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Ipperwash Park surrender illegal--lawyer.

Throughout the almost two years of hearings at the Ipperwash inquiry into the fatal police shooting of Dudley George, the occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park by First Nation protesters has been called a clear case of trespass on provincial property.

But the lawyer acting for many of Dudley's family members said on Feb. 20 that he can prove the land was wrongfully in the hands of the province at the time of the fatal confrontation. Since the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) were on the scene to keep order and see that the so-called illegal occupation came to a peaceful conclusion, this new revelation throws a tragically ironic light on the events of September 1995.

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"The protesters' claim that the land was theirs is increasingly looking very, very solid. The family's own independent research in local archives has shown that the Indian agent, whose job under federal law was to help protect the Native treaty lands, was instead helping the local Sarnia mayor speculate in reserve lands. And the Indian agent, behind the scenes, was a director and a shareholder in a company that financed the purchase of the lands surrendered in 1928," lawyer Murray Klippenstein told Windspeaker. "The Indian Act at the time says that if an Indian agent was directly or indirectly involved in the purchase of Indian lands, as this Indian agent was, the financing transaction is void."

That means Ipperwash Provincial Park was never properly surrendered to the Crown and still belongs to the Native people whose descendants occupied it in 1995. The park was improperly constructed on land to which the province's title was illegally obtained.

Many First Nation land claims have been based on improper and sometimes criminal actions on the part of government officials at the time of treaty or shortly thereafter. Land claim researchers say it was common practice to steal land from Native people, in part because until 1952 it was illegal for Native people to hire lawyers to protect their interests.

"It looks very much like the surrender of the treaty lands in 1928 was a complete swindle. So the protesters were almost certainly right," Klippenstein said.

The Stoney Pointers occupied Camp Ipperwash in the early 1990s. The federal government had expropriated that land under the War Measures Act just prior to the Second World War with the promise it would be returned when it was no longer needed for the war effort. After waiting half a century for that promise to be kept, several descendants of the families that were displaced by the expropriation moved into the army camp. They continue to live there.

Ipperwash Provincial Park is adjacent to the camp. On Sept. 4, 1995, a few years after the occupation of the camp, a small group of camp residents moved into the park, claiming a traditional connection with the land and citing the need to protect a burial ground.

Klippenstein said the latest discovery shows that every single claim made by the Stoney Pointers in justifying the occupation of the park has now been proven to be true.

Shortly after Dudley George was shot and killed by Acting Sgt. Kenneth Deane on Sept. 6, 1995, the federal government produced records confirming that there was a burial ground at the park.

During the inquiry, evidence has been introduced that the province also had plenty of its own documentation of that fact.

"It's become very clear that the burial grounds existed in the park, that they were brought to the attention of the senior provincial minister in 1937 at the formation of the park and that nothing was done about them. And that a new burial was found in 1950 and not only was nothing done about them but an Aboriginal skeleton sat on the park superintendent's desk for a couple of months," the lawyer said. "In 1975, provincial civil servants found the old correspondence from 1937 saying there was a burial ground within the park and distributed it within the ministry but then did nothing and didn't even tell the local First Nations. So the bottom line is that evidence of the burial grounds came up repeatedly and was repeatedly ignored and the fact is that First Nations' remains were clearly desecrated. So the First Nations people were shown to be totally correct about their history and totally correct about the fact that they were wronged."

Some of the lands surrounding the park may also be affected by the improper surrender.

"It's the park plus some other lands," Klippenstein said. "Most people support the return of the army camp lands. But the park, they say, is the province's because it was validly surrendered. We say, 'Uh uh.'"

It's a bittersweet discovery for Sam George, Dudley's brother.

"We always said that Dudley died for a reason. He died for the burial grounds and claiming that they didn't do things right. That's what he gave his life for and that's what we've been working for. Now we have documentation that'll prove that," he said.

By Paul Barnsley

Windspeaker Staff Writer

FOREST, Ont.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
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Author:Barnsley, Paul
Publication:Windspeaker
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Mar 1, 2006
Words:845
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