Saturday, January 12, 2008

Gov’t Starts to Return Park

Return of Ipperwash, stolen from First Nations for WWII army base, starts 12 years after the police murder of Dudley George.

The provincial government announced on December 20 that they will start to return Ipperwash Provincial Park to the Chippewas of Kettle and Stoney Point First Nations. The park was the site of the Ipperwash crisis that culminated in the police murder of First Nations activist Dudley George.

The First Nations have been struggling for decades to see the return of their ancestral lands that include a sacred burial ground.

In 1942, the government used the War Measures Act to steal the land from the First Nations and turn it into a military base to train soldiers before they went off to fight in Europe. The government promised to return the land when no longer needed for military purposes.
In 1995, after years of pressuring the government, the First Nations moved to reclaim their stolen land. 35 First Nations people moved on to the park, at the time lying unused as it had been abandoned by the military.

The provincial government responded with violence, sending in the riot squad backed by a heavily armed Tactical Response Unit to evict the unarmed First Nations. The police opened fire, wounding two and killing Dudley George. (The officer who killed George with a sniper rifle was convicted of criminal negligence but received only two years of community service. The OPP gave him an estimated payoff of one million dollars and a lucrative job in the private sector.)

The George family welcomed the announcement. “I think he would be pleased. He paid the ultimate price and is not here to enjoy,” said his brother Sam at a recent press conference.
While the announcement is a good first start, it does not immediately return the land to the First Nations. For now the park will be “co-managed” by a joint committee of representatives from the government and the Chippewas of Kettle and Stoney Point First Nations, in consultation with “community members”. No mention was made on who’s wishes would come first in case of disagreement, or exactly when full control would be passed over - only that it would be “a matter of time”.

People of all nations in Canada must keep a close watch on the government of Ontario to demand that they do not cheat the First Nations yet again. 66 years is long enough! Give the land back!