Idle No More: 20 Years Ago

It was 20 years ago that things began to heat up in Ipperwash.  Things heated up so much that 20 years ago the Ontario Provincial Police got into it with members of the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation.  When the smoke cleared, nothing had changed.

So let’s take a look at the facts that are an important part of First Nations history.

Between 1818 and 1827 the Chippewa Nations negotiated sharing 6,000,000 hectares of land with the British Crown, keeping 5 parcels of land aside.  One of those parcels of land not included in the negotiations with the British Crown included Stony Point.

Pretty good deal for the British Crown, when all was said and done.

After a while, representatives of the British Crown got to thinking that they needed even more land.  Seeing that 99 years had passed since the original negotiations ended, one side found a way to be persuasive enough to grab some of the land that wasn’t part of the original negotiations.  This was 1928, after all, and things had changed considerably for those who were residents of the Province of Ontario.  But you know, the surrender of that land back in 1928 has always been a bone of contention with lots of questions surrounding whether the “new deal” was done in good faith by those relative newcomers.

Four years after that, in 1932, the representatives of the Province of Ontario decided that they  needed a provincial park and they decided that the land they got under suspicious circumstances back in 1928 would make a wonderful park for the people of Ontario.  And so, the province of Ontario created the Ipperwash Provincial Park.

Now, not wanting to cause trouble, the Chief and Council notified park authorities that there was a burial ground in the park.  They wanted the site to be protected.  But the wheels of government don’t usually turn very quickly, especially if it’s not perceived as being in the best interests of the government.  And so, years passed and nothing was done to address the concerns the Chief and Council had brought to the park authorities or the province of Ontario.

Then the war happened … the big one … WWII.  It went on for years and just as many young men from the many provinces across Canada enlisted to fight in this war,  so did many young men from the First Nations.  And in 1942, when the government enacted the War Measures Act, families from Stony Point were moved over to the Kettle Point First Nation.  The government renamed the community the kettle and Stony Point First Nation, and they took control of the land they wanted thanks to the War Measures Act.

Thirty years later, a Minister of the federal government had an idea about putting things right for the people of Stony Point.  His idea, as the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, was to have the land appropriated by the government of Ontario by way of the War Measures Act returned to the people who were displaced back in 1942.  If that wasn’t amenable to the province of Ontario, it was suggested by this Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs that another comparable piece of land be offered as compensation.

No one listened to Jean Chretien, and things continued as they had over the years.

Twenty years after that, the people of Kettle and Stony Point grew tired of waiting for the province of Ontario to make things right.  They served the army with a 90-day eviction notice on April 16, 1992.  It was more time than the families displaced in 1942 had been given, and it was more than a landlord in the province of Ontario was required to give a tenant.

It was 1993 when families started moving back to the location that was once the Stony Point community.  But things didn’t go as anticipated or expected.  Things got to a point where people of the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation marched in protest against the ongoing expropriation of their land.  In the end,  no one listened … again.

That was 20 years ago.

It was two years later, in September of 1995 (and after the Ipperwash Provincial Park closed for the season), that 30 protesters from Kettle and Stony Point First Nation decided to protest the ongoing expropriation of their land.  They built barricades to create a visual cue that was meant to help others understand their land claim and to protest the ongoing destruction of the burial grounds that were brought to the attention of the park authorities decades earlier.

It’s not as if any one was inconvenienced by the protest since the park was closed and the campgrounds were empty.  But that’s not how the province of Ontario saw things.  They sent in the Ontario Provincial Police to deal with the unarmed protesters.

Armed with guns and dressed in riot gear, the Ontario Provincial Police confronted the unarmed protesters, and in the end, Dudley George lay dead.  It’s not clear cut what happened or why it happened, but in 1997 Kenneth Deane (who had been the acting sergeant on the scene) was convicted of criminal negligence causing death.  The court determined that Kenneth Deane didn’t have “reasonable belief” that Dudley George was armed.  When all was said and done, Deane resigned from the OPP.

Two years after the court decision, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights suggested that the province of Ontario conduct as public inquiry into the death of Dudley George.  But the wheels of government don’t usually turn very quickly, especially if it’s not perceived as being in the best interests of the government, and so no such inquiry took place.

On November 12, 2003 it was decided by representatives of the province of Ontario that an inquiry should take place.  With a new premier in power, and taking into consideration the fact that the United Nations and a number of other groups were clamouring for an official inquiry into Dudley George’s death, it seemed like the prudent thing to do.

That was 10 years ago.

When the Ipperwash inquiry released its report to the publish in 2007, it contained 100 recommendations.  But the wheels of government don’t usually turn very quickly, especially if it’s not perceived as being in the best interests of the government, and so the fate of those 100 recommendations were talked about a lot and bandied about a lot and it certainly looked like things were getting done.

Two years later, representatives of the province of Ontario signed an agreement with the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation to transfer Ipperwash Provincial Park back to the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation.  With a year of signing that agreement, the province of Ontario introduced legislation that deregulated the park lands, which meant the agreement was one step closer to completion.

And just as had been pointed out to the park authorities back in the 1930s, in 2010 archaeologist Brandy George announced that  human remains dating back 1,000 years had been found at the Stony Point dig site.

That was 3 years ago.

As of today, it looks like it’s going to take up to 20 more years to complete the removal of the military base formerly known as Camp Ipperwash.

Twenty years from now, let’s take a look at Ipperwash 20 years ago … back in 2013.  Let’s see how far things have progressed.

Elyse Bruce


One Response to “Idle No More: 20 Years Ago”

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