Stoney Point: Trial date set


The following article is reprinted from Prison News Service #54, Spring 1996.

- written by Tariq Hassan Gordon, Anti-Colonial Action Alliance

posted to Prison Activist list by JusticeNet Prison Issues Desk, June 12/96

Twenty-three members of the Stoney Point First Nation appeared in the Sarnia Provincial Court on May 13, 1996. The 23 people face two criminal charges each; one count of forcible entering and one count of forcible detaining of a park. All charges relate to the September 4, 1995 occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park.

The criminal charges, which carry a maximum of two years in prison were issued by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) on February 12th, 1996, six month after the shooting death of Dudley George by the OPP. The trial date for the 23 Stoney Point members has been set for two weeks beginning October 21, 1996 in Sarnia. The pre-trial has been set for June 27, 1996. Despite the fact that the federal government released documents on September 14, 1995 indicating that there was an Aboriginal burial ground in the provincial park, the police continue to treat the situation as an illegal occupation. The former Ipperwash military training base and Ipperwash Provincial Park are currently in negotiations to be returned to area First Nations.

Charges against the 23 people are part of an overall strategy of harassment and criminalization. According to Marcia Simon, treasurer of the Stoney Point Legal Fund, the OPP have stopped native people driving in the area for alleged traffic violations, detained people and charged Stoney Pointers with hunting violation in blatant disregard of the Stoney Point claim to the territory.

Considering the political tensions in the area, the continued increase in police activity has seriously affected the Stoney Point peoples' effort to organize the return of their territory from the federal government. Local residents ON FIRE The Ontario Foundation of Individual Rights and Equality (ON FIRE) formed on October 1, 1995 with a mandate to pressure all levels of government to resolve land claims in South Western Ontario. Their focus has been "law enforcement that's applied evenly to natives and non-natives", thus pressuring the police and local officials to have criminal charges laid against the Stoney Point people involved in the Ipperwash Provincial Park occupation.

The Ipperwash Provincial Park is located on Lake Huron, 45 minutes east of Sarnia. The area has always been a popular summer cottage and camping zone. Anti-Native organizing by local cottagers has been an ongoing process which began in 1991 with the formation of the West Ipperwash Property Owners Association to challenge the local Aboriginal claim to the land. The Property Owners Association has spent over $350,000 in legal fees to intervene in the land claims. Richard Shultz a member of the West Ipperwash Property Owners Association is also the current President of ON FIRE. ON FIRE claims a membership of 1,500 people. On March 8, 1995 they delivered a 5,000 name petition to Lampton MPP Marcel Beaubien demanding that the Ontario Government reopen Ipperwash Provincial Park, which is still under Aboriginal occupation. Marcia Simon said "People raised the consideration that this [the occupation] is unlawful. The land was set aside by treaty in the 1800's. [What the Government and police] are doing is unlawful but they don't consider it unlawful."

The Ministry of Natural Resources says that the current Aboriginal occupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park is a policing matter, but they plan to open the park later this summer. The Stoney Point First Nation has clearly stated that the park will not open this summer and that they will continue to occupy the park.

In 1825 a Provisional Agreement was made and entered into between the Superintendent of Indian Affairs and the Chiefs and Principle Men of the Chippewa Nation to surrender South Western Ontario. The Agreement ensured that the following territories remained unceeded "Four miles square at some distance below the rapids of the River St. Clair [Sarnia], One mile in front by four deep, bordering on the said River St. Clair and adjoining to the Shawanoe Township [Walpole Island], two miles square at the River aux Sable which empties into Lake Huron [Stoney Point], and two miles at Kettle Point, Lake Huron [Kettle Point]."

Clerical error

A clerical error was made by the Colonial government in 1919 which defined Stoney Point and Kettle Point as the same band which had two separate reserves. This mistake is clarified by research initiated by Daniel McWatt, senior judge of Lampton County in 1925, which identifies four distinct First Nation reserves in Lampton County; Stoney Point, Kettle Point, Sarnia and Walpole Island.

The federal government through the Indian Act, relinquished part of the Stoney Point Reserve through a land transaction and set up Ipperwash Park. Native burial grounds were desecrated during the construction of the Park in the 1930's.

In 1942 the Department of National Defence under the War Measures Act relocated some of the people of Stoney Point Reserve, #43 to swampland in the nearby Kettle Point Reserve and #44 became refugees and were dispersed across Ontario. This relocation was supposed to be temporary. The Crown, in the order PC 2652, stated "if, at the termination of the war, no further use of the area is required by the Department of National Defence, negotiations will be entered into with the Department of Indian Affairs to transfer the lands back to the Indians at a reasonable price determined by mutual agreement." On May 31, 1946, the "Advanced Infantry Training Centre" closed. Then in 1960 until 1992, the land was used as a six week summer cadet training camp. On Aug. 10, 1992 the federal government admitted in a statement that the reasons for the continued occupation of Stoney Point land was "Spurious [false] and without substance."

Throughout the 1980's the federal government attempted to settle the land claim with the Kettle Point reserve. Stoney Point people protested to the federal government and demanded that the land be returned to Stoney Point. The federal government refused to recognize the Stoney Point People as a separate community and then renamed Kettle Point to Kettle and Stony Point. In May of 1993, 50 years after the relocation, a small group of the original Stoney Point residents and their families reoccupied the Stoney Point Reserve #43. According to Marcia Simon, "the long term goal is for recognition of the Stoney Point First Nation #43" and the return of their territory which was appropriated by the federal government in 1942. Unfortunately the federal government will only negotiate the return of the land with the Kettle and Stony Point Reserve. The media have portrayed the Stoney Point people as a break away group without any legitimate claim to the land. They have attempted to portray the conflict between Kettle Point and Stoney Point as an internal issue.

The Kettle and Stony Point Band Council doesn't recognize Stoney Point as a separate Band. Tom Bressette, Chief of Kettle and Stony Point has consistently discredited and undermined the efforts of the Stoney Point Community.

On June 9, 1993, Bressette contacted the Premier of Ontario, Bob Rae to demand that the government stop issuing General Welfare to the Stoney Point people occupying Camp Ipperwash.

After Gord Peters, Regional Chief of the Chiefs of Ontario, publicly advocated for a resolution to the conflict at Ipperwash, the Kettle Point Council wrote to Peters asking him to "refrain from your involvement with matters directly related to our First Nation." The primary problem is that the government does not recognize the Stoney Point Reserve. Simon went on to say "The Colonial administration which became the Department of Indian Affairs lumped these native communities together for bureaucratic ease in administering their affairs. It was an externally created problem that they now claim is an internal matter." On September 12, 1993, a group of the people occupying the former base walked from Stoney Point to Ottawa to press the government to recognize their treaty rights. The two and a half week walk stopped in Peterborough where the Trent University Native Studies Department organized a rally for the Group. One of the Speakers at that rally was Elder Clifford George. "He told the crowd about when he returned home after fighting overseas in World War II. Upon his return, he found his people and his home uprooted and (mis) placed elsewhere. He said he'd been promised a forty acre plot of land when he returned from the war, and that his father had also written to him overseas telling him not to worry as their land would be returned to them after the war. However, this land was never returned to the First Nations' people of Stoney Point." (Arthur Sept 28th. 1993). Fifty-two years after the federal government appropriated the land, the government announced on February 23, 1994 that it would return the land. The negotiations became bogged down over concerns about an environmental assessment and clean up.

>From the military barracks that the Canadian Military, in co-operation with the Ontario Provincial Police and Ministry of Natural Resources Enforcement officers co-ordinated a low intensity warfare against the people camped inside the base. The military conducted around-the-clock military surveillance throughout the base. The patrols included low level helicopter flights, military vehicles and nightly foot patrols. Stoney Pointers' camps were harassed, threatened with guns and people were physically assaulted. On a number of occasions cars were hit with military vehicles and tires slashed. The Military Police attempted to prevent local non-native residents from selling supplies to the people camped on the base. The non-natives that brought supplies to the people on the base were threatened with trespassing charges. In one incident, a journalist with the Sarnia Observer was investigating the physical beating of Kevin Simon by over six soldiers. When he contacted the army to verify the allegations he was told that he would be charged with trespassing for going on the base. It was the result of lack of progress with the government negotiations and the continuous military presence that forced the Stoney Point people to evict the last foothold of the army.

Two years after the initial reoccupation, around 100 members of Stoney Point moved into the Ipperwash military barracks. Between 15 and 20 military personnel were evacuated from the barracks. The barracks are located on the south-west corner of the reserve.

Provincial park occupied

On September 4th, 1995 Stoney Point occupied Ipperwash Provincial Park. The occupation of Ipperwash was done in an attempt to return all the territory lost over the past 60 years to the original Stoney Point community. Earlier in August, 1995, Justice Gordon Killeen found that the Ipperwash land transactions in 1927 had "an odour of moral failure about them." The recently-elected Conservative provincial government of Premier Mike Harris had a secret meeting on September 5 of 20 government officials including, Deb Hutton, a key advisor to Harris, officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat the Attorney General and the Ontario Provincial Police. A decision was made to "get those fucking Indian out of the park, even if you have to draw guns." A full day before the police move against the Stoney Point people occupying Ipperwash Provincial Park, the OPP began a massive buildup of force including, snipers, riot squad members and tactical response unit members armed with machine guns. The OPP contacted the Canadian Army to provide additional assistance. The OPP's request to the army included: fifty gas masks with carriers, fifty pairs of night vision goggles, equipment for intercepting cellular telephone calls, one hundred bulletproof vests, two Huey helicopters and two Bison personnel carriers. On the afternoon of September 6, 1995, Kettle and Stony Point band Chief Tom Bressette was notified that an order was given to get the protesters out of the park. Bressette did not directly inform the Stoney Point Occupiers. At 7:55pm Gerald George, a Kettle and Stony Point band councillor, was involved in a confrontation with the Stoney Point people in the park. Gerald George had previously written a letter to the Forest Standard on August 30, 1995 saying "I am glad that these Army Camp Indians call themselves separate from my First Nation because I would not want any of my fellow band members to act like animals."

Gerald George made a complaint to the OPP at 8:19pm. Two hundred-and-fifty OPP officers were mobilized against about 35 protestors in the park. The OPP was responding to the incident that took place at 7:55pm with the intention of arresting a suspect in the alleged assault. At least 50 bottles of Alcohol were consumed by the OPP before entering the park. The 40 riot police broke formation and attacked the protesters, beating Bernard George also a Kettle and Stony Point band councillor. Bernard was later hospitalized for two days and charged with assaulting police. In an attempt to separate the police from the protestors, a youth drove a school bus between the two groups. At least seven OPP Officers opened fire on the bus, injuring the driver. Over 1,000 bullets were fired into the park. Dudley George who was some distance from the bus was hit by a bullet. Marcia Simon was assaulted and arrested when she attempted to phone an ambulance. Dudley's brother and two others took him to a hospital and were arrested for attempted murder. Dudley George died from the bullet wounds at 12:45am.

The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is required to file their report 90 days after a shooting incident takes place. The SIU, nine months after the shooting death of Dudley George have yet to file their report. Part of the delay is because the Provincial Police refuse to cooperate and obstruct the investigation. The SIU arrived within hours of the shooting on September 6, 1995. However the OPP prevented the SIU from entering the park for two weeks. By the time they had seen the site of the shooting the evidence had been contaminated.

Then on May 17, 1996 the SIU was denied a request for photographs of police officers who threatened Dudley George shortly before he was killed in September. Fellow demonstrators say Dudley George was told he would be the "first" when police confronted protestors at the park. The court will decide whether or not to grant a search warrant at a hearing on September 18, 1996. Until then the SIU can not complete their report. Besides the 23 people charged with forcible entering and forcible detaining of a park, there are a number of other Stoney Point people facing other charges. Cleve Jackson was charged with reckless driving when it was alleged that he drove a bus through the drill hall doors on July 29, 1996 when Stoney Point took over the Military Base.

The Stoney Point people claim that Jackson was not the driver of the bus and that the only reason why the police charged him was because the Military Police saw his picture on the cover of the London Free Press and decided he was the driver of the bus. On May 28, Judge Louis Eddy dismissed the charges In April, Judge R.G. Hunter dismissed the charges against Stacey George and Jeremiah George. The two were charged with mischief causing damages over $5,000 for kicking a police vehicle on September 7, 1995. Co-Accused, David George is still charged and awaiting trial, tentatively set for October 21, 1996. David George is also charged with theft, possession of a weapon, assault with a weapon, and two counts of assaulting a police officer. The weapons charges relate to David George holding a piece of wood when the riot police rushed the people occupying the park. All of the criminal charges that have been laid are part of the campaign to criminalize the inherent rights of the Stoney Point people. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has called on the Canadian government to investigate the Ontario Provincial Police use of force and their actions throughout the Stoney Point re-occupation of their territory. Despite international condemnation, the people of Stoney Point are still being criminalized. The strategy of criminalization is part of the overall agenda of the colonial federal, provincial, municipal governments, local colonial settlers and the neo-colonial Kettle and Stony Point Band Council to dispossess the Stoney Point people of their traditional territory. (With files from Stoney Point First Nation, the London Free Press, Toronto Star, Arthur.)

by Tariq Hassan-Gordon
Anti-Colonial Action Alliance
Box 25, 197 Hunter St W.
Peterborough, Ontario K9H 2L1

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