Aug 18/97: Legislative discussion on Ipperwash inquiry



posted by Sandra Mitchell

AUGUST 18, 1997


Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): Premier, if you want to start casting about allegations of coverups, I have a question for you. It concerns Ipperwash. You and your senior ministers have said over and over again in this Legislature that your government gave no direction to the OPP to confront the occupiers at Ipperwash Park. I can quote you, May 29, 1996: "There was absolutely no direction, as there ought not to be, from me or any of my staff to the OPP." That's a quote of you.

We now know through handwritten minutes taken at an interministerial committee meeting, obtained through freedom of information, that your senior aide, Deb Hutton, did give clear direction from you to the OPP. Your executive assistant, Deb Hutton, is quoted as saying: "Premier last night - OPP only, maybe MNR, out of the park only - nothing else," and she adds later on in the meeting, "Government must be seen as acting."

Premier, either you didn't know what your senior staff person was doing and saying on your behalf at that meeting or you gave the direction to the OPP via your staff member, despite what you have been claiming in this House for over a year. You have promised that at the right time, in the right way, the questions will be answered. It's time now to answer the questions around Ipperwash. We want a public inquiry now. What is your answer?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): I know the Attorney General will have some things to say on this matter, but let me confirm to you that the minutes that were released by the interministerial committee confirm exactly, 100%, everything that I have said on this issue. The minutes themselves that you are in receipt of - they have been made public now so I believe I can quote from them - say on page 5:

The Ministry of Natural Resources: "The minister wants to act as quickly as possible to avoid further damage, to curtail any escalation of the situation." This is the day of the unfortunate incident which took place later that evening.

The Ministry of the Attorney General: "The minister agrees that application will be made for an injunction."

The representative for the Solicitor General: "As a matter of protocol, the SGC does not involve itself in the day-to-day operations of the OPP. The OPP will exercise its discretion regarding how to proceed in removing the Stony Pointers from the park."

I tell you we've been open; we've been public. We felt this was an illegal occupation, according to the press release we put out at the time, and we asked the OPP to deal with it -

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Thank you, Premier.


The Speaker: Premier, come to order, please.


Mr Hampton: Let me recite a bit of the history. Occupations of Ipperwash park were not new; occupations of Ipperwash park have happened by the same native people in the past. They would wait until the park was closed in the fall, and as a means of registering their claim, registering their protest, they would occupy the park after it was closed.

The position of the OPP in the past was always: "Don't escalate the issue. This is a peaceful protest. Don't do anything to raise conflict or raise controversy." That was the position of the OPP, but two months after you became the government, that policy changed.

I say again to the Premier, it's very clear why that policy was changed. It is in the words and in the notes that were taken of the words that Deb Hutton spoke: "Premier last night - OPP only - out of the park, nothing else must be seen as acting."

Do you realize the impact that direction would have on officials? Do you realize -

The Speaker: Thank you.

Hon Mr Harris: The Attorney General may have something to add. I've told you everything we know.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, Minister responsible for native affairs): The information that has been released simply confirms what we've been saying all along. We indicated there would be no negotiations on substantive issues of concern to the occupiers while an occupation was going on.

Second, we made it very clear, and the notes confirm this, that the issue of the occupation was something that was being dealt with by the OPP, who are responsible for public safety and security. The notes are quite clear that the only step that was taken by the government was taken by me, and that was to obtain a civil injunction.

Mr Hampton: I marvel at the Attorney General's attempt to cover the trail for the Premier. Premier, I want to quote for you from a former civil servant, someone who has left the Ontario civil service. He was at that meeting. This is what he said. This was in the Kingston Whig-Standard:

"'The bureaucrats there were really shocked with what Deb Hutton told them, because that is not the way they did things,' said the official." When he says that's not the way they did things, he's talking about the way these meetings were conducted in the past, before your government took over.

"'The general impression was that the Premier wanted to have the protesters out of the park as soon as possible. That was very clearly the message. It was an expression of what he wanted. Certainly everything she said she implied was coming directly from him,'" the Premier [sic].

My point is simply that it's very clear what the words are: "want the protesters out of the park immediately. Government must be seen as taking action" -

The Speaker: Thank you, leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: Premier, the next day one of them died. We want a public inquiry -

The Speaker: Come to order, please.

Hon Mr Harnick: The commissioner of the OPP was very candid and very clear. He stated in a release that he issued, "I am the commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police and I do not take tactical or operational direction from the government." He went on to say: "We keep officials apprised of policing situations in a broad framework. That, however, does not include sharing details of operational plans beforehand."

Quite simply, that comment from the OPP commissioner is borne out in all the documents that have been turned over. There was only one tactical approach that the government took, and that was to obtain a civil injunction.

The Speaker: New question, official opposition, member for Scarborough-Agincourt.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I have a question to the Premier on the Ipperwash affair to find out who made the key decision. The police, the OPP, had a detailed plan. It was called Project Maple. It said the objective was to "contain and negotiate a peaceful solution." This is their own document. It goes on to point out that they set up three separate negotiating teams, three separate teams so two of them could negotiate: one negotiates 12 hours, the next 12 hours and one relief team. That was the OPP plan to negotiate a peaceful settlement to this.

We then find that the government made a different decision. The government imposed a condition on the OPP. It was noted that there would be no negotiations with the Stony Pointers. You, Premier, and the government made that key decision. The OPP wanted to negotiate, they set up three teams, they were ready to do it 24 hours a day and you said, "There will be no negotiations." Why did you determine there would be no negotiations with the Stony Pointers?

Hon Mr Harris: I determined nothing. I gave no direction. I gave no influence on it. We left that entirely to the OPP. I assumed there would be negotiations.

Mr Phillips: Now we are at the heart of the matter. The Premier is saying it was his understanding there would be negotiations. The government represented by this interministerial committee with your executive assistant decided on a different course. One of two things has happened. You said, "Proceed with the negotiations," and they disregarded your instructions, or there has been some miscommunication between you and the public on this matter and in fact you were a party to the decision for no negotiations. Can you confirm today that it was your instructions that negotiations should be proceeding as per the OPP plan?

Hon Mr Harris: I gave no directions. I gave no directions to the OPP. I left it to the OPP how they were to proceed and the interministerial committee was there. I've been very up front about that. I've been very clear -


The Speaker: Order. Premier.

Hon Mr Harris: - the only direction that the government took in any of this matter was to say what we said publicly at the time, and it's now a matter of public record. We felt there was an illegal occupation. The Ministry of Natural Resources wanted its park back as soon as possible and we left it to the OPP as to how to proceed. The only action we took - and the minutes of the day are very clear - is that we sought a civil injunction. That's the action we took and everything else is a matter of public record.

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