Our home and native land
Why did Dudley die?
Sam George gets some answers
As told to Casey Lessard
Maynard “Sam” George’s brother Anthony “Dudley” George was shot by Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Kenneth Deane (who was later found criminally negligent) September 6, 1995 at Ipperwash Provincial Park.
After occupying the Camp Ipperwash military base for two years, about 35 protesters moved into neighbouring Ipperwash Provincial Park September 4 to call for the return of Stoney Point Nation lands at the camp and the park.
Dudley George was the only aboriginal person killed by police during a land claims dispute in Canada in the 20th century.
What really happened?
I look at this Report of the Ipperwash Inquiry and I wonder whether or not there’s ever been anything written like this before. From what I can see, somebody has finally said there were two sides to this story.
They obviously listened to the First Nations side as well as the other side and they came to the conclusions that resulted in this report. We had the police side of the story, the protestors’ side of the story, and my perspective for my family’s side of the story. They had political people in there, staff from the political parties, people from different departments in there. Everybody had an opportunity to come in and give their perspective on what happened. So many people had a story they wanted to tell. Not one person had the same story, not one.
One thing we can all agree on is that the night of September 6, Dudley George did lose his life. But what we need to do now is come together and make sure this never happens again.
A family history
My father was raised at the Stoney Point First Nation, which is now Ipperwash. When he moved here, he went into the armed forces. He and my mother were in the armed forces. When they came back they settled in Kettle Point and then moved to Sarnia.
In 1942, the government had come in and asked the people to surrender that piece of land so they could use it to make this army base. At that time the community members turned that down. Once they turned it down, the governments then enforced the War Measures Act, and they expropriated it through that. They came in and moved the families out of there in 1942. They just picked up their houses and moved them. This land was supposed to be given back after the war was over. That was part of what they were told. As you can see, 65 years later the land is still not in the hands of the First Nations people.
Part of that was they kept using excuses that they still weren’t done with it, that they needed it for training or for cadet camp every summer. Not really thinking too much about what was happening with the people that were originally from there, the governments looked and thought it would be cheaper to bring two bands together and put them on one piece of land. I don’t think they ever took into consideration the fact that we would grow, that our families would grow. To put them in one section of land, eventually we would start running out of land. And that’s what’s happening here.
They never looked at the growth of the First Nations people. They always took it as a declining race of people. They never looked into the future. We kind of know what their plan was but we don’t know whether they wrote down anywhere that they wanted the assimilation of the First Nations people.
Some of the people came back from the war and there was no homestead for them. They didn’t have email and the mailing system was very slow at that time. There was no communications system, especially if they were overseas. When they came home, there was no home for them. There was a fence and guards stopping them from going in. This is what our people went through.
They moved some of the houses. Some of them didn’t survive. We have one or two houses that are surviving. One is being lived in today and that’s my uncle’s house, which is partly my grandfather’s house from a long time ago. It has lots of additions on it, but the main part is still there.
On the northwest corner of the Stoney Point First Nation there was a piece of property that was surrendered to the province and that’s why the provincial government is involved in this along with the federal government. There’s that one little section in the corner. I know in 1937 there are reports from our council where the federal Indian agent had come in and said that the provincial government’s engineer had discovered remains in what was going to be the new provincial park. He asked him to come down and asked band council to pass a resolution and send it to Ottawa so they would fence off this area so they wouldn’t damage anything while they were doing construction on the park. It did go through that process, it made it through the federal government and went to the provincial government, but it was never done.
I didn’t live here until I was 14 years old. I grew up on the Aamjiwnaang First Nation (in Sarnia). That’s where my mother was from and it was closer to my dad’s work. We moved back here and that’s when I started to live in this community.
Things happened to us pretty rapidly. We lived here not very long and our house burned. My family moved to the town of Forest, and that’s the house where my brother still lives. I never saw any difference between where I lived in Sarnia. The people were all pretty good, especially for us coming back into the community at such a late age. I started to get involved in a lot of stuff that was happening in the community, like minor sports and working with the community.
When we were married (Sam is married, has three children and five grandsons), we applied for a home (on the Kettle and Stoney Point nation) and this is where we built our home and raised our children. It’s where my kids all come back to and they call it home.
Growing up, I can remember Dudley with my brothers and sisters. I remember a lot of the Christmases and birthdays. Dudley himself was a person who liked to make people laugh. He liked to be around people. He would do things when he was asked to do things.
He was a handy fellow. He worked at jobs here and at the marina at Port Franks. He enjoyed that job very much. He liked to go out fishing. You see some photos where he’s ice fishing and out on a boat.
He helped around wherever he could. Mostly he liked being around people. He liked to joke around a lot. He’d just go around and visit. He helped our younger sisters a lot. He’d watch our nephews whenever they were involved in sports.
He liked to make sure he could make people smile. He wasn’t always like that, but that was the majority of the time.
Dudley lived in Forest most of the time. I have two brothers and a sister who live in Forest. I have another sister who lives in Port Franks. I have one brother in Kettle Point here and myself. Dudley hung around here and Forest and stayed around with my younger sister quite a bit.
Dudley worked along with this community and played some minor sports here as well. He kept connected with this community through family ties and that.
When they were protesting the former Ipperwash thing, they decided they were also going to get the park back. The
park was where our grandfather had lived. There were burial grounds there that were never taken care of, and they felt at that time that it was another broken promise, so they decided they would protest there as well. That’s why they were in Ipperwash Park – because of the burial grounds that were never taken care of.
Dudley saw the opportunity to help out so he moved in there to lend support. Our father had passed away by then so Dudley was probably doing it to get the land back for them. They never had the opportunity to move back there.
That happened September 4. They waited until the park was closed and the campers were gone – they didn’t want to see anyone get hurt. As a result of it, my brother was shot and killed September 6. No one will ever forget that part.
Don’t give up the fight
In the beginning, all my brothers and sisters sat down in a room and realized there was going to be an estate that had to be done and there had to be somebody appointed to do all this stuff. At that point in time, my brothers and sisters appointed me to handle that. So that’s what I did. I became executor of the estate and as we asked questions we started to figure out whether we wanted to do something about it. Do we want to find out what happened? Was it necessary for him to die? We asked for an inquiry at that time. There were allegations that the premier was involved in it and had made these statements. We decided we needed to find out what really happened that night.
We started the process of looking for lawyers. Unfortunately, because it was a political case, they’d come back with things like ‘My neighbour’s an OPP officer, my family member’s an OPP.’ They just wouldn’t touch it. We ended up going to Toronto and found a lawyer named Delia Opekokew, who decided that she could help us on this case. Once we started and found there were no reports on this case and that we had to do all our own investigations, she said it was going to be a much larger case than we ever thought it would be and that at some point we would need a litigation lawyer. And that’s where Murray Klippenstein came in.
We started to dig, we filed a statement of claim in 1996, which got national coverage because of who we were mentioning in the claim, and that was the premier of Ontario, Mike Harris. It drew a lot of attention when we were starting to go through the civil court process.
We always said we would take a public inquiry instead of a civil suit and that if they would do that we would drop the civil suit. But that became a battle in the end, too. They fought us every which way. We didn’t want to fight with anyone. We just wanted answers and unfortunately it took a long time.
There’s a lot of work in there, a lot of sleepless nights, worrying about things because once we filed a statement of claim we got more motions to have names struck out of the statement of claim. We were going back and forth like that all the time. No one was really making a move until the court ordered that there was enough evidence there to keep the premier in the statement of claim. Once that happened, everybody followed suit. It took a long time.
When you’re at the inquiry you’re always working to make sure you don’t get left behind. You’re also working to keep ahead. You know where you’re going, you know who’s coming up the next day so you try to figure out what they’re going to say, and you have to be prepared if it goes this way or that way. It was a real thinking process for us and we were on the computers a lot. Even when we had legal counsel in Toronto, we were always on MSN, talking back and forth. It was a process that kept me involved very much. Sometimes I wouldn’t get home until 10 or 11 at night and be gone again at 7 o’clock in the morning.
It was very good to hear witnesses saying that they wouldn’t like to see anything like this happen again. They didn’t like being involved in stuff like that. The people that were there didn’t want to be there either.
Twelve years later, answers
I was satisfied with the inquiry report. It talked a lot about where we were going. The parties that were involved in this did get recommendations to take back and implement to change the way they do things. We need to make sure these recommendations get followed and that the report doesn’t sit on a shelf somewhere. What we want is that this never happens again to another person. That’s what this report has done.
The inquiry didn’t give any recommendations to help with any of the costs over the years. Me and my wife prepared ourselves for stuff like that. Sure, we had to sell some stuff and there were times when it was very, very tough on us. I have a lot of money tied up in this personally. It’s something where if you believe in what you’re doing and you have the support there when you’re doing it, then that part becomes a lot easier. We have a lot of bills now we have pay, but we’ll work out how we’re going to do it.
It cost a lot more than I imagined it would. I really didn’t think asking for someone to tell me what happened that night – to tell me whether or not it was really necessary that he died – I didn’t think it would be so costly and so timely just to try to get answers of that nature.
How Sam survived
My Chevelle (Sam is a Chevelle aficionado, and collects models as well as owning a classic car) is an interesting story because I had one other car that I had to sell in the beginning of this process because I needed money. Later on, my wife said, ‘You should buy yourself another car.’ I bought another car and when I started to fix it, I really didn’t have the time so my oldest brother Reggie did a lot of the work on it for me. He actually had to keep it for me for a while. Eventually we got it done and I have it in the garage.
We needed some kind of entertainment in our lives. We can’t always go and continuously do this type of work. Every now and then you have to give your mind a break. As soon as you get home, your phone starts ringing. I carry a cell phone. I have it on most of the time. That’s just a habit now. Before I needed it for decision making because my lawyers gave it all they had and they did a good job at it. You can see the results. But that’s why I have the car – to give me a change and relax a little bit.
My band supported me a lot in what I was trying to do, so when I needed to be gone or when I had time waiting for judge’s decision, I’d be “in the office.” (Sam was a youth worker for Family and Children’s Services for the band). Whenever I could be there I was there. Over the period of the inquiry, I was at the inquiry every day. That took all of my time at the time.
I haven’t even thought about (getting back to work) right now. I’m still pretty busy. People call me from all over right now – Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa. Their favourite question is how did I survive all of this. Well, I don’t know. That’s something I’ll have to sit down and figure out.
I counted on my elders quite a bit and they would keep track of me as well. Even the morning after the inquiry, they contacted me and said, ‘You need to do some stuff now. You need to get yourself up and look at getting yourself better.’ I did get run down pretty good in the end there. I did get sugar
diabetes and that’s been a real battle. I’m now trying to get that settled down right now.
Not only because of my eating habits, but it’s also stress. There were days the blood pressure would go up and stress would go up. You couldn’t predict what your day would be like. You’re asking someone to tell the truth and you don’t know what’s going to come out.
A peaceful solution
To me, if someone would have sat us down in the beginning and said, ‘This is this person, this is that person. They’re responsible for this; they’re responsible for that.’ If we could have sat at a table and talked about that stuff in the beginning, we could have probably settled this soon after Dudley died. Unfortunately, they chose to take us down a different path. Because they took us down that path, it became very difficult and very costly for us. But we survived all of that and now we’re looking at a report and looking at getting it implemented.
It would help people if they came down and listened to some of the stories. Anybody can phone me or visit me any time. They can ask me questions if they want. They would learn that it wasn’t an easy way to go. In the system that you have to go and follow through, it sometimes becomes very harsh on you. They just don’t have any idea what it’s like.
People call you and tell you they have something that might be helpful to you. I always took that time to listen. I don’t care who it was that phoned me. I have people now calling me, ‘Can you help me with this? Can you help me with that?’ I try the best I can to help because people helped me.
What would Dudley think?
If he were alive to see this report, I think Dudley would say it was about time people started to listen to what we were saying. A lot of things that are in here are things he was standing up for. Burial grounds, treaty lands, a homeland. He was not only standing up for himself, but for his family, community and the First Nations people, saying ‘Somebody listen to us.’ That’s all we wanted – somebody to listen. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out that way. If you look at the recommendations, you’ll see where every little thing went wrong, who was involved, how things could have been done better. You see lots of those things in the report.
I would have rather had him around today. But one thing we do know is he did start something that night. He stood up for our rights, and he paid the ultimate price – he paid with his life.
When you look at it now, everything he was starting to do has come out in this book. I was allowed to do closing statements at the inquiry, and I said, ‘Now he can rest in peace.’ The work he started to do is now going to be divided up and given to the various parties and now it’s up to us to work together in a good way and make sure these recommendations are followed and implemented.
This is important not only to First Nations people, but to any person because we do have that right to speak up when we see something wrong. We don’t have to have that fear that if we do speak up that we will be put down the way he was. He was only speaking up.
We will start to forgive, but we can never forget the night of September 6.