Dudley George is a name we should never forget.
After a lengthy 25-month inquiry and testimony from 139 witnesses, the inquiry into Dudley George’s death is bringing his family that much closer to closure in the 1996 shooting death of the Aboriginal protestor. But is it enough?
Members of the Kettle and Stoney Point bands joined Dudley George, 38 at the time, in 1996 at Ipperwash Provincial Park to reclaim land that had been taken by the Canadian Armed Forces during the Second World War. They wanted their land back, just like the Canadian government promised after the war was over.
On September 4, 1996, under cover of darkness and without provocation, Ontario Provincial Police officers launched an armed assault on the unarmed protestors, fatally wounding George in the process. He died two days later.
Sgt. Kenneth Deane was charged with his death. In 1997, Deane was convicted of criminal negligence causing death after a court ruled he did not have a “reasonable belief” George was carrying a weapon. He was suspended, received 180 hours of community service and later resigned from the force.
It had only been six years since the Oka Crisis; the Ontario government apparently hadn’t learned anything from the Surete de Quebec’s botched raid on peaceful Kanesatake Mohawks.
Let us not forget that a life was also lost during the summer of 1990 because of political interference and a government who chose to put their own agendas before the safety of their citizens.
Former Ontario attorney general Charles Harnick testified during the inquiry that he heard then-Ontario Premier Mike Harris say, “I want the fucking Indians out of the park” during a meeting with senior government officials at the height of the Ipperwash standoff.
One thing we took from the inquiry is Mike Harris isn’t too fond of Aboriginals. Another thing is that he will do anything, including right-wing military-like tactics, to subdue Aboriginals. We should be happy he is no longer in power.
Why did Harris steadfastly refuse to hold an inquiry for years after the incident as Premier? Why did it take Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty, who was elected in 2003, mere days to launch the inquiry shortly after his election? He made sure the OPP were brought to task and held accountable for the death of an innocent man.
Aside from the fact that George was a member of a minority, it probably also had something to do with Harris’ guilt over the whole fiasco and the fact that he didn’t want it leaked to the public that he was a racist leader with a bad temper.
Others present in the room denied hearing Harris’ racist tirade. Of course they would, it doesn’t benefit them to admit it.
A few questions remain after the inquiry. Where do the Kettle and Stoney Point people go from here? Will the land finally be turned over to them? How many other people have to die before Native land is respected and Aboriginal rights, supposedly guaranteed under the constitution, are upheld?