Oct 9/98: Non-natives resist turning land back over to natives


Neighbours don't want Ipperwash Provincial Park turned over to natives

London Free Press
Friday, October 9, 1998
John Hamilton and John Miner - Free Press

[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.]

IPPERWASH -- The closure of Ipperwash Provincial Park is costing the area millions of dollars and people want it reopened, the mayor of Bosanquet Township says.

"Businesses have suffered and real estate values have plummeted," Mayor Bill Graham said yesterday.

"The park used to bring over half a million visitors to the area."

Ipperwash has been closed since 1995, after native protesters occupied the park and one was fatally shot by police.

A report this week suggested Ottawa might expedite talks that could lead to the transfer of the Lake Huron park to natives.

The Kettle and Stony Point band wants Ottawa to return nearby land seized during the Second World War for a military training camp.

An agreement in principle calls for the return of Camp Ipperwash, plus $26.3 million to rebuild the native community on the former camp next to the park. A land claim on the park has been filed with the federal government.

Township residents want the Ontario government to fight any native land claim to the park, Graham said.

But people would also like to see the park reopen, even if under a joint management agreement between natives and the province, he said.

Nearby property owners said yesterday the park should remain in provincial hands, but they differed on the value of any quick solutions.

"Things that are done too fast, no matter what they are, always end up as the wrong solutions," said Dale Lausanne. "No matter what the government does, it won't be right for everyone."

Her husband, Fred, said a deal that would allow natives to manage the park for the province could be the "smart answer," because concerns about safety would remain even if the province resumes control.

"The park should be reopened to the public, but the fears will linger for years to come," he said.

Boris Benedicic said he hopes for a speedy solution that'll end growing tensions and animosity, which he fears will be passed on to the next generation -- people such as his five-year-old son, Zachary.

"It's created the south (United States) in the '30s, with blacks over there and whites over here. We have to stop that happening. This is Canada. We want to go forward."

For Benedicic, a reopened park would have almost limitless value.

"There's so much that could be done with it and here we are doing nothing."

Reports that Ottawa and natives have discussed the park's future left Lambton MPP Marcel Beaubien fuming.

He suggested the federal government was behaving like someone trying to sell another's house without even talking to them.

"How the hell would you like it?" the Tory backbencher said.

"It is important that all the stakeholders are included in a resolution."

Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MP Rose-Marie Ur said the federal government hasn't been negotiating the park's future with natives.

Although the issue was raised in talks to return Camp Ipperwash to the natives, there were no negotiations, she said.

"The park is a provincial matter and it belongs to the province," the Liberal MP said. "It was never part of our agreement in principle."

Ur said she wants to see the former army camp returned quickly to the natives.

Back to SIS