THUNDER BAY — Ontario’s First Nation chiefs are calling on the provincial government to reflect on its relationship with Indigenous people on 25th anniversary of the Ipperwash crisis.
Acting Ontario Regional Chief of the Chiefs of Ontario, Alvin Fiddler, said in a statement over the weekend that distrust between First Nations and authorities continues to exist as a result of unaddressed inequality that the crisis highlighted.
In particular, Fiddler says the government has not taken seriously the results of the Ipperwash Inquiry — an investigation that was started after protester Dudley George was shot and killed by an Ontario Provincial Police sniper on Sept. 6, 1995.
He also called upon non-Indigenous Canadians to learn about Indigenous history and to become educated on demonstrations such as the Ipperwash crisis.
“We must know our own histories, our rights, and so must non-Indigenous people and government,” the statement reads.
“It is difficult to respect what you cannot understand, and it is only through strong relationships, a willingness to learn, and education that we all may truly understand one another.”
The crisis began on Labour Day — Sept. 4, 1995 — after members of the Chippewas Kettle and Stoney Point First Nation occupied Ipperwash Provincial Park in protest of nearby reserve land that was seized by the Canadian government during the Second World War to create a military base.
For two days, protesters and police faced off as authorities attempted to remove the occupiers from the park.
During a confrontation on the final day, members of the OPP’s tactical response unit opened fire on a group of protesters as they attempted to leave the park, killing George in the process.
Sgt. Ken Deane, one of the officers in charge of the sniper team, would later be found guilty of criminal negligence involving death.
Deane did not serve any time in prison, and died in a car accident just weeks before he was set to testify at the Ipperwash Inquiry in 2006.
The inquiry revealed a number of major concerns in how the police response was handled, and the judge ultimately found that Ontario Premier Mike Harris and the federal government were responsible for George’s death.
In response to Fiddler’s call for action, Greg Rickford, Ontario’s current Minister of Indigenous affairs, said that the provincial government continues to build upon the recommendations laid out by the Ipperwash Inquiry.
“The Ipperwash Inquiry resulted in a number of recommendations that helped redefine Ontario’s relationship with Indigenous communities,” Rickford said in a statement Saturday.
“Our government is committed to listening to the perspectives of Indigenous peoples and to expanding social and economic opportunities and improving the quality of life for all First Nation, Inuit and Metis people living in Ontario.”