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Dudley George

Ipperwash Park to be site of portion of inquiry

Dudley George Part of the judicial inquiry into the police shooting of native protester Dudley George will be held in the area where George was killed eight years ago. Staff of the inquiry are scouting out possible hearing locations in the Ipperwash region, said Peter Rehak, who is handling communications for the inquiry.

"There will definitely be hearings in Toronto and there will be hearings out in the area. There are some consultations going on with people involved to see what a good location might be," he said yesterday.

Lawyers for the inquiry are currently evaluating more than 200,000 documents relating to the killing of George at Ipperwash Provincial Park, including trial transcripts and government documents, he said.

The inquiry, headed by Justice Sidney Linden, was called by the newly elected Liberal government Nov. 12 to inquire and report on the events surrounding the death of George, who was shot Sept. 6, 1995, as police moved in on a native protest at Ipperwash Provincial Park.

A simmering controversy since the killing has been the role played by then-premier Mike Harris in the police action.

Harris is expected to testify at the hearings.

The next step for the inquiry will be hearings into who will have "standing."

"Standing" allows individuals and organizations to cross-examine witnesses and present arguments.

Rehak said it will probably be late summer before the actual hearings start.

The judicial inquiry will have offices set up in Toronto by the end of the month.

The inquiry will also have its own website that will provide daily transcripts of the hearings.

Justice finally on Georges' side

My second-born son landed in Johannesburg yesterday, making the trip of his 13-year-old lifetime along with his grandmother to visit cousins, his aunt and uncle who live in South Africa.

Doubtless, much will be learned over the next few weeks in the school of the wider world. Doubtless, an uncle born and raised in Soweto will be able to show the young Canadian visitor views of life beyond his imagining at home.

In the excited weeks leading up to his departure, books were read and movies watched in an attempt to bone up on South African history. One that made an impression was the film Cry Freedom , the story of the friendship between white newspaper editor Donald Woods and the black leader Steve Biko, and of Woods' determination to get the story of apartheid and its crimes to the world after Biko was killed in 1977 in police custody. At one point in the movie, Woods (Kevin Kline) tells a threatening cop that, whatever the short term brings in punishment from the apartheid regime, he will fight on, because history will one day record that he had justice on his side.

The same, it occurred to me, might be said closer to home as the new year dawns.

Dudley George

For surely one of the best stories of 2004, whatever unhappy evidence it turns up, will be the long-sought, hard-won judicial inquiry into the 1995 shooting death of Indian demonstrator Dudley George at Ipperwash Provincial Park.

Whatever else the new Liberal government does or doesn't do, it has served the cause of justice by appointing Mr. Justice Sidney Linden to head an inquiry into an event that disgraced the province.

Among other things, the recent Ontario election ended an eight-year campaign of stonewalling that discredited the former Conservative government, and by extension all in the province who accepted the proposition that important questions - which surely would have been screamed from the rooftops had the dead man been a member of the white middle classes - could comfortably go unanswered in the police killing of a native man.

How did it come to be that a few dozen natives armed with no more than sticks and stones, occupying a park after it had closed for the season, doing so to make demands based on credible historical claims that it was an ancestral burial site, were fired on by police armed to extraordinary levels?

Why was it police departed from established practices of restraint in dealing with such demonstrations?

How did it happen that for the first time in a century in Canada a native was killed by police over what amounted - at worst - to little more than a case of trespass?

What purpose other than the political was possibly being served in forcibly removing from a closed park a smallish band of unarmed protesters whose demonstration would likely have generated limited media mention and even less public concern?

How could it be that as evidence of political involvement continued to mount - memo by memo and court document by court document - the premier of the day, Mike Harris, and his successor could continue to dismiss the demand for a public inquiry?

The record had made plain the former premier's impatience with natives and their land claims. And it has been alleged that, as a freshly installed government, he wanted in the fall of 1995 to establish himself as a law-and-order leader with little time for what he deemed "special interests."

Probably no book recently published in this province deserves to be read more than One Dead Indian , the account of the Dudley George killing written in 2001 by my Star colleague Peter Edwards.

As he recounts it, the violence and terror visited on the Stony Point band on the night of Sept. 6, 1995, is something rarely associated with everyday life in Canada.

His chronicle of the callousness shown Dudley George's family in the aftermath - even as organizations from Amnesty International to the United Nations joined the demand for an inquiry into his killing - is something that should shame us all.

The Georges were left to fight for justice through a civil suit for wrongful death against the government, their puny resources pitted against the weight of the state.

All the while, they offered to drop their suit if an inquiry were ordered.

For eight long years, under the former government, their pleas were rejected.

When Mr. Justice Linden convenes his inquiry later this year, it will have been a long time coming.

Already almost seven years have passed since I sat in the back of a Sarnia courtroom at the trial of a police officer convicted in the shooting, watching Dudley's brother Pierre as he sat there, too, his T-shirt bearing a crest to his slain 38-year-old brother, an eagle feather in his hand.

Its treatment of that family, and its cynical evasion of public review, hardly seems to square with the former government's claim that it had nothing to do with the police response that night, that all normal procedures were followed.

Thanks to the forthcoming work of Mr. Justice Linden, we will this year finally know the truth of those claims.

That's all the George family ever asked for.

And the very least they deserve.

Dudley George's brother hopes inquiry brings answers

The family of an aboriginal protester who was killed by police eight years ago hopes a public inquiry promised by Ontario's new Liberal government will finally reveal the truth about the shooting.

"We're hoping to see and find out why my brother was shot that night," Sam George said today at a news conference.

"We're hoping to find out why things changed so dramatically within a few hours. We need to know why there were so many heavily armed officers there."

Dudley George was shot by a provincial police officer at Ipperwash Provincial Park near Sarnia on Sept. 6, 1995.

The officer who fired the fatal shot was convicted of criminal negligence for knowingly shooting an unarmed man, but his trial failed to answer important questions about the circumstances leading up to the incident.

Last week, on the day of the provincial election, a civil suit against former premier Mike Harris - who was in office at the time of the shooting - was dropped after provincial police reached a settlement with the George family.

The day after the Liberals won the election, premier-designate Dalton McGuinty promised an inquiry into George's death.

That exercise will come as a relief after eight years of waiting, Sam George said today.

"We never did want to go down the route of civil litigation; we kind of got forced down that path," he said.

"For my family, it means . . . we are looking at the truth coming out."

On Friday, a benefit concert sponsored by the Elementary Teachers of Toronto is to be held at Massey Hall, featuring singer Buffy Sainte-Marie.

The proceeds will be used to launch an aboriginal education fund.

"It will be a victory celebration not only for family, but it is also going to be a victory celebration for the life of my brother," said George.

McGuinty is to be sworn in on Oct. 23 alongside his cabinet.

After that, George expects to meet with the new attorney general.

He's hopeful the inquiry can begin in the next four to eight months.

Harris ordered removal of natives, memo says
Book on Ipperwash probes George death

Peter Edwards on Rabble

The police assault on natives occupying Ipperwash

Peter Edwards Provincial Park six years ago followed direct orders from the office of Ontario Premier Mike Harris to end the occupation, according to government documents.

Dudley George, an unarmed native protester, was shot and killed by an Ontario Provincial Police officer carrying a high-powered automatic rifle during the late-night assault.

Details of the government documents are contained in a new book on the fatal confrontation, One Dead Indian, which is to be published Sept. 15 (2001) by Stoddart. Sections of the book, written by veteran Toronto Star reporter Peter Edwards, have been obtained by The Globe and Mail.

The book is expected to renew the controversy over Mr. Harris's refusal to allow a judicial inquiry into the shooting, and into his role and that of his office in ordering the police to force the two dozen protesters out of the otherwise vacant park.

In the absence of a judicial inquiry, the family of Mr. George has been pursuing a civil case against Mr. Harris and other senior government officials for the wrongful death of Mr. George. The government has acknowledged it has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees for lawyers to defend Mr. Harris and the other officials.

The government also has repeatedly attempted to have the case thrown out of court. Last Thursday, Madam Justice Gloria Epstein of the Ontario Superior Court ruled it is in the public interest to allow the lawsuit to continue.

The events leading to the shooting on the night of Sept. 6, 1995, and the explanations offered by the OPP and by the government, are examined in extensive detail in the 265-page book.

Among other things, the book says:

The government and the OPP lied in saying they believed the native protesters, who included women and children, were armed with automatic weapons. The two dozen members of the OPP crowd-control unit would not have been ordered to march up the road into the park in the dark if there had been a danger they would be shot at, the book argues.

Police mistook sparks from their own bullets hitting a school bus in the park for flashes from the muzzles of guns within the bus and assumed they were being fired on. No guns were found and the natives, most of whom were expert hunters, likely would not have missed their targets.

The government and the OPP intentionally portrayed an incident in which a single stone was thrown at a car as proof that roving bands of club-wielding natives were threatening civilians in the Ipperwash area, which is northeast of Sarnia on Lake Huron.

The government repeatedly denied the existence of a native burial ground in the park although its own files clearly stated that the burial ground existed and an earlier government had promised to erect a fence around it.

Unexplained failures of technology resulted in there being no recording of radio communications among officers involved in the raid on the park and no photographic or video evidence of their activities.

A similar unexplained failure of technology led to the disappearance of the computer notes of a key participant in the meetings where political officials were warned by government bureaucrats about the dangers of trying to force the natives out of the park.

Deb Hutton, a senior adviser to Mr. Harris, repeatedly told meetings of politicians and bureaucrats discussing the occupation that the Premier had rejected the OPP's standard procedure of avoiding a confrontation. Instead, he wanted the natives evicted from the park as soon as possible, so that there would be no time for them to win public support.

The book cites a memo from government lawyer Julie Jai, who was chair of the government committee on the Ipperwash crisis. The e-mail memo was sent to Yan Lazor, the director of legal services for the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat, on the afternoon of Sept. 5, after an emergency meeting of the committee attended by Ms. Hutton.

"Deb Hutton had already spoken to the Premier and MNR [Ministry of Natural Resources] had already spoken to their minister. The Premier's views are quite hawkish on this and he would like action to be taken asap to remove the occupiers."

This memo has been entered as evidence in the civil case launched by the George family against Mr. Harris and several members of the government who participated in the decisions that led to the death of Mr. George.

Ms. Jai's notes from Sept. 5 also stress that the Ministry of Natural Resources was not calling for drastic action. Peter Allen, executive assistant to Ron Vrancart, the deputy minister at Natural Resources, is quoted as saying, "They're just occupying an empty park."

A Sept. 6 memo, also entered as evidence in the continuing civil case, refers to a meeting involving cabinet ministers, including Mr. Harris and natural resources minister Chris Hodgson. At the meeting, bureaucrats urged caution.

The memo adds: "but Prem + Hodgson came out strong," indicating that hours before the fatal confrontation Mr. Harris and Mr. Hodgson urged the OPP to take action.

In a criminal case arising out of the shooting, acting Sergeant Kenneth Deane was convicted of criminal negligence causing death for firing the shot from his automatic rifle that entered Mr. George's chest and killed him.

Ipperwash file

The document, by an unidentified bureaucrat, is cited in One Dead Indian by Peter Edwards, a new book about the shooting death of Dudley George at Ipperwash Provinial Park six years ago.

Contents of memo:

Sept. 6/95

Ron Fox

-- Tim has asked for s.o. fr OPP to give vive voce evidence before J today in Sarnia.

-- now OPP commissioner is involved -- decisions will be made at his level.

-- he was called into Cabinet -- Larry Taman was also there + was eloquent -- he -- cautioned abt rushing in with ex part inj -- + can't interfere w police disc.

-- but Prem. + Hodgson came out strong

-- Larry, Elaine Todres were at Cabinet.

Ron was there for part of discussion, decision to go ex part appeared to have already been made.

The book deciphers the memo as having the following meaning:

Sept. 6, 1995

-- I just talked with Ron Fox, the liaison between the OPP and the Solicitor-General's office.

-- Tim McCabe, a lawyer with the Attorney-General's Office, has asked for someone from the OPP to give verbal supporting evidence before a judge today in Sarnia.

-- Now OPP Commissioner Thomas O'Grady is involved and decisions will be made at his level.

-- Larry Taman, the deputy minister in the Ministry of the Attorney-General, was there and was eloquent. Taman cautioned about rushing in with an ex parte injunction, which would exclude the natives from having legal representation or even attending the court proceeding regarding their occupation of the park and said the government can't interfere with police discretion.

-- But Premier Mike Harris and then-minister of natural resources Chris Hodgson came out strong.

-- Larry Taman and deputy solicitor-general Elaine Todres were at cabinet.

-- Ron Fox was there for part of the discussion. The decision to go ex parte without the input of native lawyers appeared to have already been made.

Harris offers to settle libel suit with newspaper
Ipperwash comment: Premier wants Globeand Mail to apologize, but paper will not

TORONTO - Mike Harris, the departing Ontario Premier, has offered to settle his libel action against The Globe and Mail, which he alleged portrayed him as an accessory to murder in the 1995 police shooting of a native protester at Ipperwash Provincial Park.

Eleven days before he steps down as Premier and is succeeded by Ernie Eves, Mr. Harris said he is willing to drop the taxpayer-funded suit against the newspaper in exchange for an apology and legal costs.

His lawyer, Peter Downard, insisted yesterday that Mr. Harris is not backing down from his battle with the Globe as he prepares to leave politics for what is expected to be a lucrative corporate career.

"The Premier is very confident about this case. The failure of the defence to apologize has, in his view, increased the harm caused in this matter," Mr. Downard said in an interview.

"In order to bring this matter to a prompt and proper conclusion, he is giving the defence this time-limited opportunity to resolve this matter on a reasonable basis," he said.

To that end, Mr. Downard sent the Globe lawyers a letter offering to resolve the matter if an apology is printed in the newspaper and posted on its Web site.

The daily would also have to cover Mr. Harris's legal tab, which is believed to be between $10,000 and $50,000. The offer expires Thursday.

But a spokesman for the newspaper said it filed documents with the court yesterday in preparation for defending itself in the libel suit.

"The Globe's position remains the same as it has been throughout this matter: The article at issue is not defamatory and reports on a matter of public interest," said Michael Doody, general counsel for the parent company, Bell Globemedia Publishing Inc.

"For that reason, The Globe and Mail will not apologize."

Mr. Harris's suit stems from a Dec. 14, 2001, analysis piece that appeared under the headline Harris true blue to the end.

Published the morning after his final day in the Ontario legislature, the article contained five sentences that Mr. Harris alleges are "false and defamatory of him."

"Mr. Harris has two additional political burdens likely to plague him over the next two months," the Globe reported, according court documents.

"Both gave him added reason to step down and both are linked more to him than to the Tory government. His orders have been clearly linked to the decision by the Ontario Provincial Police to march on Ipperwash Provincial Park in September of 1995 in a bid to end a native protest," the newspaper continued.

"One unarmed protester, Dudley George, was shot and killed by the OPP. Mr. George's family have been in court for almost six years trying to get Mr. Harris to admit his involvement in the death," the Globe concluded.

In documents filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Mr. Harris, who is himself being sued by Mr. George's family, contends the newspaper's "malicious, high-handed and arrogant conduct" and its allegations maligned his reputation.

The lawsuit also claimed the Globe's publishing of the story "imputed conduct to Michael Harris tantamount to participation in homicide."

Mr. Harris's allegations have not been proven in court.

After the suit was launched, Opposition critics accused Mr. Harris of initiating a capricious action at the public expense.

OPP Acting Sergeant Kenneth Deane was convicted in 1997 of criminal negligence in Mr. George's death on Sept. 6, 1995.

Dudley George: Ontario ombudsman calls for Ipperwash inquiry

TORONTO - Ontario's ombudsman is calling for an inquiry into the shooting death of a native protester at Ipperwash Provincial Park in 1995.

In her annual report, Roberta Jamieson says that in her view the most appropriate forum to investigate the shooting is a public inquiry.

Dudley George was shot and killed by an Ontario Provincial Police officer while demonstrating in the park. Native groups had occupied the area claiming it was a sacred burial ground.

George's family has launched a wrongful death civil suit. It names Premier Mike Harris, former cabinet ministers, provincial police officers and both the federal and provincial governments.

Documents Reveal Extent of Department of National Defense Involvement in Ipperwash Case

The Coalition for a Public Inquiry into Ipperwash has obtained documents through "Access to Information" legislation that show clearly the federal government's knowledge of and response to the occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park by members of the Stoney Point First Nation in September of 1995.

Among the 158 pages of documents is evidence that:

  • the OPP requested Department of National Defense support, which included both intelligence and equipment
  • troops were patrolling the occupied area prior to September 5. Members of the Stoney Point First Nation involved in the occupation have always maintained they saw military personnel in the woods.
  • both the OPP and the military were fully aware that the Natives occupying the Park numbered no more than 30 to 40 on September 6, as they were closely monitoring their activities
  • the OPP stressed reports of firearm use in the Park both prior to the shooting of Dudley George on September 6, 1995, and following the incident. No evidence of firearms used by Natives was ever recovered from the Park. In finding Sergeant Kenneth Deane guilty of criminal negligence causing death in connection with the shooting, Judge Hugh Fraser ruled that Deane knew George was unarmed when he shot him.
  • the OPP circulated information about Dudley George's criminal record to the military after his death
  • the Department of National Defense was collecting media information that linked the Stoney Point occupation to other Native "standoffs" in which firearms were used
  • OPP requested to borrow two military bisons, "which were to be painted and decaled in OPP colours" on September 6, the day George was shot
  • following the shooting, the Department of National Defense planned with the OPP for the possible escalation of the conflict over a period of many months, outlining a plan for four levels of possible involvement
  • the military had a detailed "Public Affairs Approach" designed to minimize their involvement and emphasize that the "OPP are in charge of operations at Ipperwash." Military personnel working with the OPP were to wear "civilian dress." On the basis of this evidence, the Coalition for a Public Inquiry into Ipperwash is renewing its call for a federal inquiry, and will be requesting further documents from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs under the Access to Information Act.
  • For more information: Robin Buyers: 416-658-7485 All My Relations Dan Smoke-Asayenes & Mary Lou Smoke-Asayenes Kwe Smoke Signals First Nations Radio, CHRW, 94.7 FM Canada's #1 Campus Radio Station for 2001 Saturdays l:00 - 3:00 p.m., 519 659-4682 fax: 519 453-3676

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