Indians get Ipperwash park
TheStar.com – News – Indians get Ipperwash park
December 20, 2007
Chinta Puxley, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Ontario is returning Ipperwash Provincial Park to an aboriginal community and vowing to forge a new relationship with First Nations more than a decade after Dudley George was shot dead there by a police sniper.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant said today that the return of the park to the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation brings that chapter to a close and marks the beginning of a new effort to settle long-standing land claims.
The provincial park will be co-managed by the government and First Nations until they figure out what to do with the land â€” a model Bryant said could be used in other land disputes such as the current occupation in Caledonia.
The province is also forming a committee that includes representatives from aboriginal and Metis communities to decide how to act on the recommendations set out in the Ipperwash inquiry into Georgeâ€™s death, Bryant said.
Although Georgeâ€™s brother said he thought Dudleyâ€™s death â€œsped upâ€ the return of the disputed land, Bryant said thatâ€™s not how the province will resolve future land claims.
â€œWhere there is conflict and violence and death, it does not provide for a more expeditious result,â€ he said.
â€œIt leads to complete entrenchment and tragedy, bitterness on both sides that you have to see to believe. Itâ€™s going to take a long time for these communities to heal.â€
Ipperwash Provincial Park was a â€œparticularly specialâ€ case, Bryant said. The land may have â€œsignificant nostalgic valueâ€ to the surrounding community but returning it to the First Nation is the â€œright thing to do,â€ he said.
â€œThe historic and spiritual importance of that land to the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation cannot be understated,â€ Bryant said.
â€œWe recognize in the Ontario government how important this land is to First Nations. It is time to act now on this recognition.â€
The brother of slain Indian protester Dudley George has long asked the province to hand over the land as a tribute to his brother. George was shot to death at Ipperwash in a provincial police raid to break up an aboriginal occupation on Sept. 6, 1995.
Sam George said the return of the land is an honour to his brotherâ€™s memory.
â€œUnfortunately, he paid an awful price,â€ George said. â€œHe paid the ultimate price there that night. He gave his life for the burial grounds, for the people of our communities. With that, I think his death did speed up things quite rapidly.â€
An inquiry into his death made dozens of recommendations which the Liberals say they will use as a â€œroadmapâ€ to forge a better relationship with Ontarioâ€™s aboriginals.
Chief Tom Bressette of Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation said he looks forward to talking with his â€œneighboursâ€ about how to use the land.
The federal government promised to return the land after it was expropriated during the Second World War but that didnâ€™t happen. The park has been effectively occupied for the last 12 years.
â€œIâ€™m glad the war is finally over,â€ Bressette said.