Ipperwash, also known as Stoney Point & Aazhoodena, was one of two confrontations in the summer of 1995 between Indigenous people & Canadian police-military forces. While events in Stoney Point unfolded, the siege at Gustafsen Lake/Ts’Peten was already underway. In the BC interior, 450 heavily-armed RCMP had laid siege to a small group of Secwepemc Sundancers.
Both conflicts involved police opening fire; but in the case of Aazhoodena, this was against unarmed protesters. One Indigenous person was shot & killed—Dudley George—while a 15 year old youth was shot in the back. Like the siege at Gustafsen Lake, police in Ontario also requested military assistance, including helicopters and armoured personnel carriers. An Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer also attended the siege at Gustafsen Lake as an observer.
The OPP officer who killed Dudley George, acting-Sergeant Kenneth Deane, was subsequently charged with criminal negligence causing death, & convicted in 1997. During his trial, the judge stated that Deane had knowingly lied to the court in claiming that George had been armed. Despite this, he was sentenced to just two years, to be served in the community, along with 180 hours of community service.
It was later revealed that police were under orders from the provincial government to use force and to quickly end the re-occupation. For over 8 years, Dudley’s family & supporters campaigned for a public inquiry. Only in 2003, when a new government came to power, was an inquiry called. It is scheduled to begin September 2004.
Background to Stoney Point
The Kettle & Stoney Point reserves are located in southern Ontario, along the shores of Lake Huron. The people are said to be descendents of Potawatomi & Chippewa. They are also said to be descendents of the Shawnee war chief, Tecumseh.
The immediate cause of the 1995 conflict was the theft of land at Aazhoodena in the 1930s, and the relocation of the entire community during WW2 to make way for an army base.
In 1936, the government took a section of the Stoney Point reserve and made it a provincial park (Ipperwash). Within this area were burial grounds, which the government was well aware of.
In April 1942, despite a community vote rejecting an offer of $50,000 to relocate, the government appropriated the reserve under the War Measures Act (martial law). The band is relocated in the fall of ’42 to make way for an Army training camp. The people were relocated to the Kettle Point reserve, and the two bands were merged. Some houses were relocated, while others were demolished.
At this time, the government told the Stoney Point people that the land would be returned after the war. Some community members were overseas fighting as soldiers and would not learn of the relocation until the returned home.
During WW2, the military made Camp Ipperwash an infantry training base, with rifle ranges, grenade ranges, anti-tank ranges, barracks, etc. When the war ended, no effort was made to return the land, and the military continued to use & occupy it.
In 1980, the federal government paid Kettle & Stony Point band $2.5 million in partial compensation, and told them that the land would be returned once military use was complete.
Due to internal division resulting from forced relocation, Stoney Pointers were generally discriminated against. They saw little of this money, and usually got the worst housing, etc.
In March 1992, a government committee recommended that Ottawa return the land. A month later, Stoney Pointers served the Department of National Defense (DND) with a 90-day eviction notice. In August ’92, DND reported that it still had uses for the base, but agreed to consultation with Indigenous people.
Re-occupation of Camp Ipperwash, 1993
On May 27, 1993, some 30 Stoney Pointers moved into the east side of the Army base, setting up tents & lean-tos, along with some trailers. Tensions with military personnel increased throughout the summer; some 1500 Army Cadets had to be bused around southern Ontario to complete training usually done at Camp Ipperwash.
Alleged Helicopter Shooting Incident (Aug 93)
On August 23, 1993, protesters used portable searchlights to light up a police Bell 212 helicopter during a late-night, low-level flight over the area. The crew claim to have heard a “tick” sound. When the helicopter landed in London, Ont., a bullet hole was allegedly found.
By 2:00 AM, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) had sealed off the camp. They searched it for nine hours but found only a flare gun, a pellet gun, and some ammunition.
Military Surveillance of Indigenous Protesters
In 1998, it was revealed that a special investigations unit of the Canadian Forces was also used in 1993 to conduct surveillance on the re-occupation camp.
Other Actions Prior to Sept 1995
In September 1993, some 30 Stoney Pointers, including war veteran Clifford George, begin a 3 week walk to Ottawa to press the government for the return of their land.
In February 1994, the government announced in a budget speech that it would negotiate the return of the land, although when was not clear.
Throughout the year, Stoney Pointers continued to occupy their camp.
In May 1995, they announced their intention to also re-possess Ipperwash Provincial Park.
On June 27, Glenn George confronts soldiers placing iron ‘tire slashers’ across roads near the camp. He removes the spikes from the road. As a result of this, and another confrontation the next day, Glenn is later charged with 2 counts of assault, 1 mischief, and 1 count of uttering death threats.
In August 1995, Stoney Pointers boarded a school bus and crashed through the door of a large drill hall in the base. Military personnel, then in the process of closing down the base, left to avoid any confrontation. A week later, the military were showing them how to run the day-to-day operations of the base. Some were hired to maintain the base, cut grass, etc.
In late August, local media began publishing stories about Canadians being hassled in the park. This prompted a letter from Kettle Point councilor Gerald George, attacking the Stoney Pointers and labeling them “jerks” & “Army camp Indians.”
CSIS Informant Jim Moses
During the summer of 1995, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) stepped up surveillance of the Aazhoodena territory. Undercover officers posed as tourists, along with a trailer & a mobile home in the park.
At the same time, an informant working for both the OPP & the Canadian Security & Intelligence Service (CSIS)—Jim Moses—joined the re-occupation camp. According to One Dead Indian, Moses is an Iroquois from the Six Nations Reserve, as well as a journalist writing for both Native publications & corporate media, including CBC television.
Police Prepare for Conflict
As the summer season came to a close, OPP began meeting & planning on how to deal with the re-occupation movement.
OPP contact Canadian Forces (Sept 1)
By September 1, OPP officials had contacted the Canadian Forces to formally request military assistance. This assistance was labeled Operation Panda.
Re-Occupation of Park (Sept 4)
On Monday September 4, 1995, Labour Day—as the park closed for the season, Stoney Pointers cut a hole in the wire fence around the park and entered. Undercover cops observe & report it as being “very disorganized.”
When OPP cruisers arrive later that night, rocks & sticks are thrown at them, and some windows are smashed. Around this time, the OPP pulled back a mobile command post which had been disguised as a St. Johns’ Ambulance.
Police then turn to their master plan: Project Maple. The plan includes: a team of negotiators; local ambulances on alert; caged buses from Corrections Canada; accommodations for 200 police in the area (for a stay of one week); and band lists from nearby Walpole, Kettle Point, Saugeen & Oneida First Nations to be used in identifying protesters. The arena in nearby Forest was to be used as an arrest center, and the Legion Hall to be set up as a media center.
Chief Collaborates with Police
On Tuesday, September 5, the park occupation began its second day. The commander of Project Maple, OPP superintendent John Carson, telephoned Kettle Point chief Tom Bressette:
“Bressette said he didn’t support the Stoney Pointers, who constantly undermined his authority to speak for all Native people in the area. When Carson hung up, he felt Bressette was on side. “He feels they should be dealt with,” Carson noted” (One Dead Indian, p. 76).
Police Get APC’s from General Motors
The OPP had previously arranged for military assistance in the form of armoured personnel carriers (apc’s) & equipment. Another apc was also secured through the GM Diesel Factory in London, Ontario. The factory had made a special arrangement with the London police to lend them apc’s during emergencies. The London police agreed to lend one to the OPP.
OPP Scrambles Phone Lines
Police technicians at this time scrambled all telephone communications in the area. OPP also drew up warrants for 3 persons involved in smashing police car windows (Sept 4).
Legal, Political, & Police Action
Member of the provincial parliament (MPP) Marcel Beaubien arrives on site & reports directly to premier Mike Harris.
The Park supervisor attempts to serve a written trespass notice to the Stoney Pointers, but they refuse it. With that, legal assistants for the Ministry of Natural Resources began to work on applying for a court injunction to order them removed.
On the morning of Tuesday, September 5, there is a high level meeting of provincial government officials in Toronto to discuss the situation at Stoney Point. Officials from the Solicitor General, Ontario Native Affairs, the Attorney General, the OPP, and the Ministry of Natural Resources. Among the OPP was superintendent Ron Fox, a special advisor on Indigenous peoples to the Solicitor General.
According to the minutes of this meeting and police information, there is no evidence of firearms, despite intensive surveillance.
At Ipperwash, two helicopters are flown in, equipped with night-vision. Offshore, OPP boats are position on Lake Huron. The OPP now have air, land, & sea coverage.
OPP Threaten Dudley (Sept 6)
In the early morning of Wednesday September 6, twenty OPP in riot gear confront the people, taunting them and threatening Dudley George. “Dudley, you’re going to be the first.” “Come on over Dudley, come on over. Welcome to Canada” (One Dead Indian, p. 85).
Dudley laughed it off & downplayed any possible violence, saying the cops knew that there were children in the camp, and that they weren’t armed. Later that same morning, they see OPP officers helping local residents evacuate from their cottages.
Government Lays Groundwork for Assault (Sept 6)
In Toronto, officials meet once again. A representative from the Premier’s Office stresses “there will be no negotiations with the Stoney Pointers regarding their claim of ownership to the land, & that the goal of any discussions would be removal of the occupiers from the park” (One Dead Indian, p. 89).
Government lawyers applied for an ex parte injunction to remove the Natives (ex parte meaning the accused are shut out of the legal process and have no chance to argue their case. Such an order is used in “extreme” cases).
The newly-elected Ontario provincial government, in fact, had campaigned for law & order and wanted to be seen as uncompromising. At the same time, the standoff at Gustafsen Lake was then underway, involving hundreds of heavily-armed RCMP along with apc’s from the Army.
Police Attack, Open Fire (Sept 6)
By the early evening of Wednesday, September 6, OPP checkpoints were set up on roads & highways around the area. OPP officers continued to arrive. Inside the camp are some 25 protesters.
An OPP riot squad, known as the Crowd Management Unit (CMU), gets ready with helmets, coveralls, armour, batons, & shields. There are approx. 30 members of the CMU. As well, members of the heavily-armed OPP tactical response unit (TRU) also prepare.
At around 11 PM that night, the CMU, accompanied by the TRU team, marched into the park. The TRU were deployed on the left & right side of the riot squad, off the road and in the bushes, with two shooters per side. They had night-vision devices & assault rifles.
“By the time the riot squad reached the park entrance, Constable Bittner’s eyes had adjusted to the moonlight, but as he neared the park, he couldn’t see anything illegal or even particularly exciting—just several groups of Aboriginal families. It looked more like a loosely organized social event than anything illegal. Aside from the women and the children and the elderly, most of whom appeared to be leaving, there were a few younger males there. They were likely the protesters who had occupied the park a couple of days before at the end of the tourist season, saying it was on a sacred burial ground
“The order went out on the officers’ helmet radios for “shield chatter,” and the riot squad began pounding on their plexiglass shields with steel batons. It was an age-old tactic—noisy, intimidating, and notably popular with Zulu warriors… Some Natives responded by shooting back blasts of light from high-powered portable spotlights. When they caught the officers directly in the eyes, the effect was close to blinding” (One Dead Indian, p. 4).
The riot squad continued to approach to the edge of the park, then stopped, still hitting their batons on their shields. A dog from the Natives charged at a police dog, but is kicked by a cop. Then rocks & sticks begin to be thrown at the CMU, who charge forward.
Kettle Point councilor Cecil Bernard “Slippery” George attempts to intervene but is badly beaten by police. As many as 8-10 officers are involved in the assault.
At this time, 16-year old Nicholas Cottrelle jumped into the camp’s big yellow school bus, intending to intervene in the assault on Slippery. A black dog and 13-year old Leland George also got in.
Nicholas drove the bus towards the police lines & a van where Slippery was now being moved. Police were all around the scene with their weapons out. The bus stopped, then lurched backwards. Police then opened fire. Nicholas was hit in the back and the dog was killed. At this time, the TRU also opened fire. Sgt. Deane saw Dudley George and shot him. Between 1,000 to 2,000 rounds were fired.
At this time, the police had begun to retreat. Despite preparations to attack the Indigenous protesters, no ambulances were at the scene to assist the Indigenous casualties.
Family members took Nicholas George to a police roadblock seeking medical aid. They were first ordered to lay on the ground. When the ambulance arrived, police delayed it. Eventually, Nicholas made it to a hospital. After treatment, he was arrested by the OPP & questioned for six hours.
Dudley’s brother, Pierre George, took Dudley in his car. He was bleeding heavily and going unconscious. After a frantic drive to Strathroy hospital, Pierre and his sister Carolyn were grabbed by police and told they were being charged with attempted murder.
Finally, Dudley’s limp and bloody body was placed in a stretcher and brought into the hospital. He had been shot with a hollow-tip bullet, which ‘mushrooms’ & expands instantly upon contact. He was hit near the base of the neck and died at 12:20 AM September 7, 1995. He was 38 years old.
Slippery George was also admitted to hospital that night, suffering from blunt trauma wounds & shock.
Riot Cops Blinded by Light
Sgt. Wade Lacroix, commander of the CMU, later noted the effective use of light to blind riot police:
“They turned on the lights of cars, an ATV light & some portable flood lights trying to blind us from the projectiles I believe were coming in [rocks, etc.]. And it was fairly effective. They had effectively blinded us” (One Dead Indian, p. 130).
Highway 21 is Blocked
After the shootings, Highway 21 at Kettle Point, a ten minute drive from the park and base, was blockaded with a large barricade, later set on fire.
Police & Government Response to Shooting (Sept 7)
On Thursday, Sept 7, the OPP discuss with military liaison officer Capt. Doug Smith about a plan to deploy military forces should conflict escalate as a result of the shooting & death.
The Forest OPP detachment covers up its windows and all personnel (inc. janitors & secretaries) are required to wear body armour.
Bison apc’s are moved into the area and hidden in a large farm. Two drivers for the apc’s are injured in a car accident & hospitalized.
In Toronto, the government sets up two groups to deal with the situation. One is the blockade committee, to provide advice & planning on potential ‘copy-cat’ incidents in other territories (i.e., nearby Cape Croker & Akwesasne). The second is the ‘nerve centre’ comprised of OPP & government officials to provide communications. According to notes from one meeting, “the intent is to minimize public comment at the political level… This is a law & order issue, not a native issue.”
OPP Version of Events (by Sept 8)
On Friday, Sept 8, the OPP issues a statement describing the killing & confrontation as “the attempted murder of OPP officers.” The OPP claims that protesters in the bus first opened fire. Sgt. Deane admits to killing Dudley, and claims to have seen two muzzle flashes. He claims one shot came from the bus, and the other from Dudley, who then threw his rifle in a ditch.
During follow-up investigations & at Deane’s trial, no other officer admits to seeing muzzle flashes or a man with a gun.
Lack of Media Pre-Sept 6 Shooting
edia coverage of the re-occupation and in the days immediately prior to Sept 6 was minimal. There was no footage or images of the assault, other than that taken by police surveillance. As a result, there were no defining images of the conflict and no apparent communications from the Stoney Point side.
“There was an obvious key difference between the crisis at Oka and the incident at Ipperwash. At Oka, it was a white police officer who was shot dead, while at Ipperwash the victim was an Aboriginal protesters. While no one liked to pose the question, just how much did the public care about one dead Indian?” (One Dead Indian, p. 123).
AFN & Chief Call for Public Inquiry
Now that the media were there, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) grand chief Ovide Mercredi & Tom Bressette, chief of Kettle Point, both called for a public inquiry into the incident.
urther Requests for Military Assistance (Sept 9)
On Saturday, Sept 9, the OPP requested further assistance from the Canadian Forces, including 50 gas masks & night-vision devices, 100 bullet-proof vests, a military field kitchen, and two Huey helicopters to be placed on standby. At this time, CF officials are concerned about the lack of authorization for military assistance, stating:
“All personnel dealing with the OPP must clearly understand that authorization to support OPP has not been received and consequently no assurance of support can be provided” (One Dead Indian, p. 136).
Dudley George’s Funeral (Sept 11)
On Monday, Sept 11, Dudley George is buried at Aazhoodena. Several thousand Indigenous people gather from Ontario and across Canada.
OPP ‘Souvenir Mugs & T-shirts’
In the town of Forest, mugs and t-shirts were for sale with the OPP logo and an arrow pointed down. Entitled “Team Ipperwash,” OPP officers & civilians alike bought them from local stores.
Sgt. Deane is Charged (July 1996)
In July 1996, the OPP special investigations unit issues a statement: Deane is to be charged with criminal negligence causing death. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment, but there is also no minimum sentence.
In August ’96, Deane makes his first court appearance. Some 80 members of ON-FIRE (Ontario Federation for Individual Rights & Equality, an anti-Native group) attend in his support. They chant “We support the OPP!” Off-duty OPP stack the court, leaving no room for the George family.
Deane’s Trial, 1997
During Deane’s trial in the spring of 1997, he maintains that Dudley George was armed and had fired a rifle. Other officers contradicted him, including his own partner—Sgt. Hebblethwaite—who was right with Deane when he opened fire.
On April 28, the judge found Deane guilty of criminal negligence causing death:
“I find that Anthony O’Brien (Dudley) George did not have any firearms on his person when he was shot. I find that the accused Kenneth Deane knew that Anthony O’Brien Dudley George did not have any firearms on his person when he shot him. That the story of the rifle and the muzzle flash was concocted ex post facto in an ill-fated attempt to disguise the fact that an unarmed man had been shot… I find, sir, that you were not honest… I find you, Kenneth Deane, guilty as charged” (One Dead Indian, p. 197-98).
Maynard George’s Sentencing Statement (May 97)
During the sentencing phase of Deane’s trial, Maynard “Sam” George, Dudley’s brother, made a statement:
“Hundreds of First Nations from across Canada have serious complaints against the government. Many First Nations land have also been taken away from them. There are many places that are similar to Ipperwash.
“The bullet that was shot into Dudley’s chest was a terrible lesson for young natives across this country. The way they see it, Dudley & his friends were not armed, but they were shot anyway…
“So the lesson from Sgt. Deane’s bullet for young people in Canada is that you might be better off if you are armed… Dudley and the others got shot even though they had no guns. So why not have guns?” (One Dead Indian, p. 205).
Deane is Sentenced, July 97
On July 2, Deane’s father passes away from a lengthy illness.
On July 3, Deane is sentenced to two years to be served in the community. He must do 180 hours of community service, and can possess firearms again after the sentence is completed.
In response, Carolyn George, Dudley’s sister, asks: “What justice has been served? It’s okay to out and kill a Native? Is that what you’re saying… ?” (One dead Indian, p. 215).
Court Cases of Stoney Pointers, 1996-98
Altogether, 26 Stoney Pointers were charged. 23 went to trial in October 1996. Government prosecutors withdrew 23 charges relating to the occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park due to the colour of right defense, defined as “an honest belief in the existence of a state of facts which, if it actually existed, would, at law, justify or excuse the act done.”
The accused raised the colour of right defense on the basis of their belief that there was a Chippewa burial ground within the park. The federal government confirmed the existence of correspondence made in 1937 between federal Indian Affairs officials and the Ontario Department of Lands & Forests, referring to an “old Indian cemetery which… is located within the territory now being developed as a park” (One Dead Indian, p. 218).
Prosecutors had concluded that by using this defense, the accused would be found not guilty.
In addition, there were charges against 23 for forcible entry of the park. This time, the crown was unable to prove that the accused had entered the park through the hole in the fence. Charges were dropped against 20, and the last 3 were acquitted in May 97.
Judas George was found guilty of smashing a police car window; he was ordered to pay a $500 fine and nearly $700 to replace the window.
Worm George, convicted of throwing a rock at councilor Gerald George’s car only hours before the police assault on Sept 6, was fined $300.
Cecil Bernard “Slippery” George, who was badly beaten by police, was charged with assaulting police. In July 1996, he was found not guilty.
In May 97, the trial of Nicholas Cottrelle, who drove the school bus into police lines to rescue “Slippery” George, was held. He was found not guilty, and the judge accepted his testimony & that his actions to stop this assault were justified.
In Sept 97, Warren George went to trial, charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm, assaulting a police officer with a weapon (a car), and dangerous driving. Warren had driven a car behind the school bus when it crashed into police lines.
Four officers were knocked down when Warren swerved to avoid another cop. There were no serious injuries. In February 98, he was found guilty on all three charges and sentenced to six months in jail, a 2 year ban on driving, and a 10-year ban on firearms (although there was no evidence of firearms among the Indigenous protesters).
Police Evidence ‘Disappears’
Although OPP’s Project Maple guidelines stipulated that all police actions were to be audio, video, & still photographed, no documentation was ever produced. Due to “human & technical errors,” no audio tapes of the night of Sept 6 were recorded.
2003: Public Inquiry Announced
As a result of the George family lawsuit, over 130,000 pages of documents—meeting notes, correspondence, etc.—were released to lawyers. Among these were evidence of direct involvement from premier Mike Harris demanding an immediate end to the park occupation.
In 1997, Amnesty International joined the call for a public inquiry. In March 1999, the UN Human Rights Committee also called for a public inquiry. Many unions, church groups, Aboriginal organizations, and others also joined the call for an inquiry over the years. Protests & vigils were held, petitions collected. Yet, years passed with little progress.
In contrast, after the OPP riot squad attacked Ontario Public Service union members in Toronto 1996, an inquiry was held almost immediately.
In 1989, a TRU team raided a house in Windsor, Ont. They killed a dog, and were then confronted by the occupant, who was also shot & killed. It turned out the police had the wrong address. Within one year there was an inquest.
In the case of Dudley George and the police attack on Aazhoodena territory, not only did police shoot unarmed people, they had authorization from the highest levels of government. And this, of course, is why there was no inquiry.
The day that premier Mike Harris and his Conservative party were defeated in provincial elections (Oct 2, 2003), the George family settled a civil suit against Harris & several members of his former cabinet. The lawsuit accused the province of pressuring police to use “severe action” against the Indigenous protesters. The settlement was for $100,000.
Within a month of taking power, the new government announced an inquiry would indeed be held. It is scheduled to begin September, 2004 (nine years after).
2004: Racist Remarks by Police Revealed
In January 2004, a video tape was exposed containing conversations between OPP officers the day prior to the deadly 1995 shooting. The video camera was used to conduct surveillance by undercover OPP posing as a media crew. The audio reveals racist attitudes that, according to the George family lawyer, Murray Klippenstein, made it “real easy to kill an Indian.”
The OPP condemned the opinions expressed in the tape, and claimed the officers had been disciplined, with one attending ‘sensitivity training’.
Overall, the re-occupation of Aazhoodena seems to have been a casual, even disorganized, effort by committed & sincere people. Those involved were primarily members of an extended family, brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, etc. They certainly weren’t a group of armed insurgents digging trenches & bunkers requiring heavily armed police & apc’s to dislodge them.
Rather than examining the position of the Stoney Pointers, the government immediately adapted an aggressive & confrontational approach. By 1996, officials had to concede the Stoney Pointers were right: it was their land & burial grounds! Almost all charges related to the re-occupation of the park, which prompted the deadly attack by police, were dropped.
The use of heavily-armed police to quickly end the conflict reflects the strategy developed after Oka, in which cops were to be used quickly & without time for prolonged negotiations. At the same time, heavily-armed RCMP in BC were carrying out the same plan against the Secwepemc, using explosives, assault rifles, snipers, and apc’s in their efforts to crush this small act of resistance.
Clearly, armed defense at Gustafsen Lake saved lives in the face of deadly assaults by police.
Unlike the rebels in BC, the Stoney Pointers seemed generally unprepared for the police use of deadly force, despite escalation of the conflict throughout the days & hours leading up to Sept 6. They apparently believed that because they were unarmed, and due to the presence of women & children, they would not be shot.
One Dead Indian; the Premier, the Police, and the Ipperwash Crisis
By Peter Edwards, Stoddart Pub. Co., Toronto 2001