asked reporters Fridayat the Ontario legislature in Toronto. "I think such a commitment would be a strong signal to people across the country, native and non-native, and that we could increase the trust and honour between us."
Healso warnedthe government could spark more occupations the longer it waits to act on recommendations by the inquiry into his brother's death.
"The longer they go on, that's when the blockades and protests start, because nobody's paying attention,"George said.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty saidit is too early to decide whetherthe province cangive back the land.
McGuinty said he understands the symbolism George is attaching to the land, but he wants more time to review the report of the public inquiry.
He added the government may be able to act on the request for the land "sooner rather than later."
George'scall comes a day after the final report on the inquiry found the government of former Ontario premier Mike Harris, Ottawa and the OPP all bore responsibility for events that led to George's death.
Commissioner Sidney Lindencalled for the disputed land to be returned immediately to the First Nations community, which he said should also receive compensation for the decades of neglect in settling the claim.
Lindenalsorecommended Ontario establish a permanent, independent and impartial agency to facilitate and oversee the settling of land and treaty claims.
Day of action to 'educate' Canadians on land claims
David Ramsay, Ontario's aboriginal affairs minister, said he's developing a plan to implementLinden's recommendations.
Ramsay also apologized to George's family on behalf of the province, but said the government must first consult with aboriginal leaders.
But Ontario NDP Leader Howard Hampton said he thinks the government has to move faster to head off demonstrations and blockades that native groups are threatening for next month.
The land at Ipperwash was expropriated for military use during the Second World War, with the pledge it would be returned.
In the more than 60 years following the action, the Stoney Point band tried to get the land back, claiming it contained a burial ground destroyed when the military camp was built.
George also said a planned First Nations day of action on June 29 can serve as a chance to build peace by educating Canadians about the history of land claims across Canada, including the one his brother died trying to protect.
"They'll see that there were land agreements and they were agreed to by both parties," he said.
With files from the Canadian Press