‘The Strength of a Woman’ – Mary-Lou LaPratte, Ipperwash hero

UPDATE June 22/07: Mary-Lou LaPratte and Ipperwash finally had their stories told by a main-stream media outlet, the Western Standard magazine. See, Truth emerges as Ipperwash Papers go ‘main stream.’

success_woman.jpegThis is the third in VoiceofCanada’s “The Strength of a Woman’ series of articles designed to honour the women who have both inspired and shamed us with their courage during the struggle against Two Tier Justice in Ontario. The title was inspired by Robin McGraw, wife of TV’s Dr. Phil – see ‘The Strength of a Woman’ – Lisa Parent.

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2inch_voc_logo-url.jpgIf there is a hero to be found in the Ipperwash story, it is a remarkable woman by the name of Mary-Lou LaPratte. She lived through it all: crime and intimidation from natives over an invalid land claim against her home and those of her fellow residents; an eventual Supreme Court victory; threats; a home invasion; an assault; ongoing OPP refusal to enforce the law; DND failure to enforce the law; abandonment by the OPP when they fled Ipperwash to save themselves after the death of Dudley George, and psychological trauma so acute during the events of September 1995 that her hair fell out in chunks.

Despite the unbelievable stress and intimidation that caused most Ipperwash residents to suffer unbearable outrages in silence, Mary-Lou refused to be bullied. She spoke out, again and again, on behalf of her fellow citizens who were too afraid to speak for themselves.

On May 31, 2007 the Ipperwash Inquiry released its insulting and shameful report that vindicated native lawlessness after deliberately excluding all evidence related to the suffering of innocent residents at the hands of native criminals. The Inquiry tried – as native thugs and criminals have in the past – to victimize Mary-Lou LaPratte, but – once again – she refuses to be silent. 

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June 01, 2007 

Dear Mark,

I was involved with the Inquiry for two years. I wanted to know the answer to what I thought was the most important question the residents needed an answer to:  Why is Colour-of-Right being legitimized in native land disputes to commit criminal offences and acts of violence on innocent residents and businesses who are on the periphery of disputed land??? No one at the Inquiry answered this question. The mandate of the Inquiry was to prevent violence in land disputes.  The violence and criminal acts suffered by residents at the hands of the natives was irrelevant to the Commission of the Inquiry. 

In light of Caledonia, Hagersville, and Desoronto, it is apparent that criminal acts and violence by natives against innocent third parties in these land disputes is also irrelevent to the Federal Gov’t, Provincial Gov’t and the OPP irregardless of how devastating the results are to the victims.

How does anyone expect us to move forward with the recommendations of this report and achieve positive results without the criminality  and violence displayed by the Native Faction being addressed and dealt with????  You tell me if Justice was served in this $21,000,000.00 Inquiry.

Today Sam George, brother of Dudley George , asked the Premier of Ontario to hand the former Ipperwash Provincial Park to the occuppying natives.  I will be deeply surprised if this in fact is done without the due process of proof of who owns the land.   Ontarians forget that this land was legally surrendered and sold in 1929 many years before the reserve was consfiscated under the War Measures Act in 1942. The Premier will have a difficult time giving it back considering that the Stoney Pointers were paid for it in 1929 and at this point in time it still is owned by the public of Ontario.  Legitimate processes must be followed in any native land claim.  This piece of land deserves the same integrity.

Sincerely, Mary-Lou LaPratte

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About Mary-Lou LaPratte:

march_for_freedom_oct15-06-067.jpgMary-Lou LaPratte (right) has spent the last 15 years of her life trying to give a voice to the true victims of the Ipperwash tragedy, and trying to prevent future violence against innocent third parties caught up in land claims. Her credentials include:

  • served as Vice Chair of the Ipperwash Policing Committee. 1993 to 1996
  • organized the first Neighbourhood Watch in Ipperwash. 1993 to 1996
  • served on the Executive of ONFIRE (Ontario Federation for Individual Rights and Equality), Security, 1995 to 1997
  • President of ONFIRE from 1997 to December 2006.
  • Public Relations officer for the West Ipperwash Property Owners Association.  1992 to 2001.
  • Conducted 700 hours of research and cataloguing for a class action lawsuit.
  • Spokesperson for the West Ipperwash Property Owners Association with the Assessment Review Board from 1995 to 2001during the litigation on the West Beach Land claim.
  • Keynote speaker at inaugural March for Freedom event in Caledonia, ON, Oct 15/06
  • Co-presenter of The Ipperwash Papers project at Queen’s Park media studio, March 14/07

In short, if you want to know anything about land claim issues, or violence and native crime against residents in Ipperwash, Mary-Lou LaPratte was – and is – the person you needed to talk to. Despite her impressive credentials, however, the Ipperwash Inquiry refused to allow her to testify, and refused to publish the chronological history project she submitted in July 2004.

Mary-Lou’s quest for justice and recognition for Ipperwash’s forgotten victims, and her contribution to The Ipperwash Papers on behalf of her community and all others in Canada who will face landclaim violence in the future is a remarkable legacy. She was once – unsuccessfully – nominated to The Order of Canada for her tireless, courageous work. I can only hope that she will live to see the day when the Governor General finally recognizes her for what she is: a true Canadian hero in every sense of the word.

Until that day arrives, however, we can each individually honour Mary-Lou LaPratte by reading her account of the Ipperwash agony, by asking the media in our communities to tell her story, and by pressuring our politicians and police to end racially-based policing practices forever in our province.

justice_gavel_cdn-flag.jpeg“The complete loss of the Rule of Law should be the message displayed on our radio shows, our news columns and our televised news programs. At Ipperwash, in fifteen years, all our exposure to news and radio, television and writing the government was to no avail. The media and the Politicians would not admit the truth of what was happening to innocent residents and visitors to our community.”

Mary-Lou LaPratte, Nov 01/07: as quoted in “What really happened in Caledonia…

“[OPP officer] had us terrified to go back into our home. [My husband] was a wreck because he had very little sleep since the death of Dudley George and the desertion by the police. He felt he had to protect us alone since no one in authority would come in and help anyone. He is diabetic and his blood sugar was really unstable at this time with the stress. My nerves were so bad that [my husband] had to take me to see my doctor. I could not sleep and by this time my hair was coming out in chunks.”

“During the upheaval and afterwards several police officers and Native leaders were given special consideration for healing sabbaticals. I cannot recall any residents suffering the effects of criminal offences, property invasions, thefts, harassments and break and enters ever being referred by anyone to victim services.

No one considered those who had nervous break downs, could not work, suffered marriage breakdowns or those who eventually ended up abusing substances because of the post traumatic stress caused by no law and order.

We did not cause the events of 1995. In fact for years before we tried to let all levels of government know that aggression and discontent by the native faction was escalating in this area.

When the OPP became totally unavailable and redundant, we asked for RCMP to come in and were denied. We, ourselves, became victims for years of additional native aggression for absolutely no reason other than that those involved in criminal activity knew that the policies were in place that give them complete autonomy from the law.”

Mary-Lou LaPratte, June 23/04: The Ipperwash Papers, document A-1: Chronological history of Ipperwash events, submitted to Ipperwash Inquiry in July 2004, but never published

References

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7 responses to “‘The Strength of a Woman’ – Mary-Lou LaPratte, Ipperwash hero

  1. Mary-Lou LaPratte

    Dear Mark,

    How strange and unusual that you should be commending me as a hero. I was raised in an environment that all people of this world are valuable and must be treated with respect. I am not special in my feelings of respect. Is this not the Canadian Way?? How naive I was in thinking that our media , Politicians and OPP would feel the same way I did about chronic injustices to our fellow man.

    No one in any level of government or any level of the OPP would answer our questions or help us understand why the non-native victims of crime at Ipperwash had to endure the trauma that evolved from the actions of the Natives. What is even more upsetting is that we were expected to endure this nightmare until the land issues were resolved, which they are not at the present time. We thought our story of the violence and crime that tore a community apart would finally be heard at the Ipperwash Inquiry. We all so looked forward to Justice Linden’s arrival.

    He was perceived to be a learned and respected man who would see the suffering of all people over the land disputes and in a fair and equitable manner, tell us how to deal with each other with respect, determination to live a better life with common goals , and make the future of Ipperwash one of sharing and growing that enhanced all of our expectations for peace and compassion towards each other.

    Can anyone imagine the utter devastation to realize as the Inquiry proceeded, that what had happened to the residents of Ipperwash other than the natives, was irrelevant. We were thoroughly and completely rejected in the most crass way possible—by outright ommission. The meeting of June 21/06 was set up to fail us miserably in that not one complaint was published. Not one heart felt cry for acknowledgement was honored even with the printed word. Not even one story of injustice was important enough for comment from the Judge in his final report.

    Further to this, we had also made recommendations for the Judge to consider ,that may help avoid violence in the future, and even these did not merit a comment. It is unconscionable that in all the parties involved with the Ipperwash tragedy, one and one alone should be found to be totally blameless. We cannot move forward with this report, because the element that is not dealt with, native violence in occupations and land claims has not been considered by the government, the OPP or the Commission of the Inquiry.

    Persons subjected to never-ending trauma cannot be expected to be patient and understanding until the authorities get their act together. Chronic harassment, lack of security of person and possessions, and lack of peaceful enjoyment of your home and property leads to depression, physical illness, and in many cases divorce, and lack of income. This is cruel and unusual punishment for those theld hostage to the native agenda in which you have no voice and cannot be a part of the solution.

    The Judge did tell me that I was a passionate woman. I remarked that surely in his life there had been a time when he had been passionate about something. I deeply regret that he displayed no passion towards the well being of all those residing in Ontario.

    Respectfully Submitted
    MLL

    VoC REPLY: This post was long overdue, Mary-Lou; a post about a passionate woman who dares to hope, even yet, that the real healing of both the native and non-native victims of Ipperwash can begin one day. Thank you. Mark

  2. Lisa Parent

    Mary Lou I have not had the pleasure to know you personally but you must know that we understand what you must have faced for all those years. Your reward is a commission that was not interested in the truth, in ensuring that behaviour of all is corrected or in listening to innocent victims of events in Ipperwash.

    We can only hope that a change in government takes place this fall and that the Conservatives, who have read the Ipperwash Papers and have provided positive signals, will ensure that a full investigation takes place into Ipperwash, Caledonia and the OPP. Only if this takes place and real change is implemented can we sleep at night without uncertainty.

    Mary Lou we stand with you shoulder to shoulder until this is fixed.

    VoC REPLY: Well said…from one ‘strong’ woman to another. Thanks. ‘This’ WILL be fixed. I don’t know when, but it WILL be fixed.Mark

  3. Donna Pitcher

    Mary Lou, I was at the March for Freedom last October, and I commend you for your accomplishments and what you have endured. Most would not stay the course!

    You are a very passionate person and no doubt you have been a pillar of strength for many people. You dare to do what most people would not risk, confronting a very difficult situation head on. Not from afar, but in your own backyard, which is extraordinary!

    I am sure that you also had those “bad” days when you wondered if what you were doing was making a difference, well I can tell you that you have made a difference!. You should be very proud of what you have accomplished, your efforts cannot go unheard!

    I have faith and I know you do as well.

    Respectfully
    Donna Pitcher

    VoC REPLY: Thanks for taking time to honour Mary-Lou with your thoughts and memories, Donna. She deserves it. Regards, Mark.

    (For readers who don’t know her, Donna is a ‘strong’ woman herself; she is a former candidate for Ward 3 Councillor in Haldimand and was instrumental in stopping the secret sale of Haldimand Hydro. She writes at Haldimand’s Unheard Voice.)

  4. John Edwards

    It is truly amazing that someone hasn’t snapped from the pressure of relentless aboriginal terrorism, and taken the law into his own hands.
    Now that the terrorism is becoming more wide spread, it is highly likely that a civil war could break out at any time.

  5. Hello Mary Lou, Iam not too sure if you check on this regularly or not but I am very excited to find away to track down how things have been going. I am sure you do not remember me but spent much of my childhood summers there with my grandparents rich and verna. I remember the struggle that everyone was going through and was too young to understand most of it but know that you worked very hard. I hope you are doing well.

    VoC REPLY: Thanks for wishing Mary-Lou well. She is a most remarkable woman, and I’m proud to call her my friend. After reading this article, Mary-Lou’s grandson (I think) told her he never knew what she and the people of Ipperwash had gone through. Mary-Lou told him that they went out of their way to shield the children. As I said in the introduction to The Ipperwash Papers feature on VoC, I cried in anger as Mary-Lou hugged me in her lawyer’s office as we were going through documents when I realized that the Ipperwash Inquiry cover-up meant that more innocent people were going to be sacrificed to landclaim lawlessness. Mary-Lou’s fondest wish is to live long enough to see the end of Two Tier Justice in Ontario. Thanks again for writing, Sarah. Regards, Mark

  6. Dear Sarah,
    I remember you well, my dear, and have always been very grateful for the work your grandfather Rich Schultz did on behalf of all of us at Ipperwash. I still miss him very much today as so many at Ipperwash. I am very pleased to hear from you and if you wish to communicate further please write VOC for my email and I will definitely keep you informed. There are several close friends who will want to know you are alright since Rich died. I have often thought of you, your sister, and brother and wish you all well in your future endeavours.
    I am sorry I did not answer sooner, but I have had another challenge with a husband who is ill.
    At present I think we are keeping the dragon away. Roland spent the last three months of Rich’s life visiting him daily and talking about their youth and old times. Roland and Rich were great friends and thoroughly enjoyed each others company with an occasional glass of white wine. Take care my dear and thanks for writing. It made my day.

  7. I just can’t imagine having to deal with this. No one to help or protect you and your family. Some people simply go about their day and have no idea these things happen. I realize the last response was a long time ago. What about ipperwash today? 2011 Ipperwash? Is the park still occupied? Can you visit Ipperwash beach? Would anyone want to? Are there still problems for the residents? Is there any peace or hope for any? I am absolutly blown away that this has happened in Canada!! My heart goes out to you. L.E Toronto, Ontario.