by Mark Vandermaas, Mary-Lou LaPratte and Gary McHale

PART 2: How the Ipperwash Inquiry suppressed evidence and put Ontario communities on a collision course with anarchy   

On October 15, 2008 MPP Toby Barrett announced that his petition for hearings into the Caledonia crisis had been rejected by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Brad Duguid with the excuse that, “Justice Linden’s comprehensive report arising out of the Ipperwash Inquiry includes a road map for progress in our relations with First Nations and Metis people and the government is following those guidelines.”

The Inquiry’s report contains 100 recommendations, but not one specifically addresses the issue of preventing violence against residents. How could this even be possible given the extreme lawlessness in Caledonia during the year prior to its release?

The Ipperwash Inquiry began with seven days of testimony by two experts on aboriginal culture and history going back to the 17th century. While the Inquiry was keen to understand, in excruciating detail, aboriginal history predating Confederation, they did not want to hear how today's aboriginals had terrorized innocent residents in the 1990’s. They refused to allow LaPratte to testify despite her position as president of the 600 member Ontario Federation for Individual Rights and Equality (ONFIRE) – a group formed one month after the death of Dudley George to give beleaguered residents a voice – and, arguably, the most knowledgeable person alive regarding the impact of land claims and associated crime on innocent third parties.

Derry Millar, lead counsel for the Inquiry, was well acquainted with both LaPratte and the suffering of Ipperwash residents. He and his law firm successfully defended the West Ipperwash Property Owners Association – of which LaPratte was the Public Relations officer – against the native land claim filed against their homes in 1992. The case went to the Supreme Court of Canada, and on May 19, 1998, the claim was dismissed. It cost residents $500,000 for the legal defence of their homes.

Despite Millar’s knowledge of the residents’ agony, none were permitted to testify about the native crime and violence they had experienced. Out of 139 witnesses, not one was a non-native resident. Mary-Lou LaPratte’s 29-page chronological history of Ipperwash from the residents’ point of view, submitted on behalf of ONFIRE in July 2004, is not listed on the Inquiry website. Not one symposium was held on the subject of preventing violence against innocent residents during land claim protests.

During the three year inquiry, the non-native victims of Ipperwash were allotted a total of just 90 minutes to address Commissioner Linden during a townhall meeting that took place on June 21, 2006 at the height of the violence in Caledonia.  The now-mayor of Lambton Shores, Gord Minielly, a councillor at the time, echoed residents’ concerns and expressed his sympathy for Caledonians: “I have listened to all of the seminars, and am most aggrieved that all the work in the last ten years among the governments, OPP and the Natives was of no help in the Caledonia dispute. Violence must not be tolerated. It only serves to leave the area in question paralyzed by fear and a sense of hopelessness.” The Inquiry’s minutes of this ‘Community Consultation’ however, give the false impression there were no significant problems between residents and natives expressed.  

Since the Inquiry never examined the issue of preventing lawlessness against innocent residents, and does not have the force of law, the use of it to justify racial policing in Caledonia is illogical, disingenuous, and illegal.

The best evidence for this can be found in the testimony of OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino himself on August 29, 2007 when he told Shawn Brant’s lawyer: "Mr. Rosenthal, there's nothing in the spirit, the intent, or the written word in this document [Ipperwash Inquiry report] that justifies criminal conduct or that exonerates people from accountability from criminal conduct, or that it absents me as a law enforcement officer from exercising discretion or using the authority bestowed upon me to effect a lawful purpose."

McGuinty and Fantino have stated that police are ‘peacekeepers’ – as though citizens victimized by land claim lawlessness are living in a de facto war zone with no right to full police protection mandated under the Police Services Act. Both men know they are allowed – and required – to enforce the law before innocent people become victims. They simply choose not to do so in Haldimand County.

The authors briefed Mayor Trainer prior to releasing the Ipperwash Papers who was shocked by the eerie similarities between Ipperwash and Caledonia. “If you just change the names,” she said, “this could be Caledonia.” Her observation highlights the most disturbing and far-reaching consequence of the suppression of evidence from residents: dangerous policy-making resulting from the Inquiry’s inability or unwillingness to identify the root cause of Dudley George’s death as race-based policing.

If the law had been properly enforced in Ipperwash in the years prior to 1995 without regard to race it is quite likely that Dudley George would not have been part of the escalating violence that claimed his life just as Caledonia builder Sam Gualtieri would not have been nearly beaten to death by native thugs if OPP had removed the initial occupiers of the Douglas Creek Estates.

Not one MPP has ever risen in the Legislature to denounce the suppression of evidence by the Ipperwash Inquiry, or the inappropriate use of its flawed recommendations. The Opposition has silently allowed the Inquiry to become a legalized myth justifying racist policing practices that have already been permitted by Conservative and Liberal governments at both the provincial and federal levels.

The authors believe the key reason Ipperwash residents were never permitted to testify was because the Inquiry was not about justice or reconciliation, but about attacking the Mike Harris Conservatives. It should not have surprised anyone that its report was made public a few months before the last provincial election – an obvious attempt to silence the Conservatives regarding law and order in Caledonia.

Since June 2006 ordinary Canadians have been leading the fight to ensure any new inquiry was about justice and law & order, and not about scoring political points. On June 5, 2007 however, PC leader John Tory called for an inquiry into Caledonia stating the purpose of such an inquiry was to review the 'absence of communication and lack of leadership by Premier McGuinty and his Liberal government,' and not to examine OPP race-based policing.

MPP Toby Barrett’s February 05, 2009 call to examine the validity of land claims, and allegations of political interference in policing follows in Tory’s footsteps by ignoring the clear wishes of the 7,000 people who have signed the current petition demanding an inquiry into the actions of the OPP.

Ontario’s political parties believe Caledonia is a mere ‘drop’ of water in the political landscape. Real change within the OPP and the Ontario government is possible, however, thanks to a growing grassroots movement to hold all politicians accountable for allowing racial policing to exist. When you sign the petition, you become one of the thousands of ‘drops’ in a river that will one day wash away the illegal actions of the OPP.

The Ipperwash Papers are located at