25 years after Ipperwash, Ontario Premier Doug Ford describes 1492 Land Back Lane land defenders as “bad apples”
On October 22, human rights journalist Brandi Morin tweeted: “My God let’s not repeat the past! OPP have killed Indigenous over land rights in the past-Dudley George, Ipperwash, 25 years ago. Now OPP firing rubber bullets at Six Nations Land Defenders over a housing development on Six Nations Treaty promised land. Canada, stop this.”
The following day, Ontario Premier Doug Ford was asked about the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) firing rubber bullets at land defenders and what he saw as the path forward to resolving the situation on Six Nations territory in southern Ontario.
Ford did not respond to the issue of the rubber bullets, but rather appeared to focus on the Haudenosaunee land defenders, highlighting: “I’m going to be very blunt, I’m not going to tolerate violence, it’s very simple. …I don’t know if a few folks are going rogue… It’s unfortunate we have a couple bad apples causing problems…”
He then added: “Let’s flip this for a little bit. These people have saved everything they’ve had. They go in to a community. They buy a home, like all of us, our goal is to buy a home, and all of a sudden someone comes in and says, ‘No, it’s not yours anymore, it’s ours.’ It’s unacceptable. It shouldn’t be and won’t be tolerated. It just frustrates me.”
Ford did not make reference to the Haldimand Treaty of October 25, 1784 that granted the land to the Six Nations nor the lengthy legal challenge before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for the unlawful dispossession of this land from the Six Nations peoples.
When asked if he has been in communication with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister or the federal Minister of Public Safety on this issue. Ford responded: “I have not sat down and talked with the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister.”
Ford then seemed to describe the land defenders as “bad actors”.
The provincial Ipperwash Inquiry examined the events leading to the death of Indigenous land defender Dudley George who was shot and killed by an Ontario Provincial Police officer during a land defence struggle in 1995. The report was released in May 2007.
A key recommendation of that report was: “The provincial government should invite the federal government to participate in interministerial ‘blockade’ committees to inform and coordinate governmental responses to Aboriginal occupations and protests when a potential federal interest is engaged.”
One implication of this is that a political resolution to a land rights issue should be pursued, not an armed police response that can result in the death of a land defender.
PBI-Canada recalls the Ipperwash Inquiry, the key themes of its recommendations on how Indigenous protests and occupations could be addressed to prevent the killing of another land defender, discourages the Premier from describing land defenders in derogatory ways, and supports the calls for a peaceful resolution of this conflict that respects the Treaty and inherent rights of the Haudenosaunee.
We also express our profound concern for the safety of the Haudenosaunee land defenders given the OPP actions on August 5 and October 22.
The Peace Brigades International-North America Project received a verbal invitation to be present at Ipperwash following the death of Dudley George given the fear of further violence on the part of the police. PBI-NAP made four visits to the Ipperwash area between September 1995 and July 1996. For more on this, please click here.
Photo: An OPP police officer at 1492 Land Back Lane, October 22, 2020.