Tapes paint premier into a corner.
Mere hours after the recordings were made on Sept. 6, 1995, Dudley George was shot dead by Acting Sgt. Kenneth Deane, who was later convicted of criminal negligence causing death.
George was one of a handful of Native protesters who peacefully occupied Ipperwash Provincial Park to draw attention to the fact that a burial ground was being desecrated at the site, a claim that government documents later vindicated.
The recordings are of a phone conversation between Inspector Ron Fox, the OPP Ontario legislature liaison, and Ipperwash incident commander Inspector John Carson.
The tapes were played at the Ipperwash inquiry on May 18.
In one tape, Fox provides Carson with details of a meeting to which he had been summoned on the afternoon Sept. 6, just prior to the evening shooting. At that meeting, premier Harris, and various cabinet ministers and deputy ministers, voiced their opinions about what the province and OPP should do. It was a newly elected government at the time--in office just shy of three months--and facing its first high profile Native protest.
On the tape, Fox told Carson that "The political people are really pushing ... they are pushing to get this done quick.
"We're dealing with a real redneck government ... They are f***ing barrel suckers. They just are in love with guns," Fox said, later adding, "There's no question, they don't give a s**t less about Indians."
"They just want us to go kick a**," Carson responded.
Later on the tape, Fox talked about what Harris said, and appeared to feel, about the situation.
"The premier is quite adamant that this is not an issue of Native rights, and in his words, 'We've tried to pacify and pander to these people for too long. It's now time for swift affirmative action ... I think the OPP have made mistakes on this one. They should have just gone in,'" Fox quoted Harris.
Fox stated his belief that Harris was "not getting the right advice, or if he is getting the right advice, he's certainly not listening to it in any way, shape or form."
Opposition members in the legislature accused Harris of playing a role in the death of Dudley George. He denied it. The former premier filed a libel suit against the Globe and Mail for reporting on those allegations, but the lawsuit was dropped after he retired from politics.
Sam George, brother of Dudley, said the tapes vindicate his family's nine-year fight to find out the truth.
"It is now clear that former premier Harris was involved in events that led to my brother's death, and that he has been misleading the public about his involvement ever since," said George.
Family lawyer Murray Klippenstein said the tapes are evidence that the Harris government acted wrongfully in a way that led to the death of Dudley George and then attempted to cover it up.
"The family has long feared that the shooting of their brother originated at the highest level of the Ontario government and these tapes are some major evidence suggesting that they have been right all along," he said. "The family will now continue their fight for all of the truth to come out, and for holding the powerful people accountable who have been concealing this critical information from them and from the public for all these years."
"These tapes appear to show that Ontario veered for a dangerous moment towards the characteristics of a police state, where politicians treat the police as their personal armed forces, and in this case the force was directed against a small and already victimized sector of society. This is going to have to be examined very seriously in the ongoing public inquiry," said Andrew Orkin, Klippenstein's co-counsel.
During a telephone interview hours after the tapes were played, Windspeaker asked Klippenstein if there'd been any last minute attempts at the inquiry to keep the tapes from being played.
"Not lately. They've been suppressed and concealed for 10 years, but the jig was up now," he said.
Klippenstein was asked if he expected anyone to dispute the authenticity of the tapes.
"I don't think anybody is going to dispute that these are tapes of what this officer said. It's significant that this is a senior OPP officer who is a quality eyewitness. I doubt that he knew he was being recorded so I think we have frank and honest observations. That's partly what makes the results so scary," he said.
The tapes were recorded as part of a routine OPP policy at the time to have the phone lines recorded in situations where the police are in a confrontational situation, "precisely to ensure accountability," Klippenstein added.
"Unfortunately, there were a couple of unrecorded lines as well. They did set up one or several phone lines that were not recorded and apparently they set them up specifically to avoid recording on those lines."
The lawyer discovered after hearing the tapes, long before they were released to the public, that "barrel sucker" is police slang for someone who's a little too fond of guns.
By Paul Barnsley
Windspeaker Staff Writer
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|Date:||Jun 1, 2005|
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