Return of Ipperwash Park sparks internal protest

STONEY/KETTLE POINT — A protest bonfire turned into a dramatic scene Saturday when Pierre George, brother of slain land protector Dudley George, accidentally set himself ablaze while trying to stoke the fire with a can of gas.

Others at the scene quickly doused George who was engulfed in flames when the can of gas spilled on him and ignited. People threw everything liquid on George from coffee cups and water from drinking bottles to put out the flame. George tore off his gas-soaked shirt when he noticed he was on fire but still received second degree burns to his hands and forearms, neck and torso and was taken to the hospital for treatment.

The protest fire was built by members of the Dudley George family and others representing the 14 families that were living at Stoney Point Reserve when it was “temporarily” expropriated by the government during the Second World War and became Camp Ipperwash Canadian Military Base.

While Stoney Point and Kettle Point Chief Thomas Bressette proudly announced a final settlement for the loss of land and use of the land for 73 years since the war ended, some Stoney Pointers, including the extended George family, are not happy with the $90 million settlement negotiated by Bressette.

It is their stance that the return of the land and the settlement money belongs with those where were displaced at the time, and not the entire joint population of the two sister Chippewa reserves.

“After 73 years, the war is finally over,” said the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point Chief Thomas Bressette in a Saturday statement announcing the final ratification of the agreement.

The settlement includes the return of the land that was expropriated, but only after Ottawa cleans up old munitions and other military debris from the site. The federal government is also to pay the band a financial settlement of more than $90 million.

“It has been a long and difficult process yet our communities continued to work together for the return of Stony Point,” Bressette said of the return of lands that contains a sacred burial site.

Saturday the community had arranged what they called a “Go Home” march back onto the former army base and provincial park.

The 1995 occupation led to the killing of unarmed protester Dudley George by an OPP sniper. Pierre George was there that day and drove the car that took his younger brother, then 28, to the hospital. But OPP detained them at the hospital emergency entrance while Dudley bled to death in the back seat.

“Now that the negotiation process is complete, our First Nation can focus on healing, strengthening community relations and working cooperatively to fully implement all the terms of the agreement to bring resolution to what began in 1942,” Bressette said his the statement.

An estimated 900 eligible voters cast ratification ballots Friday, with nearly five to one in favour of accepting terms of the agreement.

A trust has been set up with $70 million set aside for future development of the original Stoney Point reserve, overseen by members of both Kettle and Stoney Point. The remaining $10 million is to be divided among the 3,000 eligible members of Stoney Point First Nation.

Negotiation for the return of the former army base, now known as Ipperwash Provincial Park, will continue between the Kettle and Stoney Point First Nations, the province and the federal government.

Despite the protest, Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day published a news release calling the return of Camp Ipperwash as an “important step towards healing.”

“I congratulate the Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point for reclaiming their lands,” said Chief Day. “The struggle for Ipperwash is symbolic of the hardships faced by all First Nations to rectify historical wrongs”.

“The sacrifices made by the Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point, and the ultimate sacrifice made by Mr. (Dudley) George, must never be forgotten. Canada and Ontario must continue to work with First Nations to implement the Ipperwash Inquiry Final Report,” Day continued. “I am pleased that Camp Ipperwash has finally been returned to the Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point; however, the work must continue.”

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