KETTLE POINT – Last Friday local Kettle Point band workers took down four barricades along the Ipperwash beach that were erected in 1973 by the Lambton Shores municipality. Kettle Point’s position on the land is that it was never ceded and the barricades blocked a traditional pathway about three kilometers to the Stony Point First Nation.
Non-natives owning homes and cottages along the beach are worried that property values will decline as a result of the lifted barricade, and that vehicles driving on the beach will be both an environmental and safety hazard.
On Saturday, non-native residents erected a barricade of their own, comprising of a picnic table and tree branches with no incident.
The beach front is about three kilometers long and at the other end is Stony Point territory, where a former army base is located. That is where the Two Row Times talked with Pierre George, brother of Dudley George, the unarmed man who was killed by police at Ipperwash in 1995.Pierre is still occupying the former army barracks with others from the community.
Pierre George stated, “We were not told about the barricades coming down and we were surprised about it. We never gave up these lands.”
A resident of Kettle Point who wished to remain anonymous said that as a child, the road on the beach was two lanes and went all the way to Port Frank with no issues.
A series of other issues are also occurring along the beach. Vandalism took place very recently on a Kettle Point beach kiosk only a few meters from the non-native homes and former barricade site. The kiosk’s Kettle Point emblem and window were completely whited out with what appears to be spray paint.
Another ongoing issue is the former target and firing range near the base, which takes up a significant portion of the beach and covers ancestral burial grounds. There are still live munitions in the ground, and headstones of the ancestors of Kettle and Stony Point people that were used for target practice by the military are still visible.
There are many bomb warning signs on the fences enclosing this area, but the rate at which bombs are being diffused is very slow.
Dudley George’s death brought about the Ipperwash Inquiry, which states the federal government should return the army camp to the peoples of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation and guarantee that it will assume complete responsibility for an appropriate environmental cleanup of the site.
The inquiry also stated that the federal government should issue a public apology with appropriate compensation for the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation for the failure of the federal government for more than 60 years to honour its promise to return the land to the First Nations.
Yet another issue affecting the community are tensions stemming from fishing rights. Band members who fish with traditional nets for a living have had a really bad season this year – only catching an average of two fish a day. The general cause for the negative outcome is seen by the community members to stem from the fact that a commercial fishing license was issued by the Province to one fisherman who uses box nets and is filling a commercial boat everyday with fish.