Aug 19/97: Legislative discussion on Ipperwash inquiry



posted by Sandra Mitchell

AUGUST 20, 1997


Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): My question is to the Premier and has to do with his and his office's role in the Ipperwash affair. You've indicated, Premier, in the House that you had no files, no records because you had no involvement in it. The minutes that were released last week indicate that your executive assistant, Ms Hutton, was at a meeting on September 6 that was developing recommendations around Ipperwash. The notes indicate that she had been speaking with you "last night" on the matter and that - these are in quotation marks, these were your wishes - "out of the park only - nothing else."

My question is - and I'm sure you've talked to Ms Hutton about how accurate those were - do those notes accurately reflect what Ms Hutton said at that meeting and do they accurately reflect what you told Ms Hutton were your wishes in the matter of Ipperwash?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): You're quite right, in the sense that we did not have any meetings, we did not have the lead role. There was a committee that was set up, perhaps by your government, followed by the successive government, of about 20 people from various ministries who would meet when these situations arose. One representative of the Premier's office would be there, and that was Ms Hutton. That would explain logically - we don't chair the meetings; Ms Hutton didn't chair the meetings, the Premier's office didn't chair the meetings - why we would not have any minutes of any of those meetings. They would be by others, the Solicitor General's ministry, ONAS, native affairs, or what not, that would have the minutes.

I can't give you an interpretation of somebody's notes of what Ms Hutton said a couple of years ago, but it strikes me that in general terms -

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Answer, please.

Hon Mr Harris: - it's quite consistent with the policy of your government and of the NDP government and quite consistent with what we said, that we -

The Speaker: Thank you, Premier.

Mr Phillips: I think the public can appreciate why we continue to push on this.

I will ask again for a direct answer. You have no doubt talked in detail to Ms Hutton. The minutes are quite clear on what she reported to that meeting. The question is very simple. Did she say those things at that meeting? More important, did you have a conversation with her before the meeting and do these notes reflect your instructions: "out of the park only - nothing else"?

Hon Mr Harris: Let me indicate, I haven't had detailed discussions with her, as a matter of fact. As these issues are brought forward I would say, "What would be your recollection?" As I've indicated to you, we are limited, because of court cases, in how much information we can give, but there are some documents that have been made public.

Let me say that I was briefed I think on an almost daily basis over that period of time, because it was quite a serious issue, and it would be Ms Hutton who would brief me, and I think cabinet was briefed; I believe the Attorney General and the Solicitor General would be briefed. Let me quote this to you:

"The general position of our government, and as I understand it of previous governments, was that we would not negotiate the substance of the issue with the occupiers or some people who had put up a blockade."
That was said by Bud Wildman, and that certainly was our position.

Mr Phillips: I hope the public is listening to this. The Premier refuses to answer the question. We know why he refuses to answer the question: because you said that, you said "out of the park only - nothing else." No negotiations.

I will follow up on an answer you gave on Monday. I asked you who made the decision that there would be no negotiations with the first nations on the burial grounds. You said the OPP made the decision that there would be no negotiations. I'll ask you very directly. You've had 48 hours to reconsider that answer -

Hon Mr Harris: That's not what I said at all, not what I said. Tell the truth.

Mr Phillips: The Premier says it's not true.


The Speaker: Order. Premier, you must withdraw that comment. It's out of order.

Hon Mr Harris: I withdraw that I asked you to tell the truth.

Mr Phillips: Very Premier-like. I hope the public is watching.


The Speaker: Order. Member for Lake Nipigon, he simply used the words he was withdrawing. That's completely in order. I've allowed many members to do that. I've allowed many members to withdraw the words. I have allowed it on many occasions.

Mr Phillips: On Monday I said to the Premier,

"Why did you determine there would be no negotiations with the Stoney 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 now ask you to reconsider that answer you gave on Monday. Did you leave that matter of the negotiations with the first nations entirely to the OPP?

Hon Mr Harris: As I indicated, we followed exactly the same policy as the NDP. I quote now from Bud Wildman on June 4, 1997: "The general position of our" -


Hon Mr Harris: I would think you would want to hear this very carefully.

Mr Phillips: I want to hear the truth.

Hon Mr Harris: Do you want him to withdraw that, Mr Speaker? He'd like to hear the truth from me.

The Speaker (Hon Chris Stockwell): Order. I heard that comment. I don't think it's out of order.

Hon Mr Harris: I think it was precisely the words I used, but I accept your ruling.

The general position of our government, and as I understand of previous governments, was we would not negotiate the substance of the issue with the occupier or some people who had put up a blockade. The direction that I understand was being followed by our government, as the NDP, as your government, on the issue of the substance, was that there would be no negotiations on land claims on the burial grounds or on the issues that were there. On the issue of the blockade, those negotiations would be left 100%, as I said, with the OPP.


The Speaker: New question, third party.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is also for the Premier and it concerns the wrongful death of Dudley George at Ipperwash park. In the handwritten minutes of the interministerial meeting on September 5, 1995, regarding Ipperwash park, your executive assistant, Deb Hutton, is quoted as saying, "Premier, last night, OPP only, maybe MNR, out of the park only - nothing else."

What meeting or briefing was Deb Hutton referring to with you when she said, at that interministerial group, "Premier, last night"? Was she speaking to you alone on September 4 or were others in attendance at this meeting or briefing where you clearly gave instructions to Deb Hutton?

Hon Mr Harris: I can't recall whether there was a meeting two years ago. Ms Hutton may be able to recall, but my recollection is this: There would be no negotiations with the natives, as we said publicly at the time, over any claims while the occupation was under way. That was the policy of the former government and that was the policy of our government and Ms Hutton explained that.

However, we did indicate that any actions, as the minutes clearly confirm, that it would be up to the OPP to handle any of the negotiations or whatever action they felt was appropriate; we would not interfere with that. There was no direction given as to how the Ministry of Natural Resources would get their park back. That was up to the OPP. The OPP did not ask for, I don't think, nor did they want to negotiate land claims, given the success that federal and provincial governments have had over the last 20 years.

Mr Hampton: This is not about the last 20 years; this is about: Deb Hutton says, "Premier, last night." She obviously is referring to a conversation or a meeting with you.

Hon Mr Harris: Right.

Mr Hampton: Right. That's what we're talking about here. What I've asked you for is the details. I can't imagine that your executive assistant would go to a meeting on a very important issue involving the OPP and a number of officials from a number of ministries and purport to give direction from you without having had that direction. That's what I'm asking you about. She refers specifically to: "Premier, last night, OPP only, out of the park only - nothing else." I'm asking you, did you have a meeting with Deb Hutton? You must have had a meeting, a conversation with her on that last night, the night of September 4. I'm asking you, will you make public today a list of the individuals who attended that meeting or will you make public the records of that meeting? Will you do that?

Hon Mr Harris: First of all, there are no records of a meeting. It may have been a phone call; it may have been in passing; it may have been a briefing. I have no way of knowing. But if you're asking me, do the minutes that were released reflect the position of the government, yes, they do: that the OPP were in charge, that there was no direction to be given to the OPP, as the minutes of that meeting say, that the only action the government would take would be to seek a civil injunction. I see absolutely nothing in those released minutes that isn't 100% consistent with the policy followed by your government, by the Liberal government and by every government before that, and in fact 100% consistent with everything we've said on the issue up to this point in time.

Mr Hampton: No, Premier, that's where you're quite incorrect, because the written record shows this. Deb Hutton goes to a meeting of senior civil servants dealing with the native occupation of Ipperwash park and she says very clearly, "Premier, last night, out of the park - nothing else - OPP." She's very clear, and the civil servants there got the message.

In fact, if you read the police logs the next day, they got the message. "Deb Hutton, EA to Harris, was at an emergency meeting on Ipperwash with other political staff and an OPP representative." Later on in the police log it says, "John Carson" - Inspector John Carson of the OPP - "stated Premier and Solicitor General want to deal with this."

Premier, it's very clear. Deb Hutton says she got the instruction from you. She refers the instruction to the civil service: "Get the natives out of the park, nothing else. OPP to act." Then you read the police log. The OPP clearly got the message from you.

I ask you, Premier, who was at that meeting? Produce the records from September 4. If you've got nothing to hide, answer the questions.

Hon Mr Harris: I have absolutely nothing to hide. I am telling you my position, as put forward by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the government and the Premier: We wanted the natives out of the park as soon as possible. We've been quite public about that.

We turned it over to the OPP to deal with that, and the OPP were to deal with it. The OPP, as I understand it, asked for an injunction; the Attorney General, on behalf of the government, sought permission to proceed to court with the injunction as the vehicle they would use. Other than that, everything's a matter of public record.

The Speaker: New question, third party.

Mr Hampton: A question to the Premier: Your answers so far don't add up, so we're going to go after it again.

You have been invited - in fact you have been subpoenaed -


Mr Hampton: I recognize that your backbenchers don't like that you have to answer these questions, but this is a democracy. We get to put the questions and you answer them.

The last public official who tried this line of defence, that he can't recall, that he doesn't have any records, was someone named Richard Nixon. Do you remember Richard Nixon?


The Speaker: Order. Leader of the third party.

Mr Hampton: Premier, I want to remind you that as a result of this succession of events, someone died, and the courts have ruled it a wrongful death. The George family has subpoenaed you to appear as a witness, to give testimony under oath at this wrongful death trial.

It's clear from Deb Hutton's comments that you had a conversation with her on September 4, or there was a meeting involving yourself and your executive, Deb Hutton, on September 4. That may be germane to all of this, Premier, and I ask you again, will you go back and search your records? Will you produce Deb Hutton so that she can answer questions, so that we can find out where these directions came from and the impact they had on the OPP that eventually led to the death of Dudley George?


Hon Mr Harris: As I recall the order of the questions, yes, I remember Richard Nixon and, no, I have not been served with a subpoena. I think there has been a notice of request for discovery in a civil action by one lawyer to my lawyers and that will be handled by the lawyers.

Mr Hampton: Yesterday, Premier, the Deputy Premier said to us that you were going to make a personal decision whether you would appear at the hearing and answer questions under oath, so let me put the question to you now. Will you appear at the hearing and answer questions under oath, will you release the names of all the individuals who attended that fateful meeting on September 4 involving yourself and Deb Hutton and will you appear and answer the questions of the Dudley George family regarding the wrongful death? Will you do that?

Hon Mr Harris: I'm not exactly sure of the wording that the Deputy Premier used, but certainly I will take the advice of the lawyers in the matter of the civil suit.

Mr Hampton: Premier, I come back to the part of my question that you didn't answer and it's about your conversation, your meeting with Deb Hutton on September 4. Deb Hutton could not have gone to an interministerial meeting on September 5 and quoted you as saying, "Out of the park - nothing else - OPP," and, "Government must be seen as acting." She couldn't have come up with those words herself. So I'm asking you, and this is of interest to the civil trial and it's also of interest to the whole line of events here, will you produce the records of the meeting that you had with Deb Hutton and anyone else on September 4, because it is germane, it appears, to everything that happened after that and led to the wrongful death of Dudley George. Will you do that?

Hon Mr Harris: We've already produced all the records.

The Speaker: New question, official opposition.

Mr Gerry Phillips (Scarborough-Agincourt): I'm going to follow up on the Premier's comment that this was left entirely in OPP hands. I will quote from a conversation between the two commanding officers about an hour and a half before the shooting death. They're commenting on the action the government was taking, on the injunction that the government decided - not the OPP, the government.

The commanding officer said, "Well, that injunction surprises me," because the one they were going for was different. They went from that regular type of injunction, which the OPP wanted, to the emergency type. He went on to say, "Which you know really isn't in our favour," in the OPP's favour. "We want a little bit more time, but they've gone for that. That's why these papers must come down tonight." He goes on to say, "This is typical, where we get caught and the ball's gonna be in our lap."

Listening now to that transcript, Premier, will you acknowledge that the government decided to act in a way that was inconsistent with what the OPP commanders wanted?

Hon Mr Harris: I know the Attorney General can answer.

Hon Charles Harnick (Attorney General, Minister responsible for native affairs): Quite simply, there's not such a thing as an emergency injunction or an emergency document as the member quotes. An ex parte injunction was sought at the recommendation of government lawyers. As a courtesy, there was an attempt, even though it was an ex parte injunction, to provide notice to those who were occupying Ipperwash park of the nature of that proceeding. There was an attempt to deliver that material; the OPP was asked to do that. Quite simply, this was a very standard procedure and a very usual procedure in these kinds of situations.

Mr Phillips: Premier, I proceed to point out and to prove that you and your government were directly and deeply involved in the major decisions at Ipperwash. We challenge you at any time to call any hearing, any committee, any public forum, and we will be happy to prove those allegations.

I go on to say that it's clear from the minutes on September 6, the day of the shooting - these are the minutes; this is what the government said - "The police have been asked to remove the occupiers from the park." Not to work to get them out, not to find a way to solve this; the government asked the police to remove the occupiers from the park. Who made that decision to ask the police to remove the occupiers from the park ASAP?

Hon Mr Harnick: The minutes are quite clear. The minutes have certain directives that came out of them. They are from the Ministry of Natural Resources: "The minister wants to act as quickly as possible to avoid further damage and to curtail any escalation of the situation"; from the Ministry of the Attorney General: "The minister agrees that an application will be made for an injunction," exactly what happened; finally, from the Solicitor General's ministry: "As a matter of protocol, the Solicitor General's office does not involve itself in the day-to-day operation of the OPP. The OPP will exercise its discretion regarding how to proceed in removing the Stony Pointers from the park and laying appropriate charges."

That's what came out of the meetings. It's quite clear that it was left to the OPP to deal with this matter and to deal with the safety and security issues as they normally would in the normal course.

Mr Howard Hampton (Rainy River): My question is again to the Premier. It concerns the wrongful death of Dudley George and what happened at Ipperwash park. From your answers today - and I want to be very clear on this - you had a meeting or a conversation with Deb Hutton on September 4. That is the meeting, the conversation she refers to when she addresses civil servants at the interministerial meeting on September 5. Will you give us the names of the people who attended that meeting with you where you gave the instruction: "Out of the park. OPP. Government must be seen as acting. Out of the park - nothing else"? Will you give us the names of the people who were at that meeting, Premier?

Hon Michael D. Harris (Premier): Actually, in the interim I have talked to Ms Hutton. You suggested that I would have talked to her extensively. I didn't, because the document was released confirming 100% everything we had said. You seem to suggest otherwise, but that's not true. I have talked to Ms Hutton. It was two years ago. She was indicating that she believes she informed me by phone - she believes it was a long weekend and I was in North Bay - of the occupation, period. As to the rest of the alleged comments, she recalls, as was consistent with previous governments, she indicated that we would not negotiate substantive issues but the OPP only should be negotiating the end of the occupation.

Mr Hampton: This is exactly why we need a public inquiry, so that people like Deb Hutton, who have the germane information, can come forward and relay to us exactly the chain of information that went from you to her to the interministerial committee and finally to the OPP, and which resulted in the OPP saying in their log, "Inspector John Carson states Premier and Solicitor want to deal with this." Premier, will you call that public inquiry now so that all the questions that surround this issue, all the questions that need to be answered, the truth, can emerge?

Hon Mr Harris: I have relayed to you exactly the chain of events from the telephone conversation to the information Ms Hutton relayed to that committee meeting. But as to whether it would be a public inquiry, a full inquiry, what other information has to come out, you know full well - we've answered this - we are waiting for the matters before the courts to be cleared up. If there is any other information that has not been made public that should be, of course we'll look into vehicles at that time.

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