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Dudley George, shown in this 1993 photo, was shot and killed when police fired on natives occupying Ipperwash park. The photo shows George at what is claimed to be the sacred Indian burial ground that caused the standoff. (CP Photo) 1996 (Port Huron Times Herald/Tony Pitts)

In Depth

Ipperwash

The Ipperwash inquiry

Last Updated May 31, 2007

Justice Sidney Linden, commissioner of the inquiry into the death of native protester Dudley George in September 1995, ruled in May 2007 that the OPP, the government of former Ontario premier Mike Harris and the federal government all bear responsibility for events that led to his death.

The inquiry findings were released nearly 12 years after an Ontario Provincial Police sniper killed George as police moved in on unarmed protesters occupying Ipperwash Provincial Park. But the dispute between aboriginals and the government goes back decades.

The dispute goes back to 1942. It was wartime and the federal government expropriated land belonging to the Stony Point band under the War Measures Act in order to build a military camp - Camp Ipperwash. In the years following, the band tried to get the land back, claiming it contained a burial ground destroyed when the camp was built.

Shortly after the war ended, the Department of National Defense said it was willing to return most of the land as long as it could lease back what it still needed for the military base. The offer was later withdrawn.

By 1972, tensions were rising. According to the federal minister of Indian Affairs of the time – Jean Chrétien – the Stony Point band had waited patiently for a resolution but was beginning to run out of patience. Chrétien suggested in a memo to then defence minister, James Richardson, that if the land was not going to be returned, the band should be offered another piece of land as compensation.

Twenty years later, there was still no resolution. In 1993, Stony Point band members began moving back on to the land. The military withdrew in September 1995, when another group of Stony Point natives marched onto the base.

It was then that a group of about 30 protesters built barricades at nearby Ipperwash Provincial Park to underline their land claim and to protest the destruction of the burial ground. Dudley George was one of the group's leaders.

There's no agreement on what happened next. The Ontario Provincial Police moved in on the protesters to remove them from the park. The police say they had no choice but to draw their guns because the protesters were armed; the protesters say the opposite, that they were unarmed and that police - dressed in riot gear - used unnecessary force. And they pointed the blame squarely at then-premier Mike Harris, claiming he issued the go-ahead order for the police to rush the barricades in a nighttime raid.

Either way, Dudley George did not survive the raid. He died on Sept. 6, 1995, after being shot by acting Sgt. Kenneth Deane of the OPP. In 1997, Deane was convicted of criminal negligence causing death after a court ruled he did not have a "reasonable belief" George was armed. Deane later resigned from the force.

Native groups called for an official inquiry into George's death, but the Progressive Conservative government of the time resisted, saying it had nothing to do with police actions that day.

On Nov. 12, 2003, just days after the Liberals swept to power in a general election, Dalton McGuinty announced his government would launch a public inquiry into the matter.

The original land claim - the reason protesters occupied Ipperwash Park in the first place - was settled in 1998. Under the $26-million agreement, the land occupied by the former military installation was to be cleaned up and returned to the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation. As well, every member of the band was to receive between $150,000 and $400,000 in compensation.

On Oct. 2, 2003, George's family dropped a lawsuit against Harris after reaching a settlement with the Ontario Provincial Police. The agreement included a $100,000 payment for George's family.

In January 2004, CBC News obtained surveillance videotapes taken by police officers in September 1995, one of which contains racist remarks made by police officers the day before George's death.

Representatives of George's family say the attitude the officers had toward natives "makes it pretty easy to shoot an Indian."

The OPP said it didn't condone the remarks and that the two officers recorded on the tape had been disciplined. One was sent to sensitivity training; the contract of the other officer was not renewed.

On April 20, 2004 - more than eight years after the death of Dudley George - a public inquiry into the events surrounding his death opened. Seventeen groups and individuals were granted standing for the first part of the inquiry, giving them the right to call and cross-examine witnesses.

The evidence-gathering part of the inquiry stretched from 2004 through to 2006 and heard from more than 100 witnesses. Allegations of intolerance and impatience at the highest levels surfaced many times. But the biggest bombshell came from former attorney general Charles Harnick in November 2005. Harnick testified that former premier Mike Harris said "I want the f****** Indians out of the park," during a high level meeting about the Ipperwash occupation just hours before the fatal shooting of Dudley George. When Harris appeared at the inquiry in February 2006, he denied using that language.

The Ipperwash inquiry ended in August 2006 with final arguments from the lawyers. Linden delivered his final report May 31, 2007.

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RELATED

CBC stories

Harris government, OPP errors led to Ipperwash death, inquiry finds (May 31, 2007)
Ipperwash findings to be released May 31 (April 27, 2007)
Ipperwash inquiry ends (Aug. 24, 2006)
Ipperwash inquiry hears final arguments (Aug. 21, 2006)
Testimony wraps up at Ipperwash inquiry in Ontario (June 28, 2006)
Crash kills police officer who shot native protester at Ipperwash (Feb. 26, 2006)
Harris says he wouldn't change Ipperwash response (Feb. 20, 2006)
Harris denies ever using profane slur against natives (Feb. 15, 2006)
Harris says he knew Ontario's boundaries in fatal Ipperwash clash (Feb. 13, 2006)
Angry Harris wanted protesters out of Ipperwash: former official (Nov. 28, 2005)
'Redneck' government was anti-Indian, Ipperwash inquiry hears (May 19, 2005)
Harris wanted protesters out of Ipperwash (May 17, 2005)
'Oddities' in Ipperwash tapes to be investigated (Feb. 6, 2004)
Critics say new Ipperwash tape reveals racist attitudes (Jan. 21, 2004)
Racist comments by Ontario police caught on videotape (Jan. 20, 2004)
Ipperwash videotapes to be released (Aug. 21, 2003)
OPP officer who shot Dudley George resigns (Sept. 23, 2003)
Letter suggests secret agenda in Ipperwash standoff (Sept. 4, 2002)
Ontario premier files $15 million libel suit (Feb. 20, 2002)
OPP officer fired over Ipperwash shooting (Jan. 18, 2002)
Ontario premier begins testifying in wrongful death suit (Nov. 21, 2001)
Ontario citizens shouldn't pay premier's legal bills, says NDP (Mar. 27, 2001)
Ontario ombudsman wants Ipperwash inquiry (Sept. 18, 1999)
Lawyer claims new evidence in Ipperwash shooting (Sept. 15, 1999)
Government offers Ipperwash settlement (June 17, 1998)

External Links

The Ipperwash Inquiry - Final Report
The Ipperwash Inquiry
Amnesty International backgrounder on Dudley George
Ipperwash Provincial Park

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