Jul 7/98: Police summary of siege reveals exaggerated fear


Globe and Mail
July 7, 1998, p. A4
Martin Mittelstaedt

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

Toronto - Some Ontario Provincial Police officers believed natives would attack their homes and said they moved their families out after the police killing of an aboriginal protester at Ipperwash Provincial Park, according to OPP records. The records, obtained by The Globe And Mail through a Freedom of Information Act request, were a police summary of of the native occupation compiled while the incident took place. The tone of the OPP document seems to present an exaggerated view of the threat posed to the province by the approximately 40 natives, some of them children, who occupied the park when it closed for the season three years ago, contending that it contained a native burial ground.

The document indicated the provincial police believed they faced a sophisticated enemy that might have the ability to intercept law-enforcement radio transmissions. The first entry after the shooting called the dispute a "First Nations Uprising." The police were so worried that the Ipperwash dispute might escalate into a major showdown with natives elsewhere in Ontario that they drafted a list of "potential First Nations hot spots" and faxed them to all major OPP offices across the province according to the record. Although the OPP have a policy of trying to resolve native land claims through negotiations, the incident at Ipperwash turned violent. A police riot squad fired at the protesters two days after the occupation began, killing Dudley George.

The killing has sparked a lawsuit against Premier Mike Harris and several other senior government officials by relatives of Mr. George and has prompted repeated calls for a public inquiry by opposition politicians who suspect political interference in police conduct at the park. [No similar calls have been forthcoming from BC politicians in the case of Gustafsen Lake despite hard evidence of "political interference" from the Prime Minister's office, the Chief of Defence Staff, and the NDP cabinet. -- S.I.S.I.S.] The claim has been denied by Mr. Harris. The documents obtained by The Globe were compiled by OPP Superintendent Ron Fox, who was a member of a committee of government officials who helped develop the province's response to the occupation.

The Ministry of the Solicitor-General initially could find only three pages of records by Supt. Fox. But after a recent order by Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner, the ministry released another 111 pages, including the OPP incident summary. Under the order, both Supt. Fox and the province's deputy solicitor-general had to swear affidavits outlining the nature of the efforts undertaken to locate documents and whether any records on Ipperwash have been destroyed. According to the OPP summary, police had concerns that the natives had developed ways to penetrate their radio transmissions, but the report was found to be an error. Two days after the shooting of Mr. George, the document noted that "some police officers have moved families out for security reasons."

Although portions of the document were censored, there was no indication how many officers moved their families. The OPP incident summary had "100 warriors from several territories including the United States heading toward Ipperwash" early during the crisis, although that contention has not been independently verified. As part of their response to the occupation, the OPP monitored activity on Mohawk reserves and placed individuals they called "larger players" under surveillance at the Akwesasne reserve near Cornwall. But the report noted that the "larger players still appear to be in the area.

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