Ipperwash Crisis

Posted: October 5, 2011 by luck26 in Cases - Public Order, Ipperwash

The Ipperwash crisis is about an ongoing dispute between the Natives and the Canadian Government.  The Stony Point First Nation lived in Ipperwash, Ontario.  During the World War 2, the Canadian government wanted built a military base in Ipperwash, regardless of the fact that this land was already occupied by the first nation. At first, the government made an offered to buy the land but the First Nation refused it because the land contained burial ground and was a sacred site. Afterward, the government took the land citing the war measure act. However, the government promises to return the land to the first nation when the war was over. When the war finally came to an end, no process was taken in order to return the land and the military was still occupying the site in 1990. For more than 40 years, the tension builds up between the First Nation and the Federal Government. In 1993, the Stony Point First Nation went back to Ipperwash and occupied the site regardless of the military base.  Many first nation families were there to retake their land because it had a deep cultural meaning for them. They did not want to cause any arm or any sort of violence. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister of Ontario “forgot” about the promises to return the land after the war. He wanted the First Nation to go settle somewhere else, so the military base could stay in Ipperwash Camp.  In September 1995, more First Nation came to occupy Ipperwash so the military left the base. One night the Prime Minister of Ontario, Mike Harris, order the Ontario Provincial Police stepped in to remove the First Nation from the site. As a result of the raid, Dudley George, who was an Ojibwa, was shot and died on his way to the hospital. Dudley George was unarmed.
In 1997, the officer who shot Dudley George was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death. Not long after the final verdict, the accused resign from the O.P.P. A public inquiry for the Ipperwash crisis began in 2003, 8 years after the events. In 2007, 12 years after the death of the unarm protester, the inquiry conclude that the O.P.P, the Federal and the Provincial Government are all responsible for the death of Dudley George. The inquiry also found out that the OPP used racist comment and inappropriate use of force. One video from cbc showed one police officer saying “Just a great big fat fuck Indian”.  This conversation was recorded one day before the murder of Dudley George.  It was released during the course of the investigation, in order to provide a better understanding of why the police opened fire on the unarmed protester.  As a result of the inquiry, the Ontario Provincial Government had to return the land to the First Nation as well as money compensation for the Stony Point First Nation members.
Many groups such as Amnesty International condemn the improper action taken by the Canadian and Ontario Government. First Nation groups from all over America were concerned by this event.

The Gustafson Lake Crisis is another major event that involved struggle over land claim and confrontation between Natives and Police.  Similar to Ipperwash, this case also involved violence, racism and harsh feeling between the groups. Unfortunate events like this demonstrate that police assumes that protesters are criminals, which is wrong. Police need more strict rules so those who attend such events do not need to fear to be the victim of police brutality. Police greatest concern should be about the rights of the citizens and not the will of the Canadian Government.
I used the database “Academic Research Premier” and I search the word “Ipperwash”.  There were 31 results and the majority were periodical journal from “Maclean” and each volume was about different phase of the event. The first article on the list was an academic journal named “Assymetric Encounters in Native Canada”.  However, the most accurate overview of the Ipperwash crisis appeared on the fourth page; the article’s title was “Deadly Confrontation on an Ontario Reserve”. Most articles were short and described one particular episode of the Ipperwash crisis. For instance, the article “An Ipperwash Verdict“, from the journal  “Maclean”,    is about the verdict from the court to the police officer who shot Dudley George. The following citation was taken from this article; “Sgt. Kenneth Deane of the Ontario Provincial Police was guilty of criminal negligence in causing the native protester’s death”. Furthermore, there is also an article from the Maclean journal, titled “No Ipperwash Inquiry“, which is important to consider since it mentions that the government of Ontario refused to process to a public inquiry. Natives believe that the then Premier Mike Harris was responsible for the death of Dudley George because he was the one who order the Ontario Provincial Police to clear the park.  Therefore, “a federal public inquiry into what role Premier Mike Harris played in the police killing of a native demonstrator at Ipperwash provincial park in 1995” was defeated.  In another article named “Who killed Dudley George?”, from the journal “Canadian Dimension”, the author Tony Hall compare the events of Ipperwash to Gustafson Lake, so the readers can have a better understanding of the struggle between the First Nation and the Government. This article suggests an underline meaning for the killing of Dudley George; “the killing of Dudley George, the first official Indian casualty in Canada’s new undeclared Indian war”. Therefore, this article implies that the killing of Dudley George was targeted and inevitable.

Finally, the events at Ipperwash are not isolated. Similar events occurred many times in the past and are against law, since the Government and the police should operate independently. However, the reality makes me believe of the emergence of a police state.

References;

Fennel, T. (1995). Deadly Confrontation on an Ontario Reserve. Maclean`s. 108(38). 22-24.

Hall, T. (1996). Who Killed Dudley George? Canadian Dimension. 29(6). 8-13.

Maclean`s. (1997). An Ipperwash Verdict. 110(19). 37.

Maclean`s. (2001). No Ipperwash Inquiry. 14(41). 16.

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Comments
  1. Mike Larsen says:

    One point of clarification – While you can certainly find Maclean’s articles indexed in an academic database, they are not scholarly publications. Maclean’s is a national newsweekly magazine.

    When thinking about your next article, it would be worthwhile to consider (1) how the events at Ipperwash fit into the history of Canadian police / First Nations relations, and (2) how the events at Ipperwash fit into the historical transformations in public order policing strategies.

    Good work!

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