The Special Investigations Unit, the institution that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in Ontario, is examining the death of a Smiths Falls, Ontario man who apparently shot himself after receiving a phone call from a police officer threatening arrest for undisclosed reasons. On June 3, 2017, an officer of the Ontario Provincial Police phoned the man and spoke to him of a pending arrest, according to the SIU media release. At about 3:20 PM that same day, the man called 911, reporting that he had suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Paramedics and police responded and the man was airlifted to the Civic Hospital in Ottawa. He would die there of his injuries on June 9, pronounced dead at 7:47 PM. The SIU has assigned three investigators and two forensic investigators to examine the circumstances of the man’s death. Nothing has been released publicly about the nature of the police call to the man or the reasons such a call might have been made or such an approach taken by police.
Category Archives: OPP
Ontario Provincial Police Officer Will Not Be Charged Despite “Objectively Dangerous Driving” in Death of Grace Glofcheskie
There have been a large number of incidents of police driving at high speeds and/or in reckless fashion resulting in the deaths of uninvolved civilians over the last few years across Canada. The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians has concluded that no criminal charges will be brought against an Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer in relation to the high speed police chase that resulted in the death of pedestrian Grace Glofcheskie in Guelph, Ontario in 2015. This despite the SIU investigation finding that the officer’s driving was “objectively dangerous” and his vehicle was in excess of 68 km/h over the posted speed limit at times during the chase.
The officer was pursuing an SUV whose driver was attempting to avoid a RIDE (drinking and driving) spot check on December 13, 2015. The chase went through Guelph’s downtown area. At its conclusion the SUV driver lost control, crossing onto a sidewalk and flipping. Grace Glofcheskie, who was walking home after visiting friends, was struck by the SUV. She was taken to hospital but died of her injuries. The SUV was later identified as stolen.
The SIU reported that it had assigned seven investigators, two forensic investigators, and one collision reconstructionist to the case. Six police officers and six civilians were interviewed for the investigation. The officer being investigated did not participate, nor did he provide a copy of his notes. This is a contentious part of SIU investigations, as police are legally allowed to withhold their notes, one which has been challenged by critics of the SIU and oversight procedures in Ontario.
There are some questions raised by the SIU report. Notably their conclusion not to bring any charges against the officer despite finding that his driving had been “objectively dangerous” in their words and the speeds of more than 68 km/h over the posted speed limit reached by the officer. The SIU explanation is also rather perplexing. It states: “However, the factual context does not allow me to conclude that the driving amounted to a marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonable person in the same situation as the officer would have exercised in the circumstances” (SIU Release). It is hard to see how a civilian driving at such speeds over the posted limit and in an “objectively dangerous” manner would be viewed as so reasonable and would avoid charges. Indeed it is shown time and again that civilian drivers under less dangerous circumstances are charged.
“Get the Fucking Indians Out of My Park”: Colonialism, Racism, and the “Ontario Political Police” Killing of Dudley George
On September 4, 1995, several members of the Stony Point nation entered Ipperwash Provincial Park, located on the eastern shore of Lake Huron in the area called, in statist terms, southwestern Ontario, with the intention of reclaiming their community’s land and a traditional burial ground. Within 72 hours of the indigenous community occupation at Ipperwash Provincial Park, one of the community’s members, Anthony O’Brien (Dudley) George was dead. He had been shot and killed by an officer of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Kenneth “Tex” Deane, who had fired multiple rounds from an assault weapon at the non-threatening and unarmed George.
After the shooting of Dudley George many questions began to be asked. What role did the Ontario government play in pushing the OPP to move on the occupiers? Why did the OPP decide to march on the occupiers, taking an aggressive and confrontational approach (a full frontal assault) when there were already plans developed to address the situation through less aggressive means? Why were the OPP armed so heavily and with assault with assault weapons when it was known through a CSIS (Canadian Security and Intelligence Services) mole that the occupiers were unarmed?
Some partial answers to these questions would only come out in the criminal trial of Tex Deane and the public inquiry held a decade after George’s homicide by police. The shooting of Dudley George came a day after newly elected Premier of Ontario, Mike Harris ordered OPP to “get the fucking Indians out of Ipperwash Park” (Ipperwash Inquiry 2007). An aide in the Premier’s office notoriously proclaimed: “The government will not be seen as cooperating with the Indians.” This was only a day before Dudley George was shot and killed. Yet the deeper answers to these questions are rooted in the general history of colonialism and genocide in Canada and the specific harms inflicted on The Kettle Point and Stony Point communities.
At the heart of policing across the Canadian context is, as it always is in the case of settler colonialism, control of land, Indigenous land. In the Canadian state context policing has always been a military exercise in the service of displacement, dispossession, seizure, securing, and settling of land and, where deemed necessary, re-seizing and re-securing land in those cases where Indigenous communities have organized to reclaim their community lands. The examples in Canadian history are numerous and ongoing. A litany of state organized and state enacted theft. Nothing less. Organized crime at the highest level. The names of incidents of state violence in the seizure of Indigenous lands live in infamy. So too the cases of police assaults carried out in the re-taking of land re-claimed by Indigenous communities. Oka, Gustafsen Lake, Sun Peaks, Caledonia, to name only a few recent ones. And Ipperwash.
An Ongoing History of Colonial Crimes: Always an Ipperwash Crisis for Indigenous People
The great Shawnee war chief Tecumseh, whose relations moved to Kettle Point, received a lecture from his older brother Chiksika. He said:
“When a white man kills an Indian in a fair fight it is called honorable, but when an Indian kills a white man in a fair fight it is called murder… When an Indian is killed it is a great loss which leaves a gap in our people and a sorrow in our heart; when a white is killed, three or four others step up to take his place and there is no end to it. The white man seeks to conquer nature, to bend it to his will and use it wastefully…The whole white race is a monster who is always hungry and what he eats is land.” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 33)
The story of the OPP Ipperwash police assault and the killing of Dudley George is rooted in a historic theft of land by the Canadian government for purposes of war. On July 10, 1827, Chief Wawanosh would conclude a treaty that would see King George IV acquire around 2,200,000 acres of prime land in Southwestern Ontario. The treaty would see the establishment of the Kettle and Stony Point reserves with a measly 5000 acres combined. The treaty conference that gave rise to the Kettle and Stony Point reserves came from a concern over land squatting (theft) by white settlers. In return the Indigenous communities received a promise that the Crown would provide living payments “annually and forever” (Edwards 2001, 39). Yet the Crown came to this agreement clearly intending that forever would be a very short time, if the Indigenous population decreased and, indeed, disappeared. The genocidal intentions, or at least expectations, of government, settlers, and missionaries were not hidden beneath the surface.
Primitive accumulation in the Canadian context occurred according to a brutal explicit calculus. This was made clear in crude terms by Reverend Thomas Hurlburt, Methodist missionary to Kettle and Stony Point and the city of Sarnia. In 1864 Reverend Hurlburt wrote in a piece in the Lambton County Gazeteer and Genneral Business Directory to lay out the mathematics of genocide for the general public. He stated:
“This is the easiest and cheapest way to dispose of the Indians of North America; for they must be disposed of in one of three ways; killed in war or by drink or Christianized by missionaries and thus made useful members of society…
“Having been in the mission among the Indians for the past 35 years, and having lived and labored among them in that capacity, I am acquainted with most of the tribes from Texas to the Hudson’s Bay territory, as well as in Canada, I have taken pains to gather the statistics of various Indian wars—the Florida, Black Hawks and others, and I find it requires $25,000 to dispose of an Indian by war, in addition to one white man being killed for every Indian. To dispose of them by drink I found by the statistics of those tribes who had large annuities, and consequently drunk much, that it required about $2,000 to kill an Indian by whiskey…
“In taking the statistics of our own Indian missions, I find it requires about $200 to Cristianize and civilize an Indian, and train him twenty years and thus give him a chance for both his life and that which is to come. Thus it is seen that it requires as much to kill an Indian in war as would Christianize 125, and train them twenty years. It requires as much to kill an Indian by whiskey as would Christianize and save ten. There are 125,000 Indians in British North America.” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 41)
This is the market calculus, the marketization of genocide. It is the logic that would give rise to the horrors of the residential schools and cultural erasure. This is the ongoing logic of colonialism that would find expression, sometimes explicit, in the Ipperwash crisis. It has economic, political, and cultural aspects.
A letter sent by agent A. Dingman of Strathroy to Prime Minister John A. Macdonald on August 27, 1884 and marked “Confidential” told a story of systematic theft of the resources of the reserve lands. In the letter Dingman recorded the activities of a timber mill owner A.L. Smith who operated in the area. The mill had been set up by the capitalist to ensure cloaked thievery. Noting that white settlers had stripped non-reserve lands of resources, Dingman reports:
“and there is now absolutely no place from which it is practicable to get logs with which to stock the mill except they come off the Indian Reserves. It is situated in such an out-of-the-way place that any person so disposed could easily get logs off the Reserves and few people would be aware of the fact unless they were specially interested in finding it out….If the object was to plunder the Reserves of timber no better place could be found than the spot where the mill is situated.” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 42)
As was common across the area of Ontario, the capitalist represented himself as an agent of the government. Smith had even constructed a phony title for himself, “forest bailiff,” a position that did not actually exist in Ontario. In a scheme that brought together the recent push to Christianize the communities the capitalist concocted a deal to return some sawed boards to the community for sue in building a church the newly converted now wanted. As Dingman reported: “never a board was used on the church. This process was repeated time and time again until fully $5,000 worth of timber was cut and sawed into timber, but not one board went towards building the church” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 42). Still the cutting for profit brought the woods to the point of being barren of trees.
Dingman suggested that the trees at Stony Point might not survive another winter of plunder (Edwards 2001, 42). While settlers for miles around had fences for their farms, the Native farmers had no wood for their own fences (Edwards 2001, 43).
There were no charges brought by the Government of Canada against any of the settlers or capitalists who had stolen from the Indigenous communities. Nor was anyone held responsible for government corruption or incompetence (Edwards 2001, 43). The government of Prime Minister Macdonald protected capitalist interests in Treaty 242 of 1888 which gave the federal government permission to sell Native timber rights in exchange for minimal cooperation. Notably the failure of the government to meet wartime promises to provide compensation for wartime service in the War of 1812 persisted throughout the community. Similar struggles would play out over service in subsequent wars up through the twentieth century.
In 1927 a group of land speculators with connections in Ottawa turned their greedy eyes to reserve lands on the shores of Lake Huron. Band members were offered bribes of five dollars if they voted to surrender the lands to developers. An additional ten dollars was offered if the vote to surrender the lands was approved by council (Edwards 2001, 45). Despite the fact that the lands were located at Kettle Point, the vote (and the bribes) were offered to men of both bands. In the end the 33 acres of parkland were purchased by speculators for eighty-five dollars per acre. Half was resold immediately by the developers who had a pre-existing deal for three hundred dollars and acre. The Kettle Point band received $7706.20 for land that developers received $13,200 in selling only half.
Years later the Indian Claims Commission ruled that the federal government had cheated the community as government Indian agents abandoned the duty to protect by looking away as the deal went down. By that point cottagers had held the land for generations (Edwards 2001, 46).
In 1936 the Stoney Point community were deprived of more of their land, when the Province of Ontario purchased 108 acres of land that had been sold the previous year to private actors (Edwards 2001, 46). The land would be used for none other than Ipperwash Provincial Park.
When workers preparing the park uncovered evidence of a Native burial ground appeals were made to government by band council to fence that area off from development. Despite official letters from provincial and federal governments approving of this request the fence was never built. The area would become a picnic grounds complete with horseshoe pits (Edwards 2001, 46).
The history of land theft by capital, settlers, and government against the Kettle Point and Stony Point communities would continue as war loomed in Europe in the late 1930s. The Canadian government desired a military training ground in Ontario (centrally located in the province with the country’s largest population). Businesses desired a facility in the area sine they could profit greatly servicing and supplying the base. Local businesses saw dollar signs in providing the base with fruit, vegetables, grains, bread, oil, canned goods, garbage removal, etc. as had been the case with a base at Pinehill Camp (Edwards 2001, 46-47). That base was closed due to lack of running water on site, a great loss for profit seeking local capital. Stoney Point provided an ideal site right on the shores of Lake Huron and with water running all through it (Edwards 2001, 47).
In addition to its beneficial geographical qualities, Stoney Point offered a political benefit in that the Natives of Stoney Point did not have the vote and could not punish the government or local representatives at the voting booth. Another benefit for the government was financial. The Department of National Defence appraised the Stoney Point lands in 1942 at fifteen dollars per acre, which was much less than market value for nearby non-reserve lands. Economically, Native lands were viewed as “non-productive” (as long as Natives held them) despite the fact that they were directly farmed for food and essential for community purposes. The notion that Indigenous held lands were non-productive is one that returned to the center of federal government ideology under the Conservative Party regime of Stephen Harper in the 2000s as his government sought to convert Indigenous lands to marketable properties.
While the land deal would be put to a vote of the Stoney Point community a letter from the Secretary of Indian Affairs was sent to the local Indian agent stating that the government was “prepared to use the War Measures Act if the Indians refused a surrender” (Edwards 2001, 47). Some vote then. Some democracy. Appropriately, on April Fools’ Day 1942 the Stoney Point band voted on the fate of the lands. Members fighting overseas would not even get a vote. Under the government plan they would turn over the full 2211 acres of their land, all houses, and farms for a sum of $50,000.
Indigenous community members suggested a counter-proposal to lease the land to the federal government for the duration of the war but Ottawa rejected this. And why not? They had an ace up their sleeve. The vote showed a rejection of the government plan with the proposal being defeated 59-13 (Edwards 2001, 48). Never mind the “democratic” result. The government turned to their back up plan. On April 14, 1942, the federal government passed an order-in-council effecting an appropriation of the entire Stoney Point reserve.
Despite concerns among the federal Department of Justice about the legality of taking lands against the stated will of the community, the War Measures Act took the houses and land of the people of Stoney Point in the same manner as would also be imposed on supposed “enemy aliens” such as Japanese civilians (Edwards 2001, 48). Eighteen Stoney Point families were removed from their homes and lands and transferred to the Kettle Point reserve. They were merged into one band and reduced to one federally recognized chief. The Department of Indian Affairs which was supposed to look out for the interests of Indigenous communities (but rarely if ever did) raised not an eyebrow. In fact they viewed the move as a punitive measure to better oversee and regulate the people once they were in a closer space. One Indian agent even reported the dispossession and displacement as a great opportunity to round up a “few straggling Indians” (Edwards 2001, 49). To add insult to injury the government changed the name of the band from Stoney Point to Stony Point for unclear, bureaucratic, reasons. Their former land became Canadian Forces Base at Ipperwash (CFB Ipperwash).
Notably such a move for land expropriation would never have been considered against local white farmers or business property owners. Yet the area around the Stoney Point lands were being developed for less than essential purposes such as tourist resorts and weekend getaways for white visitors from the cities and from the United States. Those lands could have been appropriated with less impact on an existing community. The racist perspective of colonialism would not allow for consideration of such a move.
Residents of Stoney Point were moved without notification or even time to pack. As one displaced member Pearl George related: “When we came home, our house was up on jacks and our two log cabins were gone. They didn’t tell us anything…They never even let u know they were coming so we could pack up the little things. A lot of things were broken. They moved us to Kettle Point, to a swamp” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 49). Three of her children born at Kettle Point would die after developing intestinal problems that she attributed to the swamp[ water. The displaced felt like strangers in another land. As Maynard George, a son of Pearl, would state: It was sort of like in Bosnia where they put two different ethnic groups together. They did not allocate us good wood or housing. We could not become members of the band council or get any work on the reserve” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 50). This made no difference to government and likely never even registered at all. Other homes were simply levelled rather than moved. This was the fate suffered by the small church at Stoney Point as well as by many of the headstones in a nearby cemetery.
One can try to imagine the feelings of soldiers such as Clifford George who returned to a levelled land after having risked his life fighting in Europe (for the very state that was stealing and bulldozing his home while he faced enemy fire). He would later reflect: “I came home to nothing. I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I first went there [to Stoney Point] and couldn’t find my mother’s grave. They had removed the headstones and there were bullet holes and trenches dug. They could only do that to an Indian. That would never happen to white people” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 52). With no home to return to George would move to a nearby town. He would be stripped of his legal Indian status. In his words: “I came back to find the real enemy was here” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 53).
The Canadian government had promised the Stony Point community that their lands would be returned to them at cessation of the fighting at war’s end. Following the end of World War Two the Transitional Powers Act replaced the War Measures Act setting the stage for a social transition to post-war conditions.
On May 31, 1946, the advanced infantry training center at CFB Ipperwash was closed. The Department of National Affairs and Department of Indian Affairs opened discussions about returning the confiscated lands to the Indigenous community. On December 31, 1946, the Transitional Powers Act expired and the stolen lands had still not been returned. Yet no extension was granted for the Department of National Defense to retain the Stony Point lands. The government had no legal basis to keep the lands. But it did.
In this context life went on. And grew. Dudley George was born on March 17, 1957 at Sarnia General Hospital. Anthony O’Brien George was the eighth of ten children in a family that lived at the Sarnia reserve after his family’s community was destroyed by the Canadian government 15 years before Dudley was born. Ironically he got his nickname Dudley after the character Dudley Do-Right a clueless Mountie featured in Saturday morning cartoons (Edwards 2001, 55). His family would move to Kettle Point when he was eight.
The efforts by Stony Point members to reclaim their land did not cease at any point during the period in which their lands were controlled by the Canadian government. Future Prime Minister Jean Chretien, then Minister of Indian Affairs noted in a letter to the Minister of National Defense in 1972:
“Since 1946 our respective Departments have been corresponding on the subject of the return of some 2,200 acres comprising Canadian Forces Base Camp Ipperwash which was appropriated in 1942 by the Department of National Defence under the War Measures Act….
“The Chippewas of Kettle Point have repeatedly requested the return of these lands which are needed to enable the Band to improve its economic and social position. Time has not altered the Indians’ view that they were wronged by the forcible taking of their reserve in 1942. Moreover, it was their understanding that the land was to have been returned to them at the end of hostilities.
“With cuts in the Canadian Forces Bases indicated it seems to me that this is an appropriate time to reconsider this matter and I would appreciate having advice as to your Department’s plans for Camp Ipperwash. The transfer of this land to the administration and control of this Department so that it could be returned to reserve status would be of great importance to the Kettle Point Indians and would remove a major source of dissatisfaction with the manner in which the Federal Government have dealt with this reserve.” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 58)
Nothing came of this of course. Of note, Chretien had become Prime Minister of Canada at the time the Ipperwash reclamation occupation, and shooting of Dudley George, occurred. Yet he did nothing as Prime Minister to improve a situation of injustice that he was clearly aware needed to be redressed and had be aware of for decades.
In 1950 the park superintendent’s wife had reported the discovery of human bones. By 1972 the government seemed to have forgotten about all discussions around fencing off the burial ground or about the discovery of bones.
The Canadian government made a payment of 2.5 million dollars to the Kettle and Stony Point band in 1980 as partial compensation for the base lands. This was accompanied by a promise that the lands would be returned when military use had finally ceased (Edwards 2001, 60). In March 1992 a report was tabled by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal People recommending that the federal government return the Camp Ipperwash lands to the Stony Point community.
The people themselves followed this recommendation up a month later when a gathering of 100 showed up at Camp Ipperwash to serve an eviction notice on the Department of National Defense. The government was given 20 days to leave the premises (Edwards 2001, 61). The group of 100 included members of the National Association of Japanese Canadians. Their representative Van Hori noted that his community had also lost their homes and had their land expropriated by the government during World War Two. He stated: “It took us forty-six years to get an apology and some kind of compensation…These people are still waiting” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 61). The Department of National Defense replied in August 1992 that there was still a need to keep the Camp Ipperwash lands.
For many in the community the time for waiting was over. Fifty years had passed since the government stole the lands. Forty-six years since the promised time of return. On May 27, 1993 the military base was reoccupied by an Indigenous group calling itself now the Stoney Point First Nation. They named the reclaimed lands Aushoodaana Anjibaajrg meaning “resting place.” Dudley George was among that original group of land reclaimers.
The occupiers built homes on the base, pitched tents, parked trailers. The soldiers at the base remained doing what exercises they could. The occupation grew to around 100 residents with dozens more visiting regularly and offering support. Indigenous groups from across Turtle Island sent visitors. The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) offered solidarity in the form of timber for buildings and generators for power (Edwards 2001, 62). The happiness in the community was real. As Clifford George stated: “This is the first time in fifty years, since before the war, that we’ve all been together so close. We’re finally back together again, and that’s why we have such a good relationship….I’m back to stay. They’ll have to carry me off and they better lock me up because the minute they let me loose, I’ll come back again” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 62). The community elected its own chief and council (outside the formal structures of the colonial Indian Act). This was an assertion of self-determination and self-governance. Traditional teachings were practiced. A peace tree was planted over a traditional stone axe. A month in the first permanent structure, a church, was completed (Edwards 2001, 63).
The military kept up low level Bell 212 helicopter flights for reconnaissance shining lights into the occupation camp. According to Clifford George: “Sometimes they flew so low they raised dust. They scare the kids and old people. I’m all in favour of laying of charges of harassment against the military” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 64). The helicopter crews that harassed the Stoney Point people had flown missions in the colonial deployment in Somalia.
The media war was also initiated against the Indigenous occupiers. Media began to portray them as terrorists not as a cheated community striving after decades to get their stolen lands back. In this the media were replaying by now well rehearsed narratives of Indigenous resistance as terrorism or criminality. Such discourses had only recently been trotted out and repeated for national and even international audiences during the Oka crisis of 1990.
In the federal budget speech of 1994 the government announced plans to negotiate the return of Camp Ipperwash lands. No date was given.
Enough was finally more than enough. On July 29, 1995, Stoney Point occupiers drove a yellow school bus through the doors of a base hall and refused to leave. The military simply withdrew. By the end of summer community members had secured contracts to maintain the base at ten dollars per hour. There was no violence.
On Monday, September 4, Labor Day, 1995, the Indigenous protesters occupied Ipperwash Provincial Park, as they had, in fact, promised to do. There were about 35 occupiers in the park on the first evening. Police knew from the start that this occupation differed from other recent occupations such as Oka in Quebec and Gustafsen Lake in British Columbia. Their own briefing notes reported “no visible weapons” (Edwards 2001, 75). And their observers suggested the occupation was not well organized.
Still police right away put in motion plans to move more than 200 officers to the area along with caged Corrections Canada buses (Edwards 2001, 75). The Forest arena was commandeered as an arrest center. Police had also made arrangements with the Canadian military for use of armored personnel carriers. Project Maple was underway. The social war character of the police operation and response to Indigenous occupiers was unescapable. It would soon claim its casualties.
The Police Assault on Ipperwash and the Killing of Dudley George
Throughout Tuesday, September 5, and Wednesday, September 6, 1995, dozens of out of town officers appeared in the area near the camp and park. There was a mass mobilization of police force which seemed well out of proportion given the small numbers of community occupiers and the peaceful, by all accounts, nature of the protest.
Police roadblocks were set up on roads around the park and drivers were stopped and questioned. Indigenous drivers and passengers were subjected to particularly lengthy interrogations by police. The night of the police assault police shut down all roads around the park and military base sealing the protesters off from the outside world. Dozens of police vehicles, including containment vans, had been massed outside the park.
Numerous people, like Kettle and Stony Point band councillor Cecil Bernard, told OPP officers during the occupation that the occupiers were “good, peaceful people” (Edwards 2001, 1). They also noted that they felt that the officers did not care or were almost disappointed to hear this.
On the evening of the lethal police raid that killed Dudley George there were only about 25 people inside the park and this included some children (Edwards 2001, 2). The occupiers had no weapons in the park. In fact weapons had been banned by occupiers who realized they could not win in a shootout with police, which they did not seek anyway, and having weapons could be potentially disastrous.
The police maneuvers that resulted in the killing of Dudley George were military in character. The riot squad, the Crowd Management Unit, that moved on the camp was made up of the OPP Tactics and Rescue Unit (TRU) a paramilitary formation (Edwards 2001, 3). They consisted of scouts and snipers. It was never quite clear how the decision to send in the TRU was ever arrived at and ordered.
At one point earlier in the evening they had almost claimed a different victim, also unarmed. A TRU sniper had eyed what he believed to be an Indigenous person with a rifle standing at the side of the road. He also saw what he believed to be the reddish glow from a night vision riffle scope. What happened next is chilling. The officer reported into his radio: “CMU [Crowd Management Unit] be advised party on road may have a weapon in his hand. Check CMU person on the road does have a weapon, does have a weapon. Everybody move. Right, left, quick right, left, quick right, left, quick right, left, everybody quick right. Left” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 3). The sniper dropped into position taking aim on the figure, awaiting the order to “Fire.” The man was that close to being dead. As automatic weapons trained on him snipers confirmed the perceived threat. A police scout: “Confirm one man with weapon—long gun” (Edwards 2001, 3). That close.
But the police were mistaken. A message from Constable Mark Beauchene to Acting Sergeant Ken Deane clarified that the man in the crosshairs did not actually have a gun at all. He carried a walking stick. The red glow from the night sight—a lit cigarette (Edwards 2001, 3). And he was that close to being killed right then and there. Under eerily similar circumstances of police error and confusion Dudley George would not escape with such fortune.
Still the CMU continued their ill advised march on the camp. Near the park entrance protesters would see about 30 of them marching toward them in a tight box formation. Years before concerns would be more constantly raised about the militarization of policing, this formation of the riot squad came forward in head to toe body armor, with shin and elbow pads, holding Plexiglas shields and steel batons. They wore heavy helmets not meant to communicate with those they were approaching (to serve and protect of course). Rather their intended communications were only with each other. The helmets were equipped with internal microphones.
Police began pounding on the shields with their batons, “shield chatter,” in the tried and true attempt to intimidate, distract, and terrorize. This was nothing less than a military formation on a military maneuver. It was designed to frighten and threaten and, if necessary, to inflict lethal force. It had no other purpose or intent.
In response the protesters were not fully intimidated. Some turned high powered spotlights on the officers. Lights, symbolically, ironically, illuminating a situation from the history of Canadian settler colonialism—the deployment of military force to drive Indigenous people off of their lands. And the protesters were explicit that they recognized and understood this. They responded to the CMU appropriately: “This is our traditional land. Our forefathers were here before you! Get back on the Mayflower! Go back with the Pilgrims” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 5). And: “You’re stealing our land! Go back to England! Get the fuck off our land!” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 5). The land reclaimers were justly defiant. They were no aggressive or violent. None of that mattered to police who were impatient to deploy force against the protesters (for reasons not immediately apparent perhaps but politically significant).
Riot squad officers initially made a raid against Indigenous people in the parking lot. Police adopted a spread formation, standing wide apart to look more menacing and to avoid projectiles (Edwards 2001, 5). Moments later the police charged the group again. Indigenous protesters were beaten, at least one into unconsciousness. Later in the attack a dog that was with the protesters would be shot and killed by police. In the end, in addition to Dudley George, 16-year-old Nicholas Cottrelle would also be shot in the volleys of dozens of bullets fired by police at Indigenous protesters. Cecil Slippery George would be beaten almost to death by police. A dog that was with Cottrelle on a bus the youth tried to drive out of danger was also shot and killed.
Ken “Tex” Deane, the officer who shot and killed Dudley George, was armed with an East German Heckler and Koch submachine gun. It fired 800 rounds a minute. Deane had been on duty for sixteen hours. Another officer, Sergeant George Hebblethwaite, second in command of the riot squad, recognized that George appeared to be holding only a stick (Edwards 2001, 10). Yet, in what would be found in a trial and inquiry after the killing to be unwarranted and unjustifiable use of force, Deane opened fire anyway. Deane hit George with what were the second and third volleys of bullets he fired. The third volley delivered the lethal shot.
Dudley George’s sister Carolyn and brother Pierre tried frantically to get their stricken sibling to the local hospital for urgently needed care. They placed him in a car and made a desperate run for the hospital. What played out was an horrific expression of police vengeance and pettiness. Police attempted at every turn to stop the vehicle carrying the badly wounded Dudley George and the frantic effort to save his life saw the vehicle circumvent several would be roadblocks and out-maneuver the police pursuit. Incredibly they managed to get Dudley to Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital in Strathroy, Ontario. The nightmare did not end when they got there.
Police chose to arrest and detain Pierre George and Carolyn George, who delivered Dudley to the hospital, rather than get the dying man immediate medical attention. Young Nicolas Cottrelle, only 16, who was also shot by police would himself be charged by police with attempted murder. With 28 blunt force trauma wounds across his body delivered by police, Slippery George was charged with assault. The laying of charges against people who have been violently attacked by police is a standard practice that is all too familiar to people who have engaged in political protests in Canada. It is a practice that has become routine.
Dudley’s brother Pierre and sister Carolyn, who had so desperately tried to save their brother’s life were put in the Strathroy town jail and each charged with attempted murder. Police at the jail refused to answer Pierre George’s repeated requests to find out how Dudley was. Somehow though they knew.
Dudley George suffered fractures of the seventh, eighth, and ninth ribs on his left side, a cracked collar bone, and had two large fragments of bullets in the subcutaneous soft tissues (Edwards 2001, 20). The young man, a beloved jokester, was declared dead at 12:20 AM on September 7, 1995, at nearby Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital, in Strathroy, Ontario.
Anthony O’Brien George (March 17, 1957–September 7, 1995), known to friends and family as Dudley, was the eighth of ten children born to Geneviève (“Jenny”) Pauline Rogers George and Reg “Nug” (Reginald Ransford) George.
Kettle and Stony Point Chief, Tom Bressette, described the sense of terror inflicted on the community by police. In his words: “Our elders were fleeing the community…They were afraid the army would come back with the police and kill them” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 22). The history of violence inflicted on the community and the immediate killing of their neighbor Dudley gave them ample reason to feel threatened. As would be revealed in the pubic inquiry held years later the community without fully knowing it perhaps had larger political reasons to be fearful. The government was fully prepared to deploy, indeed desired, police terror against the community to break the occupation.
The morning after the killing of Dudley George, Premier Harris refused to meet with Chief Bressette, Assembly of First Nations head Ovid Mercredi, and Ontario Chief Gord Peters. Harris referred to the occupation as illegal even though senior government ministers knew it was likely fully legal given the existence of burial grounds in the park (Edwards 2001, 118). The claim of Indigenous illegality was a claim Harris would repeat publicly even days later. After the killing the military tried to denigrate Dudley George by suggesting he had an “extreme criminal record” (Edwards 2001, 116). This was in no way accurate. He had one arrest as a youth (in an event for which white youth also involved were never even charged).
Racism and Colonialism Continued: Law and Order Conservatism and the Ipperwash Siege
The community members believed early on that Conservative Premier Mike Harris was responsible for the lethal police operation. Harris and his hard Right neoliberal Conservative Party government had only been elected three months before the killing of Dudley George. His government had made clear in their election campaign that they would make poor and working class communities scapegoats for social discontent and economic uncertainty. The suffering of the poor and unemployed would pay for social programs desired by the wealthy (through a massive transfer of social wealth away from services needed by the poorest members of society). They were an openly reactionary force for capital and fierce proponents of a neoliberal austerity agenda and tough on crime politics of repression.
Under the banner of their so-called “Common Sense Revolution” the Harris Tories launched a counter-revolutionary assault against poor people, welfare recipients, unions, students, community groups, and progressives of all types. At one point a year into his term Harris would target even sociologists (who were critical of anti-social government policy) labeling the discipline as “waste in the system” of post-secondary education.
Harris had, as official Opposition leader, made his racist views on Indigenous communities, and common sense, known to a group of business people (his people) at the Elmhurst Resort near Peterborough. According to Harris: “There’s a whole notion of guilt…because Native people haven’t fully adapted from the reservations [reserves] to being full partners in this economy. We can’t let that guilt preclude us from reaching a common sense solution” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 26). Common sense to Harris was justification for ongoing colonialism. Hs was, on the whole, an agenda of ramped up violence in service of primitive accumulation and renewed conditions for exploitation more favorable to capital (against policies and programs that offered some buffer for the working class and oppressed.
Among the changes introduced early by Premier Harris was the ending of employment equity legislation that would have had employers make plans to hire visible minorities, women, and Indigenous people (Edwards 2001, 26). This was the common sense counter-revolution for Ontario. Notably this agenda would be taken nationally when the revamped Conservative Party under Stephen Harper came to power between 2005 and 2015 with several veterans of Harris’s Common Sense Revolution as ministers in the federal cabinet.
From the start police were aware that they were being watched closely by the Premier’s office and Conservative Party. The first day of the operation Conservative MPP Marcel Beaubien arrived on the scene and was in communication with the government at Queen’s Park. The earliest government meetings expressed an intention to “remove the occupiers ASAP” (Edwards 2001, 80). The Conservative Party had campaigned on a hard law and order platform of zero tolerance for even minor offenses and the quelling of political dissent. The Premier’s office sought to use the excuse of break and enter or property damage to push it law and order agenda and sought signs of weapons.
Conservative MPP Beaubien released a press statement replaying racist claims about a two-tiered justice system that was soft on Natives, compared, again in racist fashion, to non[-Native people who were presented as “law abiding and tax paying citizens” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 82). The Indigenous community members were described as “irresponsible, law breaking dissidents” despite the fact that the occupation had not been declared illegal by anyone formally or charges prepared (quoted in Edwards 2001, 82). These claims played on racist tropes familiar in the history of Canadian colonialism and cultural erasure of Indigenous peoples. To add a further racist plum MPP Beaubien tried to distinguish between “your decent native citizen” and “thugs” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 82). Another referent from Canadian colonial discourse.
MPPs like Beaubien were ratcheting up tensions and calling on the Premier’s office for a forceful and swift intervention. Pressure was also coming from Conservative Party supporters. A letter from a local lawyer to the government was circulated saying in part: “The Conservative government had a large law and order plank in its platform—I want to see it live up to its election promises and my expectations. I want to see Ipperwash Provincial Park remain in the public domain, and I want the law enforced to see that it does” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 88). The letter writer raised the clichéd specter of anarchy and showed little regard for the wellbeing of protesters: “The time to act, and act decisively, is now. If people are hurt, so be it—the laws must be enforced to be respected….If illegal acts are tolerated, they spread. The end result is anarchy” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 88). This from a lawyer promoting illegal police action against Indigenous people who, on the basis of the known burial site on the lands were not actually acting illegally (which it turns out the government was aware of). An open call for potential extrajudicial execution of land defenders.
Ironically the statement offered a note that expressed the very situation of the Indigenous community that had waited 50 years to get their land back. It read: “People begin to perceive the government cannot protect them and their interests—they begin to take steps to protect themselves” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 88). Meant as a threat this actually explained the situation of the land reclaimers who were being targeted for condemnation.
The appeals of the non-Natives and the racist messaging was not lost o the government which agreed with such sentiments. In meetings of the provincial Emergency Planning Committee, notes show clearly that the Conservative government would accept no compromise and would accept nothing, in fact, except the forced removal of the reclaimers. The government would not negotiate. Neither would they consider, incredibly, that the Indigenous people actually had legitimate claims on the lands. This intransigence was in place even as experts informed them that there were no legal grounds for removal of the occupiers. Stunningly, the government’s own files contained proof of the existence of the burial ground inside the park.
The government had already decided to seek an ex parte injunction against the Indigenous protesters. This would ban them from making any argument of their case in the courts, excluding them from the process. It was a measure usually reserved for extreme cases (Edwards 2001, 91). Excluded from the hearing they could not argue or provide evidence for their reasons for being on the land. The police were granted the ex parte injunction for four days.
Notes show that the government asked police to remove the protesters and showed frustration that the police did not do so immediately. The government wanted “to be seen as acting” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 89). The government even rejected possible assistance from Kettle and Stony Point band chief Tom Bressette. According to notes: “This government will not be seen as cooperating with the Indians” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 90).
Racism played an active part in the approach taken by police as well as by government. Protesters reported police hurling racist epithets at them throughout the occupation and police assault on the reclamation camp and saying Dudley George, by name, would “be the first” (Edwards 2001, 86). Police communication suggested that Native occupiers had been drinking even though there was no sign they were drinking and that they had, in fact, said they wanted no drinking among people at the site. According to police transcripts, OPP Superintendent Anthony Parkin said of the land reclaimers: “They’re probably all boozed up. They’ve probably been drinking” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 98). The police also suggested cynically that some occupiers were leaving because they knew trouble was coming. Yet they had actually left because they had school and jobs to go to (Edwards 2001, 98). This fact never occurred to police steeped in colonial racist ideology of unemployed, uneducated, Natives. The police also played on racist constructions of Indigenous people as untrustworthy and crooked. Toward this end the police spread rumors in the local area about native occupiers stealing gas. This was designed to stoke suspicion and anger among local farmers, business people, and town residents.
Police and government documents would show a close relationship between the provincial government and the OPP, even in contravention of law and public policy separating government from policing operations. OPP Commissioner Thomas O’Grady was a member of a joint crisis team that met regularly beginning one month before Dudley George was killed by police. So close was the relationship that the OPP had been nicknamed the “Ontario Political Police” (Edwards 2001, 120). The joint team was viewed as a legitimate vehicle for government.
Social War Policing and the Killing of Dudley George
In a case that underlines the state-capital nexus in policing, and the police as social war defenders of capital, the police also received an armored personnel carrier directly from the manufacturer, GM Diesel, in the nearby city of London, Ontario. Of note, the factory had a special agreement with the London police to provide it armored vehicles in times of police need. The only conceivable possible need was crowd control and anti-protest maneuvers.
The infamous Chief of Police for London at the time, one Julian Fantino (known for racial profiling during his time as chief in York, Ontario and for keeping a list of gay men while in London) agreed to loan a vehicle to the OPP for the siege of Ipperwash. Fantino would, several years later, be head of the OPP at the time of the Six Nations occupation at Caledonia, Ontario. There the police would notoriously assault the occupation in violation of the recommendations that arose following the police murder of Dudley George. OPP under Fantino would also protect white supremacists who sought to attack the Six Nations reclamation.
The military nature of the police action was further reinforced with the use of air cover through helicopter flyovers. Occupiers had noted surveillance by low flying police helicopters as well as shoreline patrols by a police boat. The Indigenous land reclaimers were being encircled on land and in the air. And even by water. Around the clock. This was a full on military siege. At the same time they actually consisted of a grand total of nine people, including three children (Edwards 2001, 80). At one point a police helicopter buzzed so low on a picnic of women and children that it blew their food off the table (Edwards 2001, 86).
The OPP made informal requests for help to the Canadian military. OPP were in communication with the military over a plan to outnumber Natives ten to one (rather than the two to one ratio in effect when Dudley George was killed). Unfortunately for their plan available troops were preparing to fight an external imperial battle in Bosnia.
Surveillance and Police Spies
As in traditional military operations the state also deployed special ops against the occupiers. At least one spy provided information over a period of time to both CSIS and the OPP. The one identified spy was Jim Moses, a journalist who had contributed to various Indigenous media as well as mainstream outlets like the state broadcaster the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) and its investigative newsmagazine The Fifth Estate (Edwards 2001, 69). CSIS was particularly interested in involvement by or connections with the Mohawk Warrior Society, noted for activism and community defense at Akwesasne and Oka. Moses reported being paid around $2000 by the OPP over almost three years of spying on Indigenous groups. CSIS paid between 400 dollars and 800 dollars per month (Edwards 2001, 69).
Notably, over his period with the Stoney Point occupiers Moses could find and report no wrongdoing by the group. This despite the fact that it would have been beneficial financially for him to do so. Moses went on to stay with the occupiers at the military base. He never saw any guns at the occupation. He regarded Dudley George as a joker rather than a fighter or leader (Edwards 2001, 70). He expressed deep sadness at George’s killing. In his words: “Dudley was a happy-go-lucky friendly guy…I was sick. I felt empty…It was totally unnecessary” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 70). This from the police infiltrator.
The OPP also used officers posing as tourists to spy on Indigenous people along the park beach. In addition two undercover officers were placed in the camp posing as campers. They operated out of a trailer and a mobile home (Edwards 2001, 70). Notably they too had nothing threatening or ominous to report about the activities of the occupiers.
The OPP’s military Tactics and Rescue Unit had been formed specifically to address terrorism (in the period before 9/11). It’s deployment and dubious use in this situation show both the government view of Indigenous land defense and the misuse for purely politically opportunistic purposes various “anti-terror” mechanisms. Notably the police construction of Indigenous land defenders as terrorists continues in recent surveillance and response to Indigenous pipeline resistance in the twenty-first century.
The police, despite massive surveillance and an infiltrator in the occupation camp, had no evidence, at any point, of any danger posed by the land reclaimers. Yet the government took the extreme measure of gaining an ex parte injunction against the occupiers.
An Inquiry and a Killer Cop Convicted
In a rare turn of events in the Canadian state context, where police are almost never charged or brought to trial for killing civilian, the officer who killed Dudley George, Acting Sergeant Ken “Tex” Deane was actually charged and his case tried in a court of law. Deane put forward a defense that he believed Dudley George to be carrying a rifle at the time he shot the young man. The presiding judge did not accept this Defense and found Deane’s claims to lack credibility, a rare conclusion regarding police officer testimony in cases where officers are charged for killing someone. According to Judge Hugh Fraser: “I find, sir, that you were not honest in presenting this version of events to the Ontario Provincial Police investigators. You were not honest in presenting this version of events to the Special Investigations Unit of the Province of Ontario. You were not honest in maintaining this ruse before this court” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 198). Deane was found guilty of criminal negligence but sentenced to a non-custodial punishment. For killing Dudley George in cold blood Tex Deane was given a conditional sentence of two years less a day which was to be served in the community (Edwards 2001, 214).
Despite the conviction, Tex Deane did not lose his job as a police officer. He maintained his employment with the force for five-and-a-half years following the criminal conviction. Over that time Officer Deane appealed his conviction to the Ontario Court of Appeal and eventually all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. Finally, in the wake of a hearing under the Police Act, Deane was additionally convicted of Discreditable Conduct. He was given the option of resigning within seven days or being fired and left the force. Deane would go on to work as a security guard, unsettlingly, at an Ontario Hydro nuclear station.
Tex Deane was killed in a car accident on February 25, 2006. Ironically perhaps, his vehicle collided with a truck near Prescott, Ontario while Deane was traveling to testify in the provincial inquiry called into the government handling of the Ipperwash crisis (Harris 2006).
Following the police killing of Dudley George the George family made ongoing calls for both the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada to strike a public inquiry into the handling of the response to the land reclamation at Ipperwash by the province and the police. They wanted to know especially the nature and extent of government involvement in directing police operations against the Indigenous community protesters.
Finally, on November 12, 2003, a public inquiry was launched in Ontario. This only happened after the ruling Conservative Party lost the election of 2003 to the Liberal Party headed by Dalton McGuinty. The Conservatives had held to power and refused an inquiry into their actions for eight years.
While the inquiry was funded by the Government of Ontario it was carried out under a third party, Sidney B. Linden, who was deemed to be neutral. Linden derived his authority as a commissioner as covered by the Public Inquiries Act (Ontario). The public inquiry was given the specific mandate to examine and report on the events surrounding the killing of Dudley George. This was not a trial and no punishment would be levied. It was expected that the inquiry would provide recommendations covering interactions between police and Indigenous communities in future events of similar nature to the Ipperwash protests.
Evidence provided over the course of the inquiry was damning of the Conservative government’s racism and contempt for Indigenous communities. It also showed dubious government relationships with police and pointed to government pressures on policing in the nature of a police state. At one point a 17-minute tape recording was submitted that revealed a stunning conversation between OPP Inspector Ron Fox and Inspector John Carson, the OPP commander in charge of the Ipperwash case before Dudley George was killed. The two officers discussed Premier Mike Harris’s aggressive and racist perspective that that the government has “tried to pacify and pander to these people far too long” and to use “swift affirmative action” to remove the Indigenous people from the park (Ipperwash Inquiry 2007). It could be said that this was the only time in his period in office that Mike Harris supported any form of affirmative action.
Perhaps most damning was shocking evidence provided by former Ontario Provincial Attorney General Charles Harnick on November 28, 2005. Harniick testified that Premier Harris used extreme profanity while shouting, “I want the fucking Indians out of my park” (Ipperwash Public Inquiry 2005).
Former Premier Mike Harris did appear reluctantly before the inquiry on February 14, 2006. Harris denied in his testimony that he had ever made the statement attributed to him by Harnick (CBC News 2006). Notably, Justice Linden “found the statements were made and they were racist, whether intended or not” (Ipperwash Inquiry, Volume 1 2007, 677).
The evidentiary hearings portion of the inquiry ended on June 28, 2006. The final report from Justice Linden and the overall findings of the inquiry were released on May 31, 2007 (CBC News 2007). They concluded that the Premier’s office and the police had acted inappropriately and improperly in the events at Ipperwash.
Not in Vain: Victory to the Occupiers and the Return of the Lands
The killing of Dudley George can only be considered a state atrocity, an extrajudicial execution carried out on behalf of a government that sought to show it was tough of protesters and, more, an upholder of the colonial power relations at the heart of the Canadian state. But Dudley George’s death was not in vain. His people would emerge victorious in this particular struggle despite the efforts of the Ontario government. Unfortunately this victory, and confirmation of the rightness of their struggle, would only come 12 years after Dudley George was killed.
On December 20, 2007, the Ontario Provincial government, now under Liberal Party direction, made a public announcement that it would finally return the full acreage of Ipperwash Provincial Park to its proper inhabitants, the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation (Gillespie 2007). This initial announcement did not make full return of the lands immediately since the land was placed under co-management by the provincial government and the Indigenous communities for an unspecified period of time. The government also announced that there would be consultations carried out with nearby local communities (non-Indigenous). Then-Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Bryant suggested that the land would be turned over to full Chippewa control at the end of this consultation process.
The date finally came on Thursday May 28, 2009, when then-Ontario Aboriginal Affairs Minister Brad Duguid formally signed control of Ipperwash Park over to the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation (McCaffery 2009). The full settlement was only finalized on April 14, 2016, a delay for the community of more than 70 years after the government’s promised return of the end of World War Two. The land was turned over to the community along with a payment of $95 million. The Federal government was represented in the signing over by Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan and Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Dr. Carolyn Bennett. Signing the agreement on behalf of the First Nation was Chief Thomas Bressette (Bridge 2016).
It should also be noted that some members of the community have opposed the agreement as too little too late. Pierre George was engulfed in flames during a protest prior to the signing.
CODA: They are the Government. We Can Never Trust the Police
Peter Edwards gives a sense of the hegemonic view of policing held by most media members, but which Indigenous communities hold with skepticism. According to the reporter:
“It’s a basic understanding in a democracy that police keep a professional distance from politicians It has to be this way. Otherwise, police would soon find themselves ordered to crack down on the political rivals of whoever is in office, ass happens in Third World police states. That would be the certain death of democracy.” (Edwards 2001, 24)
Well then democracy in Canada is already dead. Killed by police. As each of the cases of activists killed by police in Canada shows the ruling politicians and political parties do not keep a distance from police. Regularly they engage with, direct, and/or pressure police to act with violence for political purposes and toward political ends. The police killing of Dudley George was no different in this respect.
One Indigenous woman offered an alternative view of the hegemonic perspective on [police as peacekeepers. In her view: “They [the police] are the government. We can never trust the police” (quoted in Edwards 2001, 25). This is a clear sighted and correct criminological analysis of the historic and contemporary character of policing in Canada. Despite what the national mythologies might have one believe.
Bridge, Terry. 2016. “Feds’ 1942 Land Expropriation Dispute Resolved with Land’s Return and $95-Million Payment to Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation.” Sarnia Observer. April 14. http://www.theobserver.ca/2016/04/14/feds-1942-land-expropriation-dispute-resolved-with-lands-return-and-95-million-payment-to-chippewas-of-kettle-and-stony-point-first-nation
CBC News. 2006. “Harris Denies Ever Using Profane Slur Against Natives.” CBC News. 16. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/harris-denies-ever-using-profane-slur-against-natives-1.592725
CBC News. 2007. “George Family Braces for Ipperwash Inquiry Report.” CBC News. May 31. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/george-family-braces-for-ipperwash-inquiry-report-1.633839
Edwards, Peter. 2001. One Dead Indian: The Premier, The Police, and the Ipperwash Crisis. Toronto: Stoddart
Gillespie, Kerry. 2007. “Ipperwash Land Returned to Indians.” Toronto Star. December 21. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2007/12/21/ipperwash_land_returned_to_indians.html
Harris, Kate. 2005. “Key Ipperwash Witness Killed in Highway Crash.” Globe and Mail. February 27. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/key-ipperwash-witness-killed-in-highway-crash/article20409136/
Ipperwash Inquiry. 2007. Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry, Volume 1. Toronto: Government of Ontario
Ipperwash Public Inquiry. 2005. “Ipperwash Public Inquiry. Transcript of November28.” http://mail.tscript.com/trans/ipperwash/nov_28_05/text.htm
McCaffery, Dan. 2009. “Ipperwash Park to Re-Open in 2010.” London Free Press. May 28. http://nationtalk.ca/story/ipperwash-park-to-re-open-in-2010-london-free-press
A police chase in downtown Brantford, Ontario, on Monday, November 7, 2016, ended in a the death of a 94-year-old woman after a car being chased by police crashed into the vehicle in which she was a passenger. The victim was taken to Brantford General Hospital where she was pronounced dead. The driver of her vehicle sustained numerous fractures. According to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) which investigates cases of police harm to civilians in the province, the chase started as police attempted to stop a vehicle beginning around 10:30 AM. The crash occurred at 10:40 AM.
Incredibly this crash occurred at the intersection of Colborne Street West and Gilkison Street, the same intersection at which a police car chase ended with the death of an innocent third party. On October 10, 2014, Ashley Lerno, 18, of Brantford, was killed as a result of a police chase when the vehicle she was driving was hit by another vehicle driven by Richard Gamble, 50, who was being chased by Brant County OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) officers for trying to avoid a RIDE, drinking and driving, check. The two officers in that case, Constable Craig McMurtrie and Constable Rod Grubb, have been charged, in a situation rarely faced by police whose actions result in deaths to civilians, with criminal negligence causing death. Their trial is slated to start on March 20, 2017.
Once again it must be asked for how long such actions by police in pursuit of issues like this that result in deaths of innocent and uninvolved people will be tolerated. These are too frequent results of police chases for matters of less grave significance.
The killing of Aaron Driver by RCMP on August 10, 2016, in what police have claimed was an anti-terrorism sting has raised a number of serious questions about the nature of the RCMP operation, the police relationship with Driver beforehand, the timing of the police intervention, and the seriousness of the threat, if any, actually posed by Driver. The only information circulating publicly is based on the word of the police and the lone known witness the cabbie, Terry Duffield, called by Driver before the police ambush and in whose taxi Driver was killed by an RCMP bullet.
RCMP claim to have intervened against Driver on the basis of a tip by the FBI that someone in Canada was planning an imminent terrorist attack in a public space. Yet their actions in approaching and killing Driver call into question the response taken to what police are claiming was a real, imminent, threat.
What Manner of Terror Bomb Explodes Killing No One?
Police initially intimated that Aaron Driver had been killed by a bomb that he held and which he detonated upon seeing police approach the cab he was sitting in. Yet an autopsy released by Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), who are investigating the actions of the RCMP has apparently revealed that Driver was killed by police bullets. The autopsy showed that several police bullets struck Driver, piercing vital organs (Rieti 2016).
Aaron Driver’s father, Wayne Driver, reported that his son was killed by a police bullet that struck his heart. The supposed bomb he carried could not have killed him. According to Wayne Driver: “It was the police officer’s bullet that killed him. The bomb that exploded he could have walked away from with minor to severe injuries they said” (quoted in Bell 2016a).
According to police Driver was even allowed to leave the vehicle after the explosion. In the words of RCMP Deputy Commissioner Mike Cabana: “Subsequent to that he came out of the cab and was standing up and was not following the direction that was provided” (quoted in Bell 2016b). And police had no opportunity to act before then given the imminent peril they claim?
This raises one rather large, fundamental, question. How could a bomb that was supposed to pose an imminent threat to broad public safety not be powerful enough to kill even the single person holding it on his lap? Now it is possible that Driver simply messed up in making it. It is also possible, especially given questions raised below about the police actions and the timing of their intervention that they had some knowledge of the bomb beforehand and had reason to expect that the bomb would do little or no harm. Perhaps because police had designed it and helped prepare it, as a dud, in much the manner they did for John Nuttall and Amanda Korody in entrapping that unfortunate couple.
Danger to Whom?: Why Not Protect the Cabbie?
The Strathroy, Ontario, taxi driver in whose cab Aaron Driver was shot and killed would certainly like to know why the police did not act sooner to protect him and to intercept the supposed terrorist before he entered the taxi carrying what RCMP have claimed were two bombs. RCMP officers already had Driver’s home surrounded when Terry Duffield drove his taxi cab into the driveway around 4:30 PM. According to police they swarmed the cab within seconds of Driver entering the back seat. Police claim that with the approach of police Driver detonated one explosive. RCMP claim that it was only in response to that detonation that they shot and killed Driver. In addition to the questions about the nature of a bomb, and its potential to cause mass harm, which could detonate in someone’s lap and not even kill that person directly, there is the question about why police waited, if they really believed Driver carried a serious bomb that posed substantial threat, until he was inside a car with an innocent bystander before approaching him. Why would they give him a chance to detonate the supposed bomb or bombs at all?
For his part Terry Duffield is furious with how police acted, risking his life if their account is true, and is promising legal action against the force. Duffield claims he is still dealing with the shock of that morning’s events and is taking medications for the resulting back pain and stress. In his words: “There will be legal action taken on this. They put my life in jeopardy” (quoted in CBC News 2016). Duffield, like many observers, is perplexed, to say the least, that police, if they really believed they were dealing with a terrorist carrying explosives and out to launch an “imminent attack,” would not stop the suspect before he put a bystander’s (the public’s) life in danger.
In Duffield’s view, police could have and should have done more to protect him than they did. In his words:
“I don’t think police handled it very well at all. They did absolutely nothing to help me. At no time did they try to warn me. At no time did they try to stop my vehicle from entering the address…This gentleman was allowed to walk in front of my car, down the side of my car, get in my car and all of these sharp-shooters, all these SWAT teams and all these people who were supposed to be around, nobody did anything until after the bomb went off.” (quoted in CBC News 2016)
This raises real, significant, questions. It makes the critic wonder if police had reason to believe that Driver’s bomb was a phony, incapable of exploding, much like the one that RCMP helped to build for John Nuttall and Amada Korody in their infamous entrapment case of two poor, marginalized, people dealing with addition and mental health issues in Surrey, British Columbia three years before the river case. Perhaps police believed the bomb was no bomb at all (because they had assisted in or directed its’ making). Perhaps the cabbie was part of the public anti-terror takedown gone wrong (there is no evidence of this at this point and Duffield would seem sincere in his claims). In initial reports it was said that Duffield jumped from the taxi before the bomb was detonated. More recent reports (CBC News 2016) say that police ordered him to leave the car after the bomb had already been detonated.
Duffield had a follow up interview with police and specifically asked why the force did not offer him any protection in their operation that morning. The cabbie remains dissatisfied that police offered him no explanation. The public seeks one as well. Duffield, who has retained a lawyer and intends to pursue legal action, and curious observers alike, are left to ponder.
Maintaining Secrecy and Unaccountability in Anti-Terror Cases: No Independent Investigation
Confounding all of this is the fact that there has been, and there will be, no independent public investigation into the RCMP killing of Aaron Driver and any or all of the questionable circumstances surrounding it. Provincial police have been tasked with the investigation into Driver’s shooting at the request of the Strathroy-Caradoc Police Service (Rieti 2016). The OPP and Strathroy-Caradoc police “continue to jointly investigate the incident” under direction of the head of the OPP’s criminal investigations branch. That is, the police, and only the police, are “investigating” the police in this case. That has been a consistent recipe for cover up, hush up, distortion, and distraction. And legitimation.
All of this is in keeping with the secrecy, lack of transparency, obfuscation, and disassembly that have been the hallmarks of anti-terror practices in Canada. This includes the secretive actions of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Communications Security Establishment Canada (Canada’s NSA) as well as notorious instruments like security certificates which violate all notions of due process and allow for the state to detain people for indefinite periods while subjecting then to “trials” without disclosure or even a reading of charges against them, ad without proper representation or defense.
Bell, Stewart. 2016a. “ISIL Supporter Aaron Driver Was Killed by Police Gunfire, Not Explosive Device He Detonated, Family Says.” The National Post. August 16. http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/isil-supporter-aaron-driver-was-killed-by-police-gunfire-and-not-explosive-device-he-detonated-family-says
Bell, Stewart. 2016b. “Aaron Driver’s ‘More Powerful’ Bomb Never Exploded, RCMP Says, Revealing New Details of Tense Confrontation.” The National Post. August 20. http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/aaron-drivers-more-powerful-bombs-never-detonated-rcmp-says-revealing-new-details-of-tense-confrontation
CBC News. 2016. “Aaron Driver’s Cabbie Plans Legal Action against Police.” CBC News. August 18. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/aaron-driver-taxi-bombing-1.3726701?cmp=rss
Rieti, John. 2016. “Aaron Driver Autopsy Shows RCMP Bullet Killed ISIS Sympathizer.” CBC News. August 16. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/aaron-driver-autopsy-1.3722972
Six years after Brian Gray, 39, was killed by members of the Ontario Provincial Police Emergency Response Team at Whitefish Bay on the Lac Seul First Nation in Northern Ontario, the jury in the coroner’s inquest into his killing has released its recommendations. These show both the delay in responding to police killings in Canada as well as the limited framework for addressing police violence and lethal force.
The coroner’s inquest noted that officers took more than four hours to each the residence at Whitefish Bay after the initial call was made reporting an incident at the home, May 9, 2010. This became notable for the jury because by the time the Emergency Response Team arrived the situation had escalated well beyond the incident that gave rise to the call to police. Indeed Gray had taken time to leave the site of the initial incident on at least one occasion returning to his own home before returning.
According to the initial report of the provincial police oversight body, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Gray had actually released a hostage right before police responded by shooting him several times killing him. He apparently gave out a large scream right before he was shot but one would hope this did not startle officers causing a panicked response. Gray was still conscious after being shot and police handcuffed him before taking him to an ambulance. He died at the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre. In any event the SIU, not surprisingly, determined that the police execution of Gray was justified. They cleared three OPP officers involved in killing Gray.
The coroner’s inquest jury found that Brian Gray was killed died as a result of multiple “gunshot wounds to the torso” (Porter 2016). The jury ruled Gray’s death to be a homicide. In this context the ruling means that the death is “a result of the purposeful actions of another person and does not carry any criminal connotations” (Porter 2016).
The jury made 18 recommendations with regard to the inquiry in Gray’s killing and these did recognize the problems within the O.P.P in terms of aboriginal awareness and interactions with indigenous civilians. As is disproportionately the case in incidents of lethal police violence against civilians the person killed is experiencing a mental health issue that finds a response not in care but in policing. Among the 18 recommendations issued by the jury are these:
“Options for more effective tactical response should be explored, including but not limited to enhanced Emergency Response Team (ERT) training, upgrading the North Western Region ERT team to level 2 Tactical capabilities, and placing a Tactics and Rescue unit (TRU) team in Northern Ontario.
The OPP should ensure that all members working with aboriginal communities and people receive Aboriginal Awareness Training that should be updated when necessary.
When OPP Officers are deployed in a location where they might be expected to attend on a First Nation, they should attend and be familiarized with that First Nation soon after being deployed to that Detachment.
When a critical incident occurs, an individual or individuals should be identified by Lac Seul First Nation to liaise between the police, First Nation and family of the subject, for the purpose of improving communication, and keeping the families informed of the progress of an incident.
Lac Seul First Nation should receive funding to hire a certified mental health counsellor, to hire and train additional mental health workers, to train its existing mental health workers, and to increase awareness of mental health issues and to initiate early intervention within the community.” (Porter 2016)
None of the recommendations from a coroner’s inquest are binding.
Porter, Jodie. 2016. “Police Killed Northern Ontario First Nation Man, Inquest Jury Concludes.” CBC News. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/police-shooting-lac-seul-first-nation-1.3579724
Killing to Protect Property: Police and Vigilantes in the Reesor Siding Strike Massacre of 1963 (Activists Killed by Cops Feature)
Killing to Protect Property: Police and Vigilantes in the Reesor Siding Strike Massacre of 1963 (Activists Killed by Cops Series)
Policing in Canada has at its roots the protection of property and profit. The police at all levels have readily resorted to violence, including lethal force, to protect the interests of private property holders and businesses. They have also worked to provide a context in which property holders and business owners have been able to inflict often lethal violence against working people and the poor, especially against labor organizers and union members, with impunity and often in the sheltering presence of the police themselves.
Too often if police violence against activists in the Canadian context is considered at all it is viewed as a relic, something confined to the early histories of colonial or industrial strife, remnants of say the less enlightened 1910s or 1930s, eras marked by robber barons and resource giants. Yet labor struggles in all periods of Canadian history have shown the willingness of police to deploy extreme violence against unionists and to support such violence against unionist by others.
The strike at Reesor Siding in 1963 stands as one of the signal and bloodiest labor struggles in Canadian history even if it and the town it is named for have been unduly forgotten. It would culminate in a vicious attack on striking workers by vigilantes accompanied by, and facilitated by, local police, with the shooting of 11 union members, three of whom were killed in the assault.
The 1963 strike involved fifteen hundred members of the Lumber and Sawmill Workers Union (LSWU), Local 2995 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America who worked at the Spruce Falls Power and Paper Company. Issues of concern included a proposed wage freeze and an attempt by the company to extend the woodworkers work week to seven days a week over the next two months in order to meet a company quota.
Among the other suppliers of pulp wood to the mill were independent settler farmers who supplied about one-quarter of the company’s annual input. These settler farmers, who sold wood to supplement their incomes, were asked to stop their sales of pulp wood to the company to put additional pressure on the mill and strengthen the workers’ position.
Throughout the strike, the union organizers attempted to demonstrate to the farmers that the strike against a common antagonist Spruce Falls would benefit both farmers and workers. The union even offered to feed and give firewood to any farmers who were affected by the strike (Kapuskasing Times 2013).
Settler farmers, forgoing solidarity for narrow self-interest refused to halt operations to support the strikers and improve their bargaining position. A strike at the New York Times, a main purchaser of the mill’s pulp further reduced the striking woodcutters’ leverage. In retaliation for the scabbing operations of the settler farmers, striking workers sabotaged the settlers’ stacked lumber piles, destroying some lumber and making it unusable against their own efforts.
The growing tensions in the community came to a head on February 10, 1963. At midnight of that day a shipment of 600 cords (2200 m³) of lumber was scheduled to be loaded onto waiting railcars for transport to the company. Twenty settler farmers were present to defend the lumber and they were openly ready and prepared to use any levels of violence deemed necessary to do so. Around 20 officers of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) were also present at the loading station in order to protect the lumber and presumably the angry settler farmers as well. The settler farmers and OPP officers formed what has been called a “battalion” against the strikers (Darrah 2015). A grouping of an estimated 400 workers had determined to impede the shipment but they were, as has generally been the case in labor disputes in Canada, unarmed.
The police put up a simple chain line to keep the striking workers away from the shipment. As workers moved past the chain and continued toward the pulp wood several of the farmers, who police knew to be armed, stepped out from their hiding place at a hut by the tracks and began shooting before the union members indiscriminately with no response from the police whose actions, in fact, allowed the ambush to occur. Eleven union members were shot. Brothers Irenée and Joseph Fortier along with Fernand Drouin were killed. Eight others were wounded: Harry Bernard, Ovila Bernard, Joseph Boily, Alex Hachey, Albert Martel, Joseph Mercier, Léo Ouimette, and Daniel Tremblay.
It has long been understood that the OPP officers were aware that the farmers were armed the night of the assault. It was also well known within the community, and would certainly have been known to police that the farmers had been worked up to a murderous pitch against the striking workers. The mayor of nearby Kapuskasing, Norman Grant, was quoted in the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, saying, “These settlers are getting so desperate they are going to go into the bush with guns and shoot anyone who tries to interfere with their cutting.” None other than Donald MacDonald, leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP), would later report that affidavits after the massacre showed that the police knew that the farmers had brought firearms with them that night, but did not take any precautions to ensure the weapons were not used against the workers. Indeed it was the OPP who notified the farmers that the workers were coming, allowing them to prepare their ambush (Kapuskasing Times 2013).
The response of the provincial government was to send an additional 200 OPP officers to the area, the same force that had been complicit in the massacre. The Ontario Ministry of Labour intervened to settle the dispute, with the workers having to return to work under the conditions of their old contract only a week after the killings. Joseph Laforce, President of Local 2995 and the executive board of LSWU had accepted the agreement only under threat by the Government of Ontario that it was poised to legislate the workers back to work if they refused this solution (Kapuskasing Times 2013). The strike had gone on for only 33 days.
Incredibly, 254 union members were charged with rioting, there had been no riot by workers, and held temporarily in the former Monteith POW Camp (which is now the site of a penitentiary) (Kapuskasing Times 2013). They were released on bail posted by the union but in subsequent trials 138 union members were found guilty of illegal assembly and the union was made to pay $27,600 in fines.
All twenty settler farmers present at the siding the night of the shootings were charged. In total an arsenal of five .22 caliber rifles, three 12 gauge shotguns, two .30-30 caliber rifles, two Lee–Enfield rifles, a .30-06 caliber rifle, and a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver were confiscated.
The case against the farmers was heard in October 1963 in the nearby town of Cochrane, before Supreme Court of Ontario Chief Justice McRuer. Astonishingly, but showing the real face of class justice in the Canadian context, following a preliminary hearing, the seven-man jury dismissed the charges of non-capital murder after three days of deliberations. Paul-Emile Coulombe, Léonce Tremblay, and Héribert Murray were charged with firearms violations in relation to the ambush, which resulted in fines of a mere $150 to each of them, a pittance in comparison to the fines levied against the union and given he atrocity of the actions the men had been involved in.
Some suggest at the Reesor Siding Massacre and the murders of the three workers contributed to provincial arbitration and an improvement of working conditions for bush workers across Northern Ontario (Darrah 2015). It apparently did much to build solidarity among workers in the region.
A monument to the murdered workers was placed on the site as well as a provincial historical marker. Over the years anti-unionists have made threats on the memorial. Several folk songs have been written about the massacre including one by Stompin Tom Connors. Ironically, in the years after the massacre any children of farmers left the farms to go work in the bush for Spruce Falls.
It is often said and believed, by criminologists as by members of the general public, that the police are neutral arbitrators who serve and protect without taking sides in social conflicts, particularly those involving the private realm of industry. Yet throughout Canadian history we see the fundamental, and consistent, class character of policing as mechanism of capital accumulation, profit, and property relations (and relations of ownership and control of production). The Reesor Siding Massacre shows yet another example, this time of complicity in mass murder and direct relations with those responsible for killing (even alerting them of their victims’ impending arrival and unwillingness to disarm the assailants ahead of time).
The Reesor Siding Massacre also offers an important if forgotten aspect of the history of settlerism I the Canadian context. It is one that bears further research.
Darrah, Dan. 2015. This Labour Day Let’s Remember Five Forgotten Stories of Struggle. Rankandfile.ca http://rankandfile.ca/2015/09/07/this-labour-day-lets-remember-five-forgotten-stories-of-struggle/
Kapuskasing Times 2013. “Fifty Years Later: The Ressor Siding Incident.” Kapuskasing Times. http://www.kapuskasingtimes.com/2013/02/13/50-years-later-the-reesor-siding-incident