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Dudley George Inquiry 2 (2005)

Ontario gov't mum on Ipperwash burial ground

Dudley George

TORONTO (CP) - The Ontario government decided against mentioning that Ipperwash Provincial Park was being claimed as a burial ground in applying for a court injunction to evict natives occupying the land, according to notes taken by a provincial lawyer on the day Dudley George was shot dead.

The handwritten notes were taken by the lawyer with the Attorney General's Ministry as police and top political figures discussed getting an emergency injunction.

"We will not mention burial grounds," the lawyer cited an as-yet unidentified speaker as saying during the meeting on Sept. 6, 1995.

The notes also indicate the deputy attorney general warned the cabinet of former premier Mike Harris "about rushing in" with a special injunction.

"But premier and (then-natural resources minister Chris) Hodgson came out strong," the notes say.

First filed with the courts during civil-suit hearings that were later abandoned, the documents have also been filed with the public inquiry looking into George's death but have not yet been subject to any examination at the hearings.

Murray Klippenstein, a lawyer for the family, said Thursday his clients chose to put the documents on their new website to add context to testimony given at the inquiry over the past few days.

"What we're doing is tying things together," Klippenstein said in an interview.

Deputy commissioner John Carson, who was the incident commander on the scene at the time, has testified at the inquiry in Forest, Ont., that police would normally have required a court order before removing the natives.

The notes indicate that on the morning of Sept. 6, 1995, a senior government lawyer said there were no grounds for what is known as an "ex-parte injunction."

Klippenstein said knowing that the occupied land was a burial ground would have been an important piece of information for the court to consider in making a decision on the injunction.

However, later that afternoon, after a meeting on Ipperwash at which Harris was present, that changed.

That same night, even before they could obtain the injunction, police moved in on the park and George was killed.

The George family has long argued police abandoned their usual wait-see approach under direct political pressure from the premier's office.

Harris has strenuously denied exerting any pressure on police to evict the natives, and his lawyers have challenged the accuracy of the notes.

Harris's lawyer, Peter Downard, was not immediately available to comment Thursday.

The notes also cite Harris's top aide, Deb Hutton, as saying the premier wanted the natives out quickly even though police argued there was no rush because the park was closed.

"Premier feels the longer they occupy it, the longer more support (the protesters) will get," the notes read.

"He wants them out in a day or two."

In response, Ron Fox, then a police liaison with the Ministry of the Solicitor General, noted the issue was a land dispute that involved "mischief - not a 'heavy-duty' charge,'" and urged a more moderate approach.

"Feels it's imprudent to rush in," the notes state.

Fox is scheduled to testify at the inquiry at the end of the month.

In testimony Thursday, Carson said Ontario Provincial Police officers posed as campers in the park for more than a month to monitor the actions of native occupiers in the area.

"We had a couple of officers who literally camped in Ipperwash for the month of August," Carson testified.

"The campsite moved several times to give the impression of people leaving and people coming, as campers do."

Commission counsel Derry Miller asked Carson if he was aware some of the occupiers knew or were at least suspicious about the presence of undercover police.

"I would question that," Carson replied.

Carson is expected to comment on the shooting of George early next week, which is also when audio tapes of conversations between Carson and a colleague at the Ontario legislature are expected to be released.

Originally slated to be released this week, the tapes have been labelled by some lawyers as "explosive" and are said to explain why George was killed.

Ipperwash main actors await OPP commander's testimony

FOREST, ON -- When Deputy OPP Commissioner John Carson returns to the Ipperwash inquiry's witness chair this morning, the main actors in the long-running saga will be waiting with acute interest.

None more so than former Ontario premier Mike Harris.

Mr. Carson commanded the provincial police unit whose late-night foray into native-occupied Ipperwash provincial park in 1995 ended in disaster, with one unarmed Indian shot dead and two wounded.

Since then, unravelling the tangle of events has become a mini-industry in this corner of Southwestern Ontario. The OPP sniper who killed Anthony (Dudley) George was convicted of criminal negligence causing death; assorted lawsuits have been filed; thousands of news stories and television clips have been aired; last July, overseen by Mr. Justice Sidney Linden, the much-awaited inquiry finally got under way.

Yet one ugly question lingers: Who was ultimately responsible for the heavy-handed, seemingly hasty police action? Absent any clear signs of an emergency, why didn't police follow the guidelines of every crisis-management seminar and simply contain the situation and wait things out?

Tape recordings expected to be played at the inquiry this morning may provide answers. Conversations between Mr. Carson and OPP colleague Inspector Ron Fox, who served at Queen's Park as police-government liaison on aboriginal issues, could either support or undercut the Dudley George camp's view that the violence reflected political pressure from the premier's office. Now retired from politics, Mr. Harris has always strenuously rejected that charge, insisting the OPP's operation at Ipperwash had nothing to do with him.

Court documents and exhibits filed at the inquiry, however, paint a picture of high-level interest in the events on the shores of Lake Huron almost 10 years ago.

Mr. George was fatally shot at around 11 p.m. on Sept. 6, 1995. About nine hours earlier, fresh from cabinet-level meetings, Insp. Fox spoke to Mr. Carson, also an inspector at the time and commander of the OPP's Forest detachment.

A partial transcript of that conversation shows Insp. Fox telling Mr. Carson that Mr. Harris believed "he could direct the OPP and the actions it would take in regard to the park occupation."

At another point in the same conversation, Insp. Fox informed Mr. Carson that the government was "questioning the actions of the OPP in not preventing the take-over of the provincial park."

Court records show that on the same day -- Sept. 6 -- Insp. Fox had another conversation, this time with Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat lawyer Julie Jai.

He had just come from a meeting in Mr. Harris's office, dealing specifically with Ipperwash, and he apprised Ms. Jai of the government's plan to seek an ex parte (emergency) court injunction ordering the occupiers out of the park.

Ms. Jai's notes of that conversation include this entry: Deputy attorney-general Larry Taman, she wrote, "cautioned about rushing in with an ex parte injunction, and can't interfere with police discretion, but Premier [Mike Harris] and [Minister of Natural Resources Chris] Hodgson came out strong."

Mr. Taman seemed well aware of the Premier's views. In a handwritten note the same day, he wrote: "AG [Attorney-General Charles Harnick] instructed by P [Premier Harris] that he desires removal within 24 hours."

If Mr. Harris was taking an uncompromising line, he appears to have adopted it at least a day earlier, just hours after the occupation began.

At about 11 a.m. on Sept. 5, the government's Interministerial Committee on Aboriginal Emergencies convened to discuss the unfurling crisis. On hand, along with Insp. Fox, was Deb Hutton, Mr. Harris's executive assistant.

Ms. Jai's account of that meeting, relayed in an e-mail to a colleague, includes the following remark: "The Premier's views are quite hawkish (Deb's words) and he would like action taken ASAP to remove the occupiers."

Down at Ipperwash, police were also apparently under strain.

Notes from a Sept. 5 briefing session at the OPP's ad hoc command centre record a general discussion about "Lots of political pressure -- strong in-House comments by Premier/Solicitor-General."

At the same meeting, the unidentified OPP note-taker shows Mr. Carson mentioning that police were feeling "heat from the political side."

OPP official to testify at Ipperwash inquiry

FOREST, ON - The highest-ranking police officer at Ipperwash Provincial Park the night unarmed aboriginal protester Dudley George was shot will begin testifying at a public inquiry Tuesday.

John Carson, now the deputy commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, was an acting superintendent and the incident commander on the scene at the time of George's 1995 death.

A public inquiry based in the small Ontario town of Forest, located about 250 kilometres west of Toronto, has spent 11 months hearing testimony as it tries to find out why an OPP officer shot George, and whether any political direction led the police operation to turn violent.

George was among a group of native protesters who had been occupying the park, claiming the land was the site of an ancient burial ground.

Ten days before police moved in on the natives, Carson mapped out a "peace plan" of how to move them out of the park. In it, he told his officers to act "gentlemanly" as they dealt with the activists.

Instead, officers moved in with violence.

George, 38, was the first aboriginal protester killed by Canadian police in a century.

The officer who shot him, acting Sgt. Kenneth Deane, was convicted of criminal negligence causing death and has since resigned from the OPP.

The shooting led to allegations that former Ontario premier Mike Harris had approved the use of force to clear up a frustrating situation.

Journalist Peter Edwards, who wrote a book about the Ipperwash affair, said Carson's testimony will shed light on any connection between politicians and the police operation.

"We have to know: Why did they call in the paramilitary group? Why did they call in people with submachine-guns, with metal-tipped bullets?

"We don't know that yet. [Carson] should be able to explain it."

Much of the testimony at the public inquiry to date has focused on the pain and anger the native community has felt in the decade since the Ipperwash incident.

Tuesday marks a turning point as senior police officers and politicians begin their testimony.

"Our focus is broader than the particular incident," said Derry Miller, commission counsel at the inquiry. "It's the circumstances leading up to it."

The inquiry still has as many as 100 witnesses to hear from, including Harris.

The former politician, who has always denied having any involvement in the affair, is expected to testify in July.

Probe to release 'explosive' tape

FOREST, ON - A controversial audiotape that has been described by lawyers for natives as "explosive evidence" in the killing of Dudley George is expected to be released today at the Ipperwash inquiry.

The tape apparently contains a telephone conversation between John Carson, the OPP officer in charge during the September 1995 standoff with natives at Ipperwash Provincial Park, and a colleague at Queen's Park at the time of Dudley George's shooting.

Lawyers for the Chiefs of Ontario and George family members attempted last fall to have the tape released at the judicial inquiry, but the request was rejected by Justice Sidney Linden.

The natives' lawyers argued the contents of the tape were so important that it should be released immediately. Sam George, a brother of Dudley's who heard the tape, has said it shows why his brother was killed.

Dudley George was shot Sept. 6, 1995, by an OPP officer during a nighttime clash between riot squad officers and natives occupying the park.

A group of natives took over the park two days earlier to protect a burial ground.

Release of the tape last fall was opposed by OPP lawyers, who said it needed to be released in the proper context.

Lawyers for former premier Mike Harris argued all evidence should be released if the tape was made public.

Investigators for the inquiry, which was appointed by Premier Dalton McGuinty shortly after he took office, have gathered more than 5,000 hours of audiotape and thousands of documents.

A recurring allegation has been that Harris intervened in the police operation at Ipperwash Provincial Park. Harris and his lawyers have vehemently denied the suggestion.

Carson, who is now the OPP's deputy commissioner -- its second-highest-ranking officer -- began his testimony at the inquiry yesterday.

He is slated to testify for another six days, the longest of any witness.

Before taking his oath, the lean, greying Carson walked over and shook hands with Sam George and his lawyer, Andrew Orkin.

Carson's arrival at the inquiry attracted the interest of national newspapers and television networks. It also brought out the senior lawyers for many of the 17 parties represented at the inquiry, including all three members of Harris's legal team.

With a dozen binders full of documents and notes beside him on the witness table, Carson was questioned yesterday about OPP actions in 1993 when natives first occupied Camp Ipperwash, land that was seized from the natives under the War Measures Act in 1942.

The position of the military was that it had legal title to the land and the OPP should enforce the Trespass Act.

But the advice of the Lambton Crown attorney was the Trespass Act did not apply to the base, Carson said.

He said he also studied the documents from the original appropriation of the land from the natives during the Second World War.

"There was good reason to understand how the Stoney Point people would have a strong belief or expectation that the property would be returned to them at some point in time," he said yesterday.

Carson also testified yesterday that he never saw any evidence of racism within the OPP when he was detachment commander at Forest.

Dudley George Estate and family members launch Website and Live Webcast of Ipperwash Inquiry

TORONTO, May 10 /CNW/[obsolete] is the new Dudley George/Ipperwash website created by the Estate of Dudley George and the Sam George group of family members to advise people of key developments and evidence as they arise at the Ipperwash Inquiry in Forest, Ontario.

The website provides a link to a live webcast of the Ipperwash Inquiry hearings.

"We hope that aboriginal peoples and others in Canada and elsewhere will access and witness the Inquiry hearings via this webcast," said Sam George.

"The police evidence is starting today. At long last, the public will hear the taped evidence of official conversations in the hours before our brother was shot by the OPP. We believe that Canadians will be saddened by some of the evidence they hear."

The website will also provide access to important official evidence as it becomes available at the Inquiry (starting with key official evidence from a senior OPP Office commencing his testimony today), and some analysis of that evidence from the George family members' perspective on an updated basis.

This webcast was requested by the Estate and George family members and facilitated by the law firms Klippensteins and Andrew J. Orkin, who have represented them since 1996 in their efforts to learn the whole truth about "Who killed Dudley George".

Technical services for this webcast are being provided by Interactive Netcasting Systems Inc of Vancouver, BC. All webcast revenues will be used to defray the costs of Internet distribution.

Family of native activist shot by police launches webcast of judicial inquiry

TORONTO - Family members of an aboriginal protester shot dead by Ontario Provincial Police a decade ago have launched a webcast of the judicial inquiry into the killing in hopes of reaching more Canadians.

The live webcast, available only with a paid subscription to defray the costs of the service, allows Internet users to watch the inquiry into the death of Dudley George at Ipperwash Provincial Park in September 1995.

Family members worry the judicial probe being held in Forest in southwestern Ontario is not easily accessible via normal media channels.

"We hope that aboriginal peoples and others in Canada and elsewhere will access and witness the inquiry hearings via this webcast," Sam George, brother of the slain activist, said in a statement.

Police shot Dudley George dead during an unarmed aboriginal occupation of the provincial park, the site of a native burial ground.

Members of the dead man's family called for years for a public inquiry, alleging police only moved in on the park because of pressure from then-Conservative premier Mike Harris.

Harris, who has always denied any political interference and is due to testify this summer, refused to call an inquiry.

That only happened after the current Liberal government took office in the fall of 2003.

Justice Sidney Linden, who is heading the inquiry that has gone on for seven months, opted to hold the hearings in Forest near where George was shot to be close to the community most affected.

However, the remote location has proven "a bit of a hurdle" to both interested members of the public and the media, said Murray Klippenstein, a lawyer for members of the George family.

"The family believes it would be ironic if the public inquiry they fought for and eventually got was itself not very public because it wasn't very accessible," Klippenstein said.

"They want to make it easy for people and for the news providers, who are the eyes and ears for the public, to have a look at this."

Webcasting live will allow viewers to make up their own minds as to what happened, he said.

Peter Rehak, a spokesman for the inquiry, said the webcast uses a video feed paid for by the inquiry and is available to any interested TV networks.

"We welcome as much attention as we can get," Rehak said. "It's a public inquiry."

He noted there has been strong regional media coverage of the proceedings, and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network regularly carries a synopsis.

The cost to view the webcast, accessible via a new website at, ranges from $1.95 a day for aboriginals and students to $3.95 a day for governments and corporations.

None of the money will go to the family, but will be used to offset the commercial cost of the service, Klippenstein said.

"The family had to spend several thousand dollars in equipment and start-up costs," he said.

At the inquiry Tuesday, provincial police Deputy Commissioner John Carson, who was the on-site commander at the time of the shooting, began what is expected to be a week of testimony.

Rehak said the change in the witnesses has garnered more interest from the national media.

Tensions high before Ipperwash standoff, officer tells inquiry

FOREST, ON - The deadly 1995 confrontation in which native activist Anthony (Dudley) George was killed was preceded by decades of tension between local whites and natives, the Ipperwash inquiry was told yesterday by the police officer who commanded the operation.

The friction was multifold, said Deputy Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner John Carson, who took over the OPP's Forest detachment in 1989.

There was entrenched resentment toward the mostly white provincial police within the nearby Kettle and Stony Point Indian Band.

Mr. Carson described trying to build bridges. "But I can't say I was successful."

There also was animosity between white cottage owners and natives over access to the sandy beaches of Lake Huron. Ipperwash Provincial Park, where Mr. George was killed by an OPP sniper, lies on its southeastern shore.

By the early 1990s, "some of the cottagers were losing faith in our ability to do our job," Mr. Carson said.

In 1993, in a prelude to the Ipperwash park occupation, a group of Kettle and Stony Point residents took over the nearby Canadian Forces Base, expropriated by the federal government in 1942 under the War Measures Act. (The military eventually abandoned the base; dozens of the protesters are still there, living in the barracks.)

Mr. Carson's testimony, which continues today, has been awaited with much interest, and not merely because he is the first OPP officer to testify in the 10-month inquiry.

His evidence also could prove crucial in explaining the chain of events that culminated in Mr. George's death.

Lawyers for the George family hope light will be shed on the role played by the Conservative government of former premier Mike Harris.

Tape-recorded conversations are anticipated in which Mr. Carson, who held the rank of inspector then, discusses the unresolved standoff with another senior OPP officer, Inspector Ron Fox.

A few hours before Mr. George was killed, and on the day before his death, Insp. Fox had attended high-level cabinet meetings where the Ipperwash crisis was discussed.

The content of those taped conversations could either reinforce or undercut Mr. Harris's long-stated insistence that he took no role in the OPP's decision to confront and fire upon the park's occupiers.

Mr. George, 38, was unarmed when he was slain by an OPP sniper who, in 1997, was convicted of criminal negligence causing death.

The circumstances leading up to the shooting, however, have never been clear. For years, Mr. Harris and the Tory party resisted calls for an independent inquiry into events.

The decision to hold an inquiry was one of the first announcements made by Premier Dalton McGuinty after the Liberals took power.

A range of diverse groups have been granted standing at the hearing, and more than 20 lawyers, along with a couple of dozen spectators, crowded into the Forest hockey arena yesterday where the inquiry is being held.

In earlier testimony, Andrew McCallum told the inquiry that, in his view, the medical care that Mr. George received after he was shot and rushed to hospital was as good as could be expected under the circumstances.

The wound inflicted by the bullet that tore into Mr. George's upper body was so severe that even a fully equipped trauma team could probably not have saved his life, Dr. McCallum said. As regional supervising coroner for eastern Ontario, he reviewed Mr. George's death two years ago.

Dr. McCallum gauged that Mr. George's vital signs likely ceased at least 20 minutes before he reached hospital in nearby Strathroy.