Canadian national magazine supports public inquiry

S.I.S.I.S. bulletin


Thursday, May 1, 1997

Canadian Forum magazine, a national publication, has run an article supporting a public inquiry into both the Gustafsen lake and Ipperwash incidents occurring in the summer of 1995.

The article on pages 5 and 6 of the April issue, titled "Who Silenced Clayton Matchee...We Did", is written by Dr. Tony Hall. Hall teaches Native American Studies at the University of Lethbridge.

The article deals with the stifling of the Somalia Inquiry into unanswered questions concerning the torture death of Somali teenager Shidane Arone. It also examines the climate of white supremacy and "the interlocking cycles of racism that seem to have been so much a part of the Two Commando Unit [Airborne Regiment] in their African operations....Canadians really do not want to face the kind of full and honest reckoning with our own reflection that the actions of our military in their African mission mirrored."

The section dealing with Gustafsen Lake and Ipperwash is as follows:

"In a similar fashion, politicians are clearly counting on the complicity of their electorates in governmental racism by not calling public inquiries into the gross abuses of police power that took place in the summer of 1995 at Gustafsen Lake and at Ipperwash. At Ipperwash, the Anishinabe martyr Dudley George was shot dead for participating in a peaceful protest whose object was to defend symbolically the burial ground of his people's ancestors. He was killed as a result of the actions of the tactical squad of the Ontario Provincial Police. What we don't know are the nature and source of their orders, which may have come directly from Premier Mike Harris's office. The family of Dudley George plus a long list of supporters have demanded a full public inquiry into the Ipperwash killing. By not instituting such an inquiry, the Ontario government is sending the signal that it considers Indians less worthy of respect, protection and justice than non-Indians. Racist inequities in our legal system have been demonstrated in case after case, including those of Helen Betty Osborne, J.J. Harper and Donald Marshall Jr. By the huge improprieties in its handling of the murder and martyrdom of Dudley George, the leadership of the Ontario government promotes the view that all the multi-million-dollar reports suggesting how to lessen institutionalized racism in the criminal justice system are just so much expensive garbage.

In British Columbia, the trial of the Gustafsen Lake sundancers is exposing massive degrees of abuse in an orchestrated campaign of the RCMP and their political masters to discredit Indian activists. In RCMP training videos, which were shown at the trial, the RCMP's Chief Media Liason Officer for BC, Peter Montague, is pictured announcing "smear campaigns are our specialty." In another clip, Sgt. Dennis Ryan is seen asking, "Is there anyone who can help us with our smear and disinformation campaign?" Referring to Bruce Clark, the Gustafsen group's lawyer, Sgt. Ryan paraphrases his instructions from above in the following terms: "kill this Clark and smear the prick and everyone with him."

Anyone who watched critically the one-sided coverage of the Gustafsen Lake standoff, which involved 400 RCMP officers and eight Canadian Armed Forces armoured vehicles manned by Canadian soldiers facing 14 sun dancers and four non-Aboriginal supporters, would have to conclude that the smear campaign worked as planned. Much of the smearing was directed at Bruce Clark. In a surprising recent decision of the Upper Canada Law Society, not only did that body decide against debarring the controversial advocate, but the Society declared, "the genocide of which Mr. Clark speaks is real...we are sympathetic moreover to his assertion that the Courts have been unwilling to hear his argument."

It appears that one aspect of the anti-Indian smear tactics at Gustafsen Lake involved a systematic campaign of disinformation about alleged shooting incidents in order to prepare public opinion for a possible Waco-style assault on the Indian camp. The allegations of police and government wrongdoings are so serious that there is no question there should be a public inquiry into whether or not the rule of law was respected. Once again, the obstacle to this happening is a pervasive atmosphere of racism where very little public indignation exists as long as it is percieved that the only victims of government transgression are non-Whites.

In my view what makes it politically feasible to keep the lid on all these abuses of power is the fact that the victims are non-Whites. The unspoken assumption in each case is that different rules apply when it comes to keeping Blacks or Indians in their places. To fail to address the systemic racism behind these fiascos is to shirk our collective responsibility.

I end with the specific proposal that any credible and complete investigation of the Somalia Affair must include careful consideration of the possibility tht Clayton Matchee is a victim as well as a perpetrator of a pervasive Canadian racism, which the Airborne regiment only reflected rather than epitomized. Who silenced Clayton Matchee? Who killed Dudley George? The evidence is, we did.

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