Former premier who bears responsibility for the death of an Indigenous land defender to be awarded the Order of Ontario

Published by Brent Patterson on

This commemoration marks the site where Dudley George was killed in September 1995. A provincial inquiry later found former Ontario premier Mike Harris bears responsibility for events that led to George’s death.

On January 1, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario (the Queen’s representative), announced that former Ontario premier Mike Harris would receive the Order of Ontario, the province’s highest honour.

The Order of Ontario website notes: “An Ontarian who has shown outstanding qualities of individual excellence and achievement in any field is eligible to be appointed.”

It adds: “An advisory council reviews the nominations and recommends candidates to the Lieutenant Governor for appointment to the Order of Ontario. The council consists of the Chief Justice of Ontario, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly [Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott], the Secretary of the Cabinet and up to six additional members of the Order of Ontario appointed to the council by the Premier.”

The Toronto Star reports: “[This] is sparking outrage online amid the COVID-19 debacle in long-term-care homes and his current position as board chair of one of the largest operators [Chartwell Retirement Residences].”

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has highlighted: “By mid-June, 93 residents of Chartwell homes had died due to COVID-19.”

On social media, the connection has also been made to the Harris government’s privatization of water services and lax drinking water regulations to the deaths of seven people in the community of Walkerton in 2000; the suicide of Kimberly Rogers in 2001 after her punitive conviction for welfare fraud (for also receiving student loans at the same time); and the killing of an Indigenous land defender in 1995.

The ancestral lands of Aazhoodena land defender Anthony ‘Dudley’ George had been expropriated in 1942 for the construction of a military base.

After this dispossession, George’s family moved back to the area in 1993. Then, after decades of writing letters, meetings and signing petitions, 35 land defenders began a reoccupation of Ipperwash Provincial Park on September 4, 1995.

Notably, the park, also situated on Aazhoodena land, contained burial grounds that the defenders said were not being respected or protected.

On September 5, 1995, then-Premier Mike Harris met with several government officials. The provincial Attorney General later testified that Harris shouted: “I want the fucking Indians out of the park.” A recording also emerged of police officers discussing the premier’s view that the government had “tried to pacify and pander to these people far too long.”

The following day, heavily armed Ontario Provincial Police Officers (OPP) dressed in riot gear launched a nighttime raid against the land defenders.

That is when Dudley George was shot by a police sniper.

In the Ipperwash Inquiry report released in 2007, commissioner Sidney Linden found the government of former Ontario premier Mike Harris, the Canadian government and the OPP all bore responsibility for events that led to George’s death.

Linden stated: “The provincial government could have appointed a mediator or negotiator at any time but did not. The premier could have urged patience, rather than speed.”

At the inquiry, Harris denied that he had said: “I want the fucking Indians out of the park.” Linden found: “After carefully assessing the evidence, it is my view that Michael Harris made the statement” and that it is racist.

Every measure should be taken to ensure that another Indigenous land defender is not killed on the lands and territories within this country.

The impunity that is suggested by the awarding of the province’s highest honour to Mike Harris is a source of deep disappointment and concern to many.

Categories: News Updates


Paul Strome · January 3, 2021 at 4:40 am

Mike Harris does NOT deserve the Order of Ontario for a whole list of reasons. He treated nurses and teachers with disgust when he was in office and took out over a billion dollars in health care and education funding in his tenure. His plan was NOT the “Common Sense Revolution” whatsoever. He is an acknowledged racist and that kind of person should NEVER be awarded the Order of Ontario. I am VERY disappointed in the committee’s decision.

Ken Taylor · January 3, 2021 at 4:14 pm

This is an neo-con effort by the corrupted Ford government to whitewash/rehabilitate the tarnished reputation of the worst premier this province has ever seen; Mike Harris. This man has blood on his hands – Ontarians died because of his stupid and malicious policies and our health and education systems have never fully recovered from the damage that he caused. Now he is among those financially involved in retirement/long term care facilities, who are being indemnified by the Ford government due to catastrophic covid losses resulting from negligence and lax government oversight. The Order of Ontario is virtually meaningless if it is to “awarded” to this charlatan.

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