Toronto

Harris denies ever using profane slur against natives

Mike Harris denied Wednesday that he used a profane slur against natives as he again faced questions over his alleged description of aboriginal protesters during a meeting about the 1995 native occupation of a provincial park.

Mike Harris denied Wednesday that he used a profane slur against natives as he again faced questions over his alleged description of aboriginal protesters during a meeting about the 1995 native occupation of a provincial park.

Former Ontario premier Mike Harris

In his second day of testimony at the public inquiry into the shooting death of native protester Dudley George, Harris again denied he said, "I want the fucking Indians out of the park," during a meeting at the legislature just hours before George was killed by police in the Ipperwash clash.

Charles Harnick, his attorney general at the time of the protest, has testified at the inquiry that Harris made the statement. On Tuesday, Harris vehemently denied it and said he would never use profanity in such a meeting.

But Peter Rosenthal, lawyer for some of the natives who occupied the park, brought up an incident in 2004 when Harris admittedly used a profanity at a polling station when voting for the PC leadership race.

Harris suggested it was a different situation, that it took place at a Conservative party polling station and that the profanity was said to a man.

Harris was asked if he had ever used the phrase "fucking Indian." Harris said he was certain he never used the phrase.

Rosenthal then asked Harris if he considered the phrase to be a racist comment. Harris said it depends on the context, but agreed that the alleged statement about getting them out of the park would be racist.

Earlier in the day, Harris adamantly rejected comments by OPP officers who said the government wanted police to go in and "kick ass" to resolve the occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park in 1995.

Harris was speaking Tuesday on the second day of testimony at the public inquiry into the shooting death of native protester Dudley George at the park, which is in a remote area near Sarnia in southwestern Ontario.

Under cross-examination by lawyer Murray Klippenstein, Harris was questioned about a telephone call between OPP Inspectors Ron Fox and John Carson, in which Carson said the government wants the police "to kick ass" and arrest protesters.

Klippenstein asked Harris if that was the view of the government.

"I would say it's 100 per cent the wrong view," Harris testified.

Harris also testified he never said he wanted native protesters out of Ipperwash in 24 hours, despite a note by a senior government official to the contrary.

Harris was questioned about the note written by the deputy attorney general at the time of the occupation of the provincial park.

Harris denied he gave a specific time frame for his desire to have the protesters leave the park, saying he wanted them out as soon as possible.

Dudley George

Harris said he believed the only reference to 24 hours was when someone gave that period as the earliest an injunction could be obtained.

"I think the words that I used — 'as soon as possible' — I think that gives you a lot of latitude for one minute or if it was only possible in a month. You've got lots of latitude," Harris said.

Klippenstein asked if it was possible that Harris' recollection was wrong.

"No, I don't believe it is," Harris said.

Klippenstein represents George's estate and George Family Group.

Some people have blamed Harris, the Conservative premier at the time, for George's death and accused him of ordering police to use force to oust the protesters.

Harris has always maintained he never pressured police to quell the protest quickly by using force. On Tuesday, he stressed that at no time did he communicate directly with officers directing the operation.

The inquiry began in April 2004 and is being held in Forest, Ont., near where George was shot.

It has already heard from about 100 witnesses, including several police officers and former cabinet ministers.

George died on Sept. 6, 1995, after being shot by a provincial police officer.

He was among protesters who occupied the park two days earlier, claiming the land was the site of an ancient burial ground for the Stony Point band.

Native groups had tried for years to get a public inquiry into the shooting, but Harris and his Conservatives consistently refused.

Dalton McGuinty launched the inquiry only days after his Liberals swept to power in 2003.

The inquiry's commission, led by Justice Sidney Linden, is expected to deliver its final report sometime in late 2006.