Ford turns his back on Ipperwash inquiry recommendation

Dudley George

When Ontario Premier Doug Ford appointed Greg Rickford as the "Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, and Minister of Indigenous Affairs" this past Friday, he turned his back on a key recommendation that emerged out of the Ipperwash Crisis that took place in September 1995.

The Canadian Encyclopedia explains, "The Ipperwash Crisis took place in 1995 on land in and around Ontario’s Ipperwash Provincial Park, which was claimed by the Kettle and Stony Point First Nation. The underlying cause of the crisis was the appropriation of the Stoney Point Reserve in 1942 by the federal government for use as a military camp. After repeated requests for the land to be returned, members of the Stony Point First Nation occupied the camp in 1993 and in 1995."

APTN adds, "On Sept. 4, 1995, a group of unarmed members of the Stoney Point First Nation in Ontario reclaimed Ipperwash Provincial Park. Within 24 hours, the Ontario Provincial Police moved in. One activist was shot and wounded, one was beaten until his heart stopped, and Anthony 'Dudley' George was shot dead."

While then Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris had refused to hold an inquiry into what had happened, Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty established one within a month of winning office in 2003. (The province's former attorney general testified at that inquiry that Harris had said he wanted "the f--king Indians out of the park" hours before the police moved in and killed George.)

APTN notes, "The Ipperwash Inquiry [that was held from 2003 to 2006] unveiled racism on the police force, inexcusable delays by the federal government on the land issue, and a lack of transparency and accountability from the provincial government. The final report [released in May 2007] made recommendations outlining how government and police should behave to avoid future violence against Aboriginal activists."

Among the recommendations was that the provincial government create a stand-alone Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs.

When the first Minister of Aboriginal Affairs was sworn into office on June 22, 2007, then Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse stated, "First Nations in Ontario welcome the creation of a stand alone Ministry, with its own Minister and Deputy Minister. This move will raise the profile of First Nations issues within government, and will ensure that First Nations have a dedicated voice at the Cabinet table."

Amid speculation last week that Ford would not appoint an Indigenous Affairs minister, CBC reported, "[Ontario Regional Chief Isadore] Day said Ontario faces pressing issues, including treaty claims, so it would be problematic for the new government to put responsibility for Indigenous issues into another ministry that's focused on the province's own interests in land and natural resources."

NDP leader Andrea Horwath stated, "[Cutting the ministry would send] a very, very worrisome signal that those issues are not going to get the attention they need and deserve. ...The legacy of a former Conservative government led us to having that separate attention. Now is not the time to turn back the clock."

After Ford's cabinet was sworn in yesterday, NDP MPP-elect Sara Singh said having a "part-time" minister devoted to Indigenous relations is just "not good enough."

And Ontario Coalition Against Poverty organizer John Clarke, who recently spoke at our Groundswell annual conference, has tweeted, "The same Minister who serves the interests of #miningcompanies will also handle #Indigenous affairs in #DougFord's Ontario. It is as if they wanted to look as shameless and sleazy as possible."