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Dudley George Inquiry (2005)

History of offensive message revealed at Ipperwash probe

Dudley George

FOREST, ON - Links in the chain connecting former premier Mike Harris to a demand to clear native occupiers from Ipperwash Provincial Park were revealed yesterday at the Ipperwash inquiry. Four people repeated the message "get those fucking Indians out of the park even if you have to draw guns to do it," before it came to Kettle and Stony Point Chief Tom Bressette on Sept. 6, 1995, just before native occupier Dudley George was killed by a provincial police sniper, the inquiry heard yesterday.

Robert Watts, a former assistant deputy minister with the federal government, said he was told it came from Harris and was presented at a high-level meeting by his aide Deb Hutton.

That meeting was attended by government employee Julie Jai, who told another employee, Leslie Currie, before it came to him, Watts said.

Jai and Currie were employed by the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat.

Currie had called Watts as a friend and told him of the demand, Watts testified.

He "almost immediately" telephoned the information to Bressette although it had his stomach churning, Watts said.

Harris's lawyer Peter Downard had demanded Watts name the person who called him, saying the "absolutely false allegation" has been used in personal and political attacks against Harris for over a decade.

Currie had been called "Witness X" in testimony yesterday before Watts was ordered to name her.

Bressette told the inquiry last week that after Watts called him he had contacted a Sarnia, Ont., radio reporter and the chief then went on the air to warn the protesters to get out of the park and begin negotiations.

Watts had promised not to reveal Currie's name. Shortly after the comment became public knowledge there was a "witch hunt" within the government for the person who passed on the comment, said Watts.

Justice Sidney Linden, who is presiding over the inquiry, asked Watts for his source's name.

"We need to track this down," said Linden.

James McDonald, a lawyer acting for Currie, had requested her identity not be revealed.


Chief given warning before George shot

FOREST, ON - Kettle Point chief Tom Bressette testified yesterday he was warned just hours before Dudley George was shot that premier Mike Harris had told a meeting: "Get those effing Indians out of the park even if you have to draw guns to do it." The warning was made to Bressette in a telephone call from Bob Watts, a former provincial employee, on Sept. 6, 1995, just hours before OPP officers marched on Ipperwash Provincial Park.

“Get those fucking Indians out of the park” -Harris

Bressette said Watts told him Harris had made the comment in "some kind of cabinet meeting."

When asked for the exact quote, Bressette declined, saying he didn't want to use swear words in relating what he was told the premier said.

The reported telephone conversation is the closest Harris has been tied at the judicial inquiry into the violent clash between natives occupying the park and the police.

Dudley George, one of the native occupiers, died after he was fired upon by an OPP officer.

Harris has always maintained he had nothing to do with the police action at the park.

Yesterday, Harris's lawyer, Peter Downard, said Harris will testify at the inquiry that he never gave such an order.

"It is not true, not for one second," Downard said outside the hearing.

He called the evidence of Harris's alleged instructions "very low-grade quality information that would ordinarily never see the light of day in a legal proceeding."

"I can tell you when the premier testifies that he is going to say very clearly that he did not say what is attributed to him," Downard said.

Bressette testified that Watts had learned about the premier's comments from someone inside the meeting.

He had told Watts he would keep his identity confidential, but Watts released him from the commitment a few months ago, he said.

Watts has been contacted by the inquiry and will be testifying about the comments, chief inquiry counsel Derry Millar said yesterday.

Watts is expected to be called to the inquiry next week. Before 1995, he had worked in the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat.

Bressette was so concerned when he heard the warning from Watts that he immediately called a Sarnia radio station and went on the air to tell natives occupying the park they should get out of there.

After the shooting of Dudley George, Bressette was part of a group of native leaders, including national chief Ovide Mercredi, who drove to Toronto to confront Harris.

When they arrived at his office, they were told the premier wouldn't meet with them, but they refused to leave, Bressette testified.

When Harris finally did walk into the room with Attorney General Charles Harnick, Bressette said it was strange.

"The first thing he said was 'Let me be very clear, I didn't tell anybody to kill anybody.' That was the first thing that came out of his mouth."

Bressette said Harris was leaning with his hands on a table and when he lifted his hands you could see the imprints on the table.

"That's how perspiring his hands were . . . he really looked nervous."

Harris just kept repeating he had nothing to do with the events at Ipperwash and it was a police matter, Bressette said.

In other developments at the inquiry yesterday, tapes of phone conversations between Bressette and the police commander during the Ipperwash occupation were played.

In one conversation the day before the shooting, Bressette is told by Acting Supt. John Carson that police wanted to avoid people jumping to the conclusion they were going to be "heavy handed."

"We're going to try and control the access to the park in the short term and they're going to have the opportunity to leave, but they are going to be dealt with as trespassers," Carson said.

In another call shortly after George was killed, Bressette asks why the police operation was done in the dark.

"Why isn't this being done in the daylight, John?" Bressette asks.

"Tom, I don't think this is the time to debate this," Carson replied.

After the shooting, Bressette said he had to keep world war three from breaking out in the community with elders afraid the police were going to attack.

He said there is still fear of the OPP today.


Harris plans to deny reports
Allegations about Ipperwash raised

'Fourth-hand' gun order questioned

FOREST, ON - Former premier Michael Harris will "absolutely" deny allegations that he told a high-level meeting at Queen's Park 12 hours before native protestor Dudley George was killed to "get those fucking Indians out of the park even if you have to draw your guns to do it," his lawyer says.

Lawyer Peter Downard was responding to evidence given to the Ipperwash inquiry yesterday by Kettle and Stony Point Chief Tom Bressette. Bressette said that around 11 a.m. on Sept. 6, 1995, he received a call from a contact at Queen's Park, who reported that he had learned about the alleged statements from another person who was at the meeting.

The inquiry is looking into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dudley George during a lethal confrontation between Ontario Provincial Police officers and about three dozen demonstrators who occupied the park after the close of the tourist season to protest the desecration of ancestral burial grounds in the park. Acting Sgt. Kenneth Deane was later convicted of criminal negligence causing George's death.

Bressette told Commissioner Sidney B. Linden that after receiving that call he contacted a local radio station and went on the air to warn the demonstrators to get out of the park.

Bressette identified the contact as Bob Watts, a former employee of the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat. Inquiry counsel Derry Millar said Watts has confirmed he made the call to Bressette. Watts is expected to testify.

Downard told reporters outside the inquiry that Harris had been tarnished with "very low-grade quality information that ordinarily would never have seen the light of day in a legal proceeding."

"All of the facts that we are aware of so far are at least fourth-hand," he said. "And I can tell you that when the premier testifies he is going to say very clearly that he absolutely did not say what was attributed to him."

The inquiry resumes this morning.


Harris to deny contentious comments

FOREST, ON - A lawyer for Mike Harris says the former premier will deny comments he's alleged to have made before a fatal 1995 confrontation between police and native protesters in Ipperwash park.

Lawyer Peter Downard was responding to evidence given to the Ipperwash inquiry yesterday by Kettle and Stony Point chief Tom Bressette.

Harris allegedly used an obscenity and said he wanted native protesters out of the park near Sarnia -- quote: "even if you have to draw your guns to do it."

Bressette said a contact from the legislature reported in September 1995 that he had learned about the alleged statements from another person who was at the meeting.

Harris is alleged to have made the comments at a high-level meeting at the legislature 12 hours before a native protester was killed.

The inquiry is looking into events surrounding the death of Dudley George, who was killed by an OPP officer in the confrontation.


Politics cited in native death
Chief says OPP said they were under pressure to get natives out of Ipperwash

FOREST, ON - High-ranking provincial police officers said at a meeting two days after protester Dudley George was slain that they were under political pressure to get native occupiers out of Ipperwash Provincial Park, an inquiry heard yesterday. Miles Bressette, chief of the Kettle Point native police force at the time, testified yesterday he attended a debriefing meeting Sept. 8, 1995, in Grand Bend after the fatal clash between OPP and natives.

The OPP at the meeting said there had been pressure from cottagers, people who camped in the area and "levels of government" to remove the protesters, Bressette said.

A group of natives moved into the park Sept. 4, 1995, to safeguard what they said was an ancestral burial ground.

Dudley George was killed by a police officer on Sept. 6, 1995, when OPP riot officers and members of the tactical team marched on the provincial park in the night.

In calling for the judicial inquiry into the killing, members of the George family have alleged the Ontario government ordered the police to remove the natives, a charge that was vehemently denied by former premier Mike Harris.

Bressette testified that OPP Chief Supt. Chris Coles, who has since retired, was at the Grand Bend meeting and may have been the one who mentioned the government pressure.

Although Ontario Provincial Police officers disclosed there was political pressure, they did not specify which levels of government were involved, Bressette said.

Under cross-examination by OPP lawyer Andrea Tuck-Jackson, Bressette agreed he didn't know if the police decision to march on the park was actually triggered by the government pressure.

Bressette said the OPP officers at the meeting were well aware there was potential for "extreme violence" after the killing of Dudley George and wanted to reassure natives they had no intention of trying to force them out of the nearby army camp.

Even after the shooting, cottagers and local politicians were pressuring the OPP to force the natives out of the park, Bressette said.

"There was still pressure, but the OPP were not going to respond to that," he said.

Bressette told the inquiry there had been tensions between the native police at Kettle Point and the Ontario Provincial Police.

He said in one incident after Kettle Point police ticketed non-natives for speeding, the local OPP commander warned him: "If your people are going to charge my people, I will send my people down to charge your people."

On another occasion, Bressette said he attended a meeting of police sergeants in Chatham where an OPP inspector, who was a native, was speaking.

Bressette said several sergeants said if their education had been paid for like his, they would be up there speaking instead.


Native police ignored

FOREST, ON - Local native police officers should have been consulted to help resolve a 1995 standoff between Ontario Provincial Police and native protestors before activist Anthony (Dudley) George was shot dead, an inquiry heard yesterday.

But Miles Bressette, former police chief of the Kettle and Stony Point band, told an inquiry into George's death that native officers weren't consulted when the OPP drafted their plan for dealing with the protest.

"I think I probably would have been able to help out," Bressette told Katherine Hensel, a lawyer for the public inquiry.

Bressette and Wallace Kaczanowski, an officer in the Kettle and Stony Point band police force, both testified yesterday that officers in their seven-member band police force knew the protestors, and might have been able to communicate with them. "I would think that would be a very good source of communications and a negotiating tool and that was overlooked," Kaczanowski testified.

Bressette also told the inquiry yesterday that at a de-briefing of police at Grand Bend on Sept. 8, 1995, senior OPP officers said there was political pressure to remove the protestors from the park after George was shot.

He didn't say which government or officials wanted the protestors removed or exactly when that pressure was applied.

However, he agreed with OPP lawyer Andrea Tuck-Jackson that there was no indication at the Sept. 8 meeting that police marched on the park late at night on Sept. 6 because of government pressure.

The inquiry continues before Mr. Justice Sidney Linden.


Local reaction to Ipperwash hearings focuses on police relations in Kenora

Ontario Regional Chief Charles Fox called for improved relations between First Nations and police during Ipperwash Inquiry hearings Thursday in Kenora.

Fox referred to the beating death of Max Kakegamic four years ago in the city as part of a list of high profile cases across Canada that have contributed to strained relations between aboriginal communities and law enforcement.

"Why is that particular issue there. How do we deal with that issue," asked Fox, as Kakegamic's parents looked on.

Ipperwash commissioners are investigating the shooting death of Dudley George in 1995, during a protest over land claims at a provincial park in southern Ontario.

The Kakegamic family continues to call for a public inquiry, in hopes that their son's killer can be found. While Kenora police arrested a suspect, the charges were stayed in court by the judge who cited misconduct by investigating officers.

"In Kenora, the First Nations people have every right to feel unsafe knowing the person responsible remains free to this day," said Treaty 3 Grand Chief Arnold Gardner.

Treaty 9 Grand Chief Stan Beardy noted everyone involved had a responsibility to ensure residents feel safe in Ontario, adding the Kakegamic family doesn't feel enough is being done to catch their son's killer.

Adding insult to injury, his mother, Margaret Kakegamic, said she recently received an invoice from the province demanding her late son pay an overdue fine. The bureaucrat refused to believe her son was deceased, which only made the situation worse, she added.

Mary Alice Smith, spokesman for the Anishinabe Peace and Justice Coalition in Kenora, said Kakegamic's killer would have been found by now if the victim had been the son of a prominent politician or business leader. She added she wasn't optimistic another public inquiry would help, saying another report wasn't likely to change things.

Treaty 3 recently embarked on a three-year research project, which is meant to lay the foundation for its own judicial system and reduce allegations of systemic racism in Kenora District.

Wabaseemoong First Nation Chief Ron Roy McDonald said he was very dissatisfied with police service provided to band members. The community of 800 is 90 minutes northwest of Kenora, but McDonald said he had received complaints of assaults by police against his members relating to all three area police services, the OPP, Treaty 3 Police Service and Kenora Police Service.

The chief called for direct action after he listed a number of other complaints. They included a lack of support by law enforcement agents in his campaign against solvent smugglers, the unsolved deaths of band members and a perception of conflict of interest relating to the province's Special Investigations Unit, which recently investigated the shooting death of a teenaged boy on nearby Grassy Narrows First Nation.

Treaty 3 Police Deputy Chief Wally McLeod said they had tried to arrange meetings with McDonald to discuss his concerns, but without success to date.

Kenora OPP detachment commander, Staff Sgt. Don Denver, also said it was the first he'd heard of these allegations by the chief against any of his officers, adding he hoped to arrange a meeting in the near future to address McDonald's concerns.

Treaty 3 Police Service is still in the process of taking over responsibilities from the OPP, as it moves to provide full aboriginal law enforcement to First Nations in Northwestern Ontario.

The police service, as well as the NeChee Street Patrol, were created in response to longstanding concerns in Kenora.


Sam George asks to testify in Toronto Ipperwash probe gets little press

Brother asks for temporary shift

FOREST, ON - The inquiry into the death of native activist Anthony (Dudley) George has been asked to shift public hearings briefly from this tiny town to Toronto, out of respect for George's older brother, Maynard (Sam) George.

Justice Sidney Linden said he'll decide by early next week on the request by Sam George to testify in Toronto, where his words might get a better hearing from government officials, the media and the general public.

Lead commission counsel Derry Millar yesterday said he supported George's request, in large part because of his respect for him. George fought for more than eight years for the inquiry to be held.

All the hearings to date have been held in the hockey rink in Forest, a 15-minute drive from Ipperwash Provincial Park on Lake Huron, where Dudley George was shot to death by Acting Sgt. Kenneth Deane of the Ontario Provincial Police on Sept. 6, 1995.

Elder Clifford George, 84, told the inquiry yesterday that he opposed the temporary move, saying many in the community would not be able to go for health or financial reasons.

"We don't have the money to travel here and there," said Clifford George, a second cousin and former neighbour of Dudley George.

Douglas Sulman, lawyer for former local Tory MPP Marcel Beaubien, objected strongly to moving the inquiry because of Sam George's request, saying this would lead to chaos while catering to Toronto-based media. The Toronto Star and Sarnia Observer have been the only media outlets to attend the majority of the daily hearings.

"If the CBC can broadcast from remote areas like Baghdad and Afghanistan, they certainly can broadcast from less remote areas like Forest and Walkerton," Sulman argued.


Promises frustrated Ipperwash natives

FOREST, ON - Government promises only delivered frustration to First Nations people trying to regain lost territory during the mid-1990s, the Ipperwash inquiry heard yesterday. "Frustration was always there," said Carl Tolsma, a Kettle and Stony Point native who devised a plan to occupy the former Ipperwash army camp in the spring of 1993.

The camp and the adjacent provincial park were regarded as native land unjustly taken by the federal government.

A 1980 federal government payment of $2.5M "wasn't a settlement of everything. It was back rent," he said.